When Bill Hooper stood on stage at the recent South Carolina State Bodybuilding Championships, his powerful physique conveyed the sacrifices of pre competition training and dieting at the highest level.
Though unlike the average athlete competing that day, Bill did not have the easiest of starts - his road to physical greatness ultimately hinged on his sheer determination to beat the odds, to counter the obesity that threatened to ruin his health and diminish his quality of life.
At 280lbs, with 28 percent body fat and a cholesterol reading of over 400, Bill knew his life was severely compromised. In light of his wife Michelle's body transformation (during which she lost a substantial amount of body fat to become an NPC figure competitor), he decided to do something about his own situation.
He embarked on a transformation that would see him lose over 40lbs of fat; to bring his physique down to an ultra ripped 236 with five percent body fat (and a cholesterol reading of 135!). These results - achieved through a consistent and well managed approach to training and dieting - were, by anyone's standards, nothing short of amazing, and Bill is now poised to compete at the National level, having qualified with a second placing at the previously mentioned South Carolina State Bodybuilding Championships.
The comforting thing is, Bill believes anyone can reach his or her physical goals with the right attitude and a generous helping of determination. Exactly how did Bill achieve his outstanding results? The following interview tells all.
[ Q ] Why did you decide to undergo a transformation?
Actually, my wife made the decision first. She ended up winning a transformation too. You should check her out. Michelle Rice was her name then (check her out: www.michellehooper.com). Once she started, I figured I should get my butt in gear.
I had always been athletic, but I had really let myself get fat. I took some pictures with her, when she did her "Before shots" and hated what I saw. Photos don't lie and I had become a slob.
[ Q ] In what ways has the transformation changed your life?
Overall wellbeing and self-esteem have improved. Most importantly, I am just happier because I am healthier. My cholesterol was over 400, and it is now 135. Everything about my health is 100% better. I can have fun with my kids now too, without getting tired. That is important when you have five of them.
[ Q ] What bad habits did you have to break in order to succeed?
No more beer. That was tough too, because I have always enjoyed a cold beer. Now, they are simply in small quantities.
[ Q ] How hard was it to transform your body? Describe some of the problems you encountered. How did you overcome these problems?
Honestly, it really wasn't hard (other than scheduling the time in the gym). Otherwise, once I made up my mind, it was pretty simple.
[ Q ] How hard it is to maintain your new physique?
Not hard at all, I am actually getting ready to compete again this weekend in the South Carolina State Bodybuilding Championships. I am bigger and harder than last time. I have converted my lifestyle, and feel better for it everyday.
[ Q ] Describe your current lifestyle (training, diet and in general). How is this lifestyle conducive to your ability to maintain a great physique?
I have five children, including a newborn that is 12 weeks old. I work fulltime as an engineer. I am a husband and a Dad on a full time basis. Bodybuilding is my hobby. However, my entire house eats clean, and our children are in fantastic health. What more can I ask for?
[ Q ] Was your family supportive? What role did they play in your success?
I couldn't do any of this without the support of my family. My wife is the secret to my success.
[ Q ] What was your weight and body fat percentage before your transformation? What is it now? What is your height and age?
Body fat was somewhere around 25-28% - probably a little higher. I was about 280 pounds in my before picture. I got all the way down to 236 I believe. I will look to see what the exact numbers were. Right now my body fat is about 5%. I am 6' tall, 39 (40 in October) and will step onstage this Saturday somewhere around 245.
[ Q ] Would you say that the bodybuilding lifestyle has transformed your health? What is it about the bodybuilding training and diet specifically that has helped you?
Absolutely! Lowered my blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol substantially. My doctor has told me I have added years to me life. The exercise and diet, with emphasis on lean proteins, natural carbohydrates, fruits and nuts is the best way to eat. There are no exceptions.
[ Q ] How did you get out of shape to begin with? What did you do wrong?
Well, I had just let myself get lazy for one thing (just working and not living). I went through a tough divorce a few years ago and that didn't help. It is a funny thing, but the worse you feel the worse you eat - at least that is what happened in my case. I had pretty much always lifted weights, but just never had the balls to put it all together. The desire to lead a healthier life for my wife and children became my biggest motivator.
