Bill Wilson says he struggled with his weight all of his life, but the bad habits escalated when he started his own mobile app business in 2007.
“I found myself hitting the drive-thru all the time and eating out all the time, business meetings, things like that, and just slowly, slowly, slowly gaining weight to the point where I found myself one day right around 410 lbs.,” Wilson tells PEOPLE. “It took almost 10 years to get to that size.”
Wilson — the CEO and founder of MindSea and is based in Nova Scotia, Canada — says he was an emotional eater.
“I would eat when I was happy and I would eat when I was sad. I had a great day at work: ‘Woohoo, let’s hit McDonald’s!’ I had a really bad day at work: ‘Aw crap, let’s go to McDonald’s,’” he says. “And it was to the point where I would drive home and know that there was probably dinner waiting for me, and I would go to McDonald’s and eat. It was just sad. And then go home and eat a full meal.”
Wilson says seeing the photo of himself in the blue shirt (above) prompted him to make a change in 2016.
“It was photos like that, and not being able to breathe when I sleep, and sleep apnea, and worrying that when I got a cold, I was going to die,” he explains. “I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s serious.”
“You’re constantly shunned in public. You can’t go to the theater because you can’t fit in the seats. Just all of these things that nobody else takes for granted and I certainly now, as a smaller person, fully appreciate how uncomfortable that made everybody else. I just got fed up with it. I got sick and tired of it and I started to make some changes.”
He started with walking at lunch and then eventually started exercising every morning for at least 30 minutes before work while binge watching television shows to keep him motivated.
“Whatever I could do to entice myself to keep going on a daily basis. But then by doing that, it stuck and I started to feel that mental change — that actual clarity that comes from exercising every day,” Wilson says. “That got to be quite addicting.”In 2017, after already losing about 80 lbs., he discovered the fitness app Aaptiv, which provides trainer-led exercises.
“I did my first two classes and I was hooked. I couldn’t believe how motivating it was to have someone in your ear and also to listen to some tunes, have some good music to keep you going,” he says. “They had a lot of structure around the training and just about how to run and why you should run. You get that encouragement from the trainer and it changed everything. That really is what pushed me over.”
Wilson trained for a 5K using the app and eventually led his own team. He now does multiple races a year and still uses Aaptiv on race days. Aaptiv’s trainers guide, motivate and pace runners through different types of athletic events. On Oct. 27, the app is hosting a virtual 5K for people who use the program.
In addition to exercise, Wilson logged all of his food on MyFitnessPal.
“I cut out all kinds of bad food. I cut all those things because if you can only eat so many calories a day, you start to understand what gives you energy, but also what is reasonably calorically dense,” he says. “You just have to learn a bit more about portion size and portion control and the things you can eat that still keep you full.”
Wilson says he’s “never going back” to the days pictured in his “before” photos.
“It’s really shocking,” he says. “I was at lunch today with some friends and I showed them one of these picture and they’re like, ‘Wow! I can’t believe that’s you.’ I’ve known these people for years; they knew me when I was that size. And even for me, it’s hard to remember what it was like being that big.”
He adds: “Whether this is healthy or not, I’ve gone through my iPhone photo album and I’ve hidden all the old fat pictures. I don’t wanna go back there. The way I feel today is amazing. I’ll do anything.”