Retired restaurateur makes big changes with help of Health & Wellness Institute

March 27, 2023
One man coaches another, who is doing a modified form of pushups.
Athletic trainer Michael Sole coaches Mickey Bakst in Mount Pleasant. Photo by Sarah Pack

It’s hard to imagine Mickey Bakst with a frown on his face. The former general manager of the Charleston Grill, once called the “unofficial mayor of Charleston” by a Post and Courier food critic, is famously sunny and sociable. In retirement, he has continued to work for charitable causes.

But one night, Bakst reached his breaking point. “I have an organization called Feed the Need. We do an event every year that's really big. I raised $850,000. I was standing on stage in front of 300 people feeling like a bloated old man. I hated the way I felt, and I hit an emotional wall,” he said.

“I'm very proud of the things I've done for others, but what I was doing for myself was not right. What I was doing for my wife was not right. I felt like I couldn’t even take a comfortable walk. I felt nauseous every single day about my health.”

Woman sitting at a laptop computer talks with a man who is also seated at her table. 
Health coach Kaitlin DaPore says her team's work is based on research and scientific evidence. Photo by Brennan Wesley

A friend put in a call to the MUSC Health & Wellness Institute in Mount Pleasant. “Within two hours, health coach Kaitlin DaPore was on the phone with me, encouraging me to come in and talk. I started to believe that maybe I could change,” Bakst said.

Chris Pelic 
Dr. Chris Pelic

Change is what the Health & Wellness Institute is all about, said Chris Pelic, M.D., who oversees the institute. He called it an example of how MUSC Health is evolving to add new areas of care. 

“We've been in the business of sick care for a long time, and we're good at it, whether it's an operation or managing diabetes. But we felt like preventive care and maintenance of health and wellness have to be part of our focus moving forward,” Pelic said.

The Health & Wellness Institute on Chuck Dawley Boulevard in Mount Pleasant is open to the public. It offers, as Bakst learned, health coaching, along with:

DaPore, the board-certified health coach, said the team’s work is based on research and scientific evidence. “We look at promoting longevity, reducing risk factors for preventable chronic diseases and helping support them and making smaller shifts that ultimately will be sustainable over a lifetime.”

The institute’s relationship manager, Kaitlin Epperson, described it as an extension of the care patients get through the hospital. “We are here to help you feel like your best self. We are not a gym. We're not going to keep you forever. We are going to offer you services to help you reach your goals.”

One of the specialists who helps people reach those goals is athletic trainer Michael Sole. His time with the Yankees shows. “I view human performance as taking this from a sports mindset, right? Why shouldn't every person be treated like an athlete?”

Man seated lifts hand weights while his coach watches. They are in a workout room. 
Mickey Bakst lifts weights under the supervision of athletic trainer Michael Sole. Photo by Sarah Pack

His program for Bakst looks like one for an athlete. It includes different exercises for different days based on what the trainer learned when he analyzed Bakst with the DARI Motion system and what Bakst told him he wants. 

That blend of scientific analysis with personal goals has helped Bakst make big changes. “Michael had me feeling more flexible in a month and a half than I have felt in a long, long time.”

Bakst also works with the nutritionist and the health coach. “Collectively, the three of them have become my team to help me. They have pushed me in great ways. They have realistically taught me new ways of eating. Changed some of it but I don’t have to give up everything I love. They've gotten me physically motivated. I am walking every single day,” he said.

He buys services from the institute in packages, selecting what he needs and how often he wants to meet with each specialist. They stay in touch with him well beyond the institute’s walls. It’s a feature that the institute takes pride in, and Bakst appreciates.

“They reach out to me to check on me. They're available to me whenever I reach out. I mean, within reason, obviously. Their goal is that I can walk away taking a change of lifestyle that will be long lasting and sustainable without them. They plan on being there for me when I need, but their mission is to make me not need them.”

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