Shauntina “Shay” Sorrells realized she had a problem. As an actively involved student at Vanguard, her food addiction became tucked under the shadows of commitments and classes. It was not until gaining 86 pounds in one year that she knew something had to change.Sorrells is one of the contestants on the most recent season of “The Biggest Loser,” the NBC reality show on losing weight and becoming healthy. The contestants compete to win $250,000 by trying to lose as many pounds as possible each week in competition with the other contestants.
Sorrells was put into the foster care system at the age of five after being raised by a mother addicted to heroin. She was in foster care until she was 18 and then came to Vanguard.
She majored in psychology, was involved in intramural sports, became an RA, went on mission trips and worked as a youth leader at Newport Mesa Church. Sorrells has fond memories of her college experience; people like Dr. Elizabeth Leonard and Resident Director Lauren Anderson have profoundly influenced her life.
It was during the time she was working on her master’s thesis at California State Long Beach that she gained over 80 pounds.
After watching the television show, “The Biggest Loser,” Sorrells began seeing herself in the other contestants. She had been unknowingly battling food addiction and she was desperate for a change. She attended a casting call in Los Angeles and stood in a line of 5,000 people for her chance to audition. Two people were called back that day; Sorrells was one of them.
“I knew that it was going to be emotional. I knew I was going to be vulnerable,” Sorrells said.
At the ranch, Sorrells began the competition at 476 pounds, which made her the heaviest contestant in “Biggest Loser” history. She experienced that feeling of extreme vulnerability standing in front of America in a sports bra and spandex, overcome with a very “freeing feeling.”
She worked a strenuous schedule and tedious workout routine to try and shed the pounds.
Through all the emotionally tiring days, Sorrells continually called upon God for her source of strength. The Lord was her rock to stand on when the times were tough and her weight loss seemed daunting. She has even had the opportunity to use her exposure as a sort of ministry tool. She receives Facebook messages from people all around the world and is able to tell them where her strength and joy come from.
And during the show when she eliminates teammates, Sorrells tries to remain as fair as possible.
“I never wanted to vote out of spite or anger,” she said.
Sorrells currently lives in Newport Beach with her husband and her two stepsons. She is a social worker working with children who need counseling.
While the show is still unfolding on television, as of press time Sorrells has lost 60 pounds and is still competing on the show.