Eager to Set a Good Example for his Community, This Man Overhauled His Health

SuccessStory_BillL_Blog (1)

As a pastor from Elizabeth, Illinois, 33-year-old Bill L. wanted to be a leader to the members of his church—but his weight was getting in his way. “I had gotten up to 259 pounds and knew I wasn’t being a good example to others for how to love yourself, but I’d ask my wife if I was fat and she’d say no and so I just ignored it,” he says. “One day I was in a restaurant with my lead pastor and a bunch of us ordered plates of deep fried food. Our lead pastor just looked at us and said what my wife wouldn’t: that we were going to kill ourselves if we kept doing this. He threw out a challenge to all of us to get fit and show what it really means to take care of yourself.”

It hadn’t always been like that for Bill. “I joined the military and was in Iraq for two and a half years,” he says. “We’d work out with sand bags and I was in pretty good shape.” But when he got home, things went downhill. “I suffered from depression and ate to make myself feel better, which didn’t work at all,” he says. “Then I got into a car accident, which pulverized my left hip.” Bill wound up having to undergo three total hip replacements. “It made any sort of exercise or motivation difficult,” he says. “I couldn’t run anymore or play baseball, football, or basketball with my three kids. And I was only in my 30s!”

That’s how Bill wound up weighing almost 260 pounds and being challenged by his lead pastor to improve his health. “I knew motivation was going to be key had heard that a Fitbit tracker would send you updates and help encourage you along the way,” he says. “Plus I’m a tech guy and I love the latest gadgets.” Bill got the Fitbit Flex in early 2015 and did one of the only physical activities he could: walking. At first he could only walk half a mile, then a full mile, but he slowly worked his way up to eight miles. “I’m friends with our town’s sheriff and he had a Fitbit tracker, so we had competitions to see who could get the most steps,” he says. “Then I got a bike and became addicted to going on rides. I put 4,500 miles on my bike in six months last summer!”

When Bill also started tracking how much food he was eating, and was shocked that he was consuming well over 4,000 calories a day. Bill stopped bringing junk food like chips and cookies into his house, made tweaks like having taco salad night instead of taco night, and started eating healthy breakfasts like oatmeal, yogurt, and eggs. “I had to get really disciplined and also creative with food,” he says. “Like instead of having packaged brownies in the house for dessert, we blend cranberry juice with ice for a nutritious slushie.”

With all of those changes, it was no surprise that Bill ultimately lost 80 pounds and became the example he wanted to be to others. “People in the church started seeing how much weight I was losing and soon we had 10 to 15 people with Fitbits,” he says. “We have church challenges to see who can walk the most. Plus I’m the one who gets motivated in return—it keeps me accountable that others are watching how I’m doing and counting on me.”

Bill’s Advice for Others:

Make quality time out of active time. “I’ve discovered that walking can be such a social thing!” says Bill. “I’ll walk with a friend or my wife. Life can get hectic and complicated and walking together is a way for us to reconnect and get on the same page about things.”

Be a mindful muncher. “So much of my unhealthy diet was just habit that I didn’t even think about,” says Bill. “Like I always ate ice cream before going to bed—it was part of my routine. I realized that and now I don’t even bring it into the house so I’m not tempted.”

Give your kids credit. “People assume kids won’t like healthy food so they buy lots of junk food,” says Bill. “But don’t underestimate them. My kids love salad and have changed their eating habits so much since I started getting healthier.”


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