[ Q ] Just how hard was it to transform your body? Describe some of the problems you encountered. How did you overcome these problems?
Bad habits mostly. I guess juggling my training schedule with my family obligations and job. That was really the toughest part. Getting a schedule set that would work and not take too much time away from my family. We all ended up going to the gym at the same time. The kids would go and play, my oldest son worked out a little bit, so we made that part a family deal.
To make it a quick process - six months - I actually had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to do cardio while everybody else was asleep. I would go out and walk up and down my neighborhood, up and down the hills for a few hours. Getting ready for my bodybuilding show, I am going out at 12:30 at night to walk.
[ Q ] It must be a bit of a juggling act with so many children.
First of all we have great kids. They are good students and are well behaved. They are all very physically fit and active and they like to go to the gym and play sport. Between my wife and I we just manage it. You don't have any choice - you can't ignore them. You just get everybody on schedule.
When they come home from school they sit down and do homework, my wife works on dinner because I'm still at work. They eat dinner and then we typically meet at the gym. We stay there for and hour or so, then we go home and have family time. I then hang out with my wife for a couple of hours before going for a walk.
[ Q ] You certainly fit a lot into your day.
I figure you are only born with so many heartbeats in this lifetime, and it is only a waste of them sitting around watching TV.
[ Q ] So you are fitting in everything where you can?
Yes, fitting it in where I can. I don't accept the fact that you don't have time. You can always find time if you want to do it.
[ Q ] Does the same "fitting it in" philosophy apply to your diet?
What I did with the meals was to always have something ready to go. For example, if I was traveling and might not have been able to stop, I would have a bunch of protein bars in my suitcase - especially in places like Europe where getting lean food is not always easy. Then for work I would always make all of my stuff the night before - put it in Tupperware stick it in a cooler and take it to work. Also I would use protein shakes. I have a couple of Bodybuilding.com shakers and will just knock myself out a shake when I need it.
[ Q ] Are you able to maintain your current weight? Has there been any regression?
You mean in terms of getting fat again?
No. I put on a little bit there for about three months last year. At this time my wife had really bad morning sickness and during that time I really couldn't work out due to her sickness. I couldn't train like I wanted because it just wasn't fair, so I backed off and put on just a little bit of body fat (I put on maybe 15 pounds of fat just sitting around being a couch potato).
It wasn't really because I was eating badly, it was more because I wasn't doing anything. But it came right back off and I am going into a bodybuilding show this weekend bigger and harder than I have ever been.
[ Q ] How long have you been training for this show? How confident are you of your chances of winning?
I have been dieting and training for about 12 weeks. I have a real good chance of at least winning my class.
[ Q ] Is bodybuilding something you would like to continue with?
Well, I'm not getting any younger. I'm 39 and will be 40 this year. I think I probably will do some more competing because it is fun and I like the goals associated with it. If I win my weight class and qualify I will either do Masters Nationals or Nationals general within the next 12 months.
I like it. My wife likes it as well. She is into it herself. She is going to do a show at the end of August. She won a transformation and now looks off the chart. She went from a size 16 down to a two. It is a lifestyle now for our whole family.
[ Q ] In what ways was your wife helpful during your transformation?
Anytime you have the support of your family and friends it just makes everything so much easier. And she's not sitting around eating pizza and crap like that while I'm eating grilled chicken.
[ Q ] Is your pre-contest diet as strict as the one you used for your transformation?
Up until about four weeks out from the show, I had all kinds of food in there. All kinds of seasonings, fish types, meat types and fruit. Just whatever. Four weeks out I cranked it down pretty tight. To be honest, after the show I will eat pretty regular.
I don't think people will look at what I ate and think "that is pretty weird". I think they would look at it and say, "That looks pretty good." And I always try to have a cheat meal every week: go out and get some pizza or lasagna.
[ Q ] Many consider a cheat meal, or cheat day, good practice.
Yeah, if it is a chore you won't do it.
[ Q ] So what do you eat on a daily basis?
