Sharing her inspiring weight-loss story with viewers across the country, alumna Liana Sims was featured on the Joy Fit Club nutrition segment of the NBC Today show. From an early age, Sims suffered from a food addiction and struggled to gain control of her physical well-being.

Watch the NBC Today segment, “Hallelujah! Youth Pastor loses 180 pounds.” 

By age 21, Sims’ hectic college schedule and poor lifestyle habits had resulted in an unhealthy body weight of more than 350 pounds. Often her obesity limited her ability to participate in normal activities she enjoyed with friends. Subsequently, Sims endured bouts of depression due to her feelings of hopelessness in the battle with her weight.

Despite various setbacks and challenges throughout her weight-loss journey, Sims was able to lose an impressive 180 pounds of excess body fat through diet changes and fitness conditioning motivated by a desire for freedom and her faith in Jesus.

Sims explains what she learned during this process and how God had influenced her determination to change.

1. What was the breaking point or the moment of realization that prompted you to start and stick with this journey?

There wasn’t necessarily one breaking point that prompted my journey. It was a season in my life and a variety of factors that all led to the point where I realized that it was “do or die.” I was less concerned about dying physically and more concerned about that fact that I was slowly dying internally.

I was so trapped by my obesity and my desire to just survive through the pains and struggles of life that I was sinking. My mechanisms to “make it” were becoming way too overwhelming. I was in a season of life where I wanted to learn how to authentically be myself and how to allow God to truly be in control of every aspect of my life. However, there were main events that were catalysts to this change.

2. What were the main events that acted as catalysts for a change?

It was spring of 2007 and I attended a dorm retreat and an activity I did, while on that retreat, initiated the breakthrough in my life, which led to my determination to lose weight. We went up to the mountains and we did a meditation exercise on “fear.”

We had a sheet of paper and we had to write out all of our fears and then a light bulb came on for me. The majority of my fears were linked to one central factor: my weight. And in that moment, I knew that I would never overcome those fears until I accepted my reality and begin to tackle it. I left that retreat determined to lose weight. When I returned home from the retreat, I immediately began changing my relationship with food. Not because I wanted to be skinny, but because I wanted to be free.  

The second event that was powerful in this process of change was a prayer service that I attended in my church. I remember praying and encouraging the congregation, not knowing that God was ministering to me as well. And the truth that God sets the captives free became the central focus of my prayer. As a result of that night, Luke 4:18-19 became my theme verse. “Jesus came to set the captives free and to heal the broken hearted.” That verse states very profound truths, regardless of what your struggle is.

There was no other verse that spoke more specifically to my situation: one, I was definitely broken hearted and, two, I lived in bondage to my obesity and within that bondage came so much brokenness and spiritual bondage that I needed to break loose from.

3. Was this a spiritual journey or battle from the beginning or in what ways did you feel the Lord calling you in this?

This is and has always been a spiritual journey of healing, freedom, trust, redemption, struggle, process, pain, surrender, transformation and glorification. It’s not about the obesity. Food is just “my thorn,” as Paul would put it. It is the tool God has used to force me to trust Him and allow Him to be my strength in weakness and, as a result, He has caused me to soar.

I am completely reliant on God because He has not removed my thorn. To this day I am still addicted to food but His grace is sufficient and He is teaching me to take it day-by-day, decision-by-decision, prayer-by-prayer.

I knew God was calling me to a higher level. I have been preaching since I was 16 years old but at 21 God showed me, “Liana, you are preaching about how great I am but you won’t trust me with your issue.” That challenged me because I never want to preach a gospel that I don’t live and so I decided to surrender “my thorn” to God. This has been a process where God has supplied the strength but I have had to be willing to put forth the effort.  

Interview conducted by Jenna Bartlo. For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator, at 562.777.4061 or at