Mick Hoepfinger had tried many kinds of diets before.
He had gained weight and lost weight numerous times, including the time he lost nearly 40 pounds only to gain it all back.
After retiring from a series of sales jobs in 2010 at age 60, the Millstadt resident came across an 18-week transformation program offered by “Body For Life” author Bill Phillips.
Hoepfinger felt those ideas seemed in line with many of his own, especially since they involved exercise, improved diet and more of a positive outlook.
“The big difference was it involved community,” he said. “I was always communicating with like-minded people in the transformation world. My goal was to drop 60 pounds somehow, because I had seen another guy I was with in the mortgage business that had some phenomenal results, so it was believable.”
Hoepfinger made a believer out of himself — and everyone around him.
He went from 230 pounds to 170, from size 40 waist jeans to size 33. His shirt size dropped from extra-large to medium and those extra beers he used to drink suddenly evaporated.
“We loaded up the car and took all the clothes to Goodwill,” said Hoepfinger, who lost 25 pounds from Jan. 1 to March and then kept going.
“It was a combination of a New Year’s resolution and realizing he was getting older,” said Hoepfinger’s wife of 32 years, Jane Hoepfinger. “Sixty is a number that kind of brings a little reality into things. He had to make this decision on his own and once he started and realized how much better he felt, it just kind of snowballed after that.
“Not only did he lose the weight, but he went through an internal transformation. He was happier, which reflected on everything else. Once I saw that I realized maybe I’d better check this out.”
Now 65, Hoepfinger changed everything from his eating habits to his exercise regimen, relying heavily on positive reinforcement both at home and from fitness instructors like Anne Nagel to other friends at the Monroe County YMCA where he worked out..
Exercise played a major role in the process as Hoepfinger tried new things and pushed himself to the limit in a variety of ways.
He began working out five days a week, first at home on his treadmill and other equipment and later incorporating the YMCA facilities.
“Whatever fits into your schedule you want to do today what you can do for the rest of your life,” he said. “Our kids bought us a YMCA membership as a Christmas present for Jane and I that year and I’ve stayed a member up there ever since then.
“I’ve learned a lot of things and I’ve been able to share them with other people.”
After talking to Brian Lane of Valmeyer, who has entered and won several bodybuilding competitions, Hoepfinger thought he would try that, too.
“I said ‘Ah, I’m too old, over the hill, all the excuses,” said Hoepfinger, who credited Lane for his training tips and techniques that helped Hoepfinger win the 2013 Ultra Masters Division at the International Natural Bodybuilding Association event held in Clayton, Mo.
“I don’t recommend that for anybody unless that’s a goal that they want,” Hoepfinger said. “You don’t have to sit back and wait until they put you in a retirement home. Even if you lose 20 pounds it’s going to change your blood pressure.
“I didn’t have any health issues but my sugar was high and my blood work went totally ridiculous.”
Before, Hoepfinger regularly ran in 5K races and half-marathons. Even at 65 he continues to do high intensity cardio exercise of some sort five times a week.
He also does weight training and credits his wife, who once ran a half-marathon with him, for helping him stay on the path to better health and fitness.
“I couldn’t do this alone,” he said. “She’s a huge part of my change. She cooks well for us because she’s conscious of her own health, too.”
The bottom line for Hoepfinger is an improved lifestyle that is more vibrant, more active and more enjoyable.
He’s running after his grandchildren and playing catch with them whenever he can. On many Saturday mornings he helps his old college roommate, Al Scharf, sell produce from Scharf Farm at the Soulard Farmers Market in St. Louis.
“I know more about the nutrition about the vegetables than a lot of farmers do,” joked Hoepfinger, who now includes healthy vegetables with practically every meal.
“I’ve enjoyed feeling 100 times better with the weight loss,” he said. “I can do so much more physically. If by doing that I can talk to someone else and let them believe that they can feel better, then I’m willing to help.”
Jane Hoepfinger said her husband’s transformation had as much to do with those he surrounded himself with as it was his own desire to improve.
“He became accountable to a group of people and he didn’t want to let those people down, so I think accountability was a big factor,” Jane Hoepfinger said. “I think he wants to inspire other people, too. Now that he knows that he can do it, he knows that anybody can do it.”