''How Weight Loss Saved My Life''

Before Bill Smith (pictured to the right) joined SparkPeople in September 2002, his life was in disarray. He weighed 335 pounds and was an "eating machine." He loved buffets and would order an entire large pizza and finish it by himself. He did not exercise at all, was stressed out all the time, and just wanted to sleep all day. In his words, "I truly wanted to curl up in a corner and just give up."

Bill had tried numerous diets in the past, but to no avail. None of them involved goal setting, and diet alone just didn't work for him. Even when Bill first joined SparkPeople, he wasn't very active on the site. He would post on the message boards every now and then, and he did set some goals. But he didn't start using the site until the following month--after his wife told him she wanted a divorce.

She had recently lost a lot of weight and said that her life had changed because of it. Bill blamed himself and became depressed. "I began to hate myself for what I was and started realizing that I had a lot more I could look forward to," said Bill.

So he started to get serious. He re-started his SparkPeople and concentrated on his goals. And he started depending on the SparkPeople Community for support. He saw how much support the message boards provided and realized that, through the stories of others, he could make a difference in his own life.

To exercise, Bill started out by walking two miles a day. After a month he increased his mileage to four miles a day. Then by January 2003, he joined a gym and started working out there, too. Soon after Bill started exercising, he saw huge results in all aspects of his life. For starters, he was losing weight consistently, every week, for the first time ever.

His weight loss positively impacted other areas in his life. He had the energy and interest to get out and do things instead of lying around the house. He did not depend on food to get through the day; he ate less. Instead of walking or lifting weights because he "had to" to get into shape, he did it because he wanted to.

Bill also become a pastor in compassionate ministries at his church. Now, he was helping others along with himself. He was making great changes in his life and feeling great.

Between October and April, Bill lost 100 pounds! His weight dropped to 235; he also went down 10 pants sizes. He was now in the best shape of his life!

Just as things were going well for him, Bill was in a critical car accident that May. A pick-up truck hit him head on; the driver was blinded by the sun and did not see him. His car was crushed. He was pinned inside the car, and it took paramedics 45 minutes to free him from the car. He recalls that he could hardly breathe during the entire time.

Bill suffered many injuries: three broken ribs, a severally sprained neck, a broken shoulder and facial damage, and injuries to his legs and back. He was in critical condition for the three days. At one point, the doctors thought they had lost them. But Bill battled back and after nearly three weeks in the hospital, he was released.

Bill told both his doctors and paramedics about the kind of shape he was in a year ago and they all agreed – if he was still in that kind of shape, the crash would have killed him. He was so big that he would have been crushed and died before the doctors had a chance to save him.

Throughout his stay at the hospital, Bill showed character and determination that he never had a year ago. Through his persistence, he was able to get a laptop computer and Internet access in his room so he could continue talking to the SparkPeople Community, while getting work done as well.

As amazing as his weight-loss was, the quick recovery he experienced after his accident might be even more remarkable. The day he was discharged, he received the "Making a Difference" award at his church’s annual convention. The award is not even given out every year, but the church awarded it to Bill. He realized, more so than ever, how the change in his life had not only affected him, but others around him.