I eat a lot of fish (red snapper and orange roughie among many others), shellfish, oatmeal, potatoes and rice, a ton of vegetables; chicken, extra lean cut red meat. I don't have too much red meat because the cholesterol is always a concern for me at my age.
That's about it. Then, every now and then on a Saturday morning I will get up have a great big pancake breakfast with the whole family. I even made pancakes using protein powder. There is a recipe on Bodybuilding.com for that and it is off the chart man. It is just basic stuff, the kinds of things everybody has access to. And it is cheaper to eat good than it is to eat junk.
I basically ate six small meals per day, and built the meal plan off of the information that I found on your web site (Bodybuilding.com). I did have help with my diet from Tres Bennett, and he helped me establish protein, carbohydrate and fat guidelines. He also helped keep me on track as I neared my show date. Taking out all the junk, eating more frequently, increasing the protein and quitting drinking alcohol were other changes I made.
[ Q ] Did you use any supplements? If so, which ones and how did they benefit you?
[ Q ] What kind of training system do you use?
I trained chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, Wednesday off, legs on Thursday, shoulders on Friday, and arms on Saturday and have Sunday off. That's how I did at the very beginning of my transformation. I would throw in calves and abs occasionally. I didn't really do a lot for these because I have really good calves and abs. This time around I do the same split, except I do it all Monday to Friday and take Saturday and Sunday off.
[ Q ] What did you do for cardio?
During the transformation I was doing it five to six days a week between 30 to 45 minutes, usually. I also like to do that HIIT (high intensity interval training) where you do some walking and then some sprinting and then walking again. You can do this for 15 to 20 minutes instead of just sitting on a bike.
Getting ready for the show - the first six weeks - I did cardio three to four times a week for 30 minutes just walking at night, maintaining a good three-mile-an-hour pace. Towards the end I pushed it up a little bit, but that is contest prep so it is a little different to a transformation.
[ Q ] How will you maintain your gains?
To maintain I think three to fours days a week of cardio - a good brisk walk outside - will ensure good cardiovascular health, low blood pressure and you will look good.
[ Q ] I understand Bodybuilding.com has helped you with your transformation. How so?
Actually, Bodybuilding.com has helped me in quite a few ways. The nutritional information was the best I could find out there on the web. I have a decent background in this nutrition and chemistry, but what is actually inside supplements, and the chemistry behind them, isn't always readily available.
An example is the way that the site compares proteins. Not only can I look at them from a price standpoint, but also from a protein mix/type standpoint as well. Another area that you excel in is the area of supplement reviews. These tend to be quite informative as well, and often contain other off-site reference points, which I like to use as well.
My wife and I buy all of our supplements from Bodybuilding.com as well. As a matter of fact, I think we just got a few jugs of Champion Whey a month or so ago, however, we always buy it under her account! Ha-ha. The nutrient database gets used nearly every week to help plan menus. It is nice to know what works to add some variety to the diet.
Finally, sometimes, when you are trying to get yourself turned around, or to stay on track, you just want to be entertained and/or motivated. What better way than to read some of the interviews and transformations. Great stuff! I have sometimes found these articles to be informative to the point that it is nice to know that others have had some of the same issues.
[ Q ] What message would you like to give those reading this interview?
Read everything you can about nutrition and exercise. Read the labels on food containers. Check with your doctor to get your baseline health evaluated. Take pictures and measurements to track your progress. Find photos of others to use as goals.
I would hope that people could see that somebody who has a regular job, has five children and is married can find the time to do it. I think one of the biggest things people need to know is: use your resources. And I honestly did use that Bodybuilding.com web site all the time.
If I got bored with what I was eating I would look for a recipe, if I needed to know what was in a supplement, I would look it up. If I wanted to change a protein powder I would go in there and look at the comparisons. All the information was right there it was really cool, it made it easy.
[ Q ] Awesome Bill. Good luck with your contest this weekend and all the best with future progress.
Thanks David and thanks Bodybuilding.com
Bill placed second at his first contest, The South Carolina State Bodybuilding Championships last weekend, and will compete again on August 26. He is qualified for this year's Nationals and hopes to, at age 40, win next year's Masters Nationals. Way to go Bill!