News - Biggest Winner: Sonya Jones Recounts Faith and Transformation on The Biggest Loser

Biggest Winner: Sonya Jones Recounts Faith and Transformation on The Biggest Loser

Sonya Jones '96Former Lady Panther Sonya Jones ’96 will return to Greenville College to talk about personal transformation and the instant recognition she gained nationwide as a finalist on NBC’s reality weight-loss show The Biggest Loser.  She will be the featured chapel speaker Monday May 4 at 9:30 a.m. in Whitlock Music Center on campus. The public is welcome to attend.

When Sonya Jones ’96 was chosen from over 80,000 applicants to compete during the 16th season of NBC’s TV show The Biggest Loser, she knew she would work hard and lose weight, but she never anticipated how much the experience would transform her life.

When Sonya first arrived at The Biggest Loser Ranch, she weighed in at 283 pounds. Working out with trainers 6-8 hours a day, learning how to eat right, and changing her mindset allowed her to shed 144 pounds. Sonya credits her faith and the strong foundation she developed during her time at Greenville College for helping her through this journey.

Sonya Jones Coaching Track at Williamsville High SchoolAs a college freshman and new Christian, Sonya hadn’t selected a major, but she knew that she wanted to be a person of impact. The staff at Greenville College – notably Chaplain Lori (Nielsen) Gaffner ‘83, former softball coach Michelle “Micki” (Allen) Callister ‘90 and former soccer coach Bob Johnson ‘68 – invested in Sonya. Their investment inspired her to invest in others. Today, she teaches physical education and coaches track in the Williamsville School District outside of Springfield, Illinois. 

“My experience at Greenville College was kind of the foundation of where I am now. You get to a point where if you have a good foundation, nothing can shake you. Greenville College is where I was discipled. That's where I was shown what it means to fall in love with the person of Jesus Christ and to build a relationship with Him, and what it means to spend time in His word and learn to love the Lord.”

Competing against former NFL players, Olympic champions and other athletes during the Biggest Loser’s “Glory Days” season, Sonya said her faith drove her to work harder in the midst of the most grueling workouts of her life.

“My life verse is Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ When you are going through a ‘Jen’ workout, the only thing I could think of during those times was I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. He has empowered me, He has equipped me, and more importantly, He has called me to be here. I will continue on this journey in the best of my ability.”

That journey led Sonya to a spot on The Biggest Loser’s season finale as one of its top three finalists. Weighing in at 139 pounds, Sonya took second place, losing the title by just 0.01% body weight. 

As she reflected on that loss, she realized how much she has won. She is no longer on medicine, and she regained her health. She is thinner than she was in high school, and she has made lifelong friends including her trainer, Jen Widerstrom, and The Biggest Loser Season 16 champion, Toma Dobrosavljevic.

She also learned an important life lesson: “You can still do everything exactly right and not everything goes your way. Even when things don't go your way you still have a responsibility to act with integrity, and you still have a responsibility to honor your journey and to honor God.”

To persons in the midst of their own journeys, Sonya offers this advice, “Not everyone is called to the Ranch; you have to find out what your ranch experience is and make the best of it. Set your goals, go hard after them, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.”

This story was published on April 15, 2015

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