**The #1 Youth Ministry Article of 2014!**
Since the season finale of The Biggest Loser last night, when it appeared that the three finalists on the popular weight-loss show (and the overall winner) had not only dropped an unbelievable amount of weight, but may have ended up dangerously (and obviously, see above photo) under-weight, I’ve been answering emails and Facebook messages all morning. That’s because I was finalist on the show two years ago, and our “alumni” community is active and strong—I’m the resident BL expert for lots of people in my life. I love talking about my experience because it was life-changing, but what we saw last night was a big deal, and not in a good way.
The finale of The Biggest Loser is always special because it’s the last big “reveal” for these formerly obese contestants who’ve been going through an amazing process. The idea is to put your best foot forward and, if things go well, even win some money. A lot of money. This can be the pinnacle of inspiration, the pit of embarrassment, or something much worse. Unfortunately the “much worse” is becoming more the norm on the show. People who put their lives out there for a chance at regaining their health are losing sight of the real goal.
I watched last night as some truly wonderful people showed that their journey to health had taken a detour towards fame and fortune. They forgot what really matters.
I completely get it; they wanted to win, plain and simple. It’s a game show. No one wants to think of it that way, but in the end the network is looking to make money. However, the way I see it, there are at least two major problems with this. One is the message that is sent to the fans of the show, and the other involves the mental state of the contestants…
The show’s finale said to America, and to everyone who struggles with their weight, that size equals health. So many people were raving about the amount of weight lost, even though the contestants were possibly not “healthy.” Herein lies the problem—the fans think, “If The Biggest Loser does it, then it must be okay.”
The other issue is that there is zero aftercare for contestants post-finale. Mentally, we all had to make a huge adjustment to head back to “reality,” but in this case you have people who have traded one food issue for another (too much for too little). They need continued help and, sadly, they won’t get it. The alumni try to support one another, but many times it’s the blind leading the blind. All we have going for us is that we have the shared experience of the show. It’s actually been an interesting opportunity for ministry, as each person realizes that their original hurt didn’t go away with the fat.
But isn’t this just a visual representation of what we all see everyday—a message that gets tainted and support that disappears? We have a goal—a desire for health (physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual) that we pursue. We start well, we even make great progress, but something happens along the way. I know there’s always a moment when I think I’ve got it. I can take it from here—and that’s where it starts to go wrong.
Jesus saw this in us, and that’s why He chose to walk with us. He wants to travel by our side to keep our eyes on the prize. I think about the guys on the road to Emmaus. They were walking and talking with Him, but didn’t realize who He was. They were so involved in talking ABOUT Jesus that they missed the fact that they were walking WITH Jesus. He chose to open their eyes at the perfect time to remind them that He was the message, and they were never alone. Their message was about Him, but it got lost because it didn’t include Him.
We’ve got to take note of this in our own journey. We must continually remind ourselves of the message, and know that support exists along the way—first in Christ and then in others. In a similar sense, people are watching us and are thinking, “If they do it, then it must be okay.”
It looks like the news stories revolving around the show will be around for awhile. But, like everything else in Hollywood, it will die down and people will be getting excited about another new season. I genuinely wonder if anything will change. Will they be more mindful of their message? Will they recognize a deeper need for continued support?
How about you? What can you do to keep the message in front of you? Who will you bring alongside to support you as well as keep your eyes on what really matters?
Mark Cornelison is a longtime youth pastor and a finalist on The Biggest Loser. He is the author of the popular book Undressed (pictured right). He also leads a two-hour track at our Simply Youth Ministry Conference (March 7-10, 2014) called Living Healthy In an Unhealthy Culture. Read his bio below this article to learn more about Mark.
It’s not too late to join Mark at SYMC, where we offer an innovative early morning experience called SimplyFit for those who are interested in both their physical and spiritual health. It was a huge hit at last year’s event.