by Sasha Reddy
“Over Christmas break, I saw some pictures of myself and did not like the way things were going for my health,” says Brian, recalling his decision to join the 2022 Lifestyle Challenge this past December. “It came at a very good time for me.” Fast-forward a few months, and this Lifestyle Challenge winner is down by more than 10 percent body fat, eating well, and taking about half a dozen fitness classes each week. Now, he navigates the fitness floor with regained confidence.
Brian Rutter has been a HAC member since 2009. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he would get changed at the end of his workday, jump in the car, and head straight to the gym for group fitness or run club at least three times each week. But when a nationwide quarantine took effect in the spring of 2020, his motivation to exercise ran dry. “When our office shut down, and we’re all working from home, and my commute was like 20 steps to another room in the house – you just kind of get out of it,” he explains. Though HAC reopened just a few months later, his family kept their membership on pause for another year and a half, only returning to the club this past December.
Come New Year’s Day of 2022, Brian was back in the gym full force, making regular appearances in cycling classes, BodyPump™, GRIT™, etc. By the start of the Lifestyle Challenge, he was already down six pounds. “I wasn’t going to save it up for the challenge or anything,” he says. “I needed the momentum going into it.”
Still, to continue making steady progress over the next 12 weeks, Brian knew he would need a well-developed plan. This meant scheduling workouts, planning meals ahead of time, and eliminating any excuse he might otherwise have to skip a workout or make poor food choices. “I didn’t want to have to worry about laundry, so I bought five pairs of shorts and five workout shirts so that I knew that I would have them every day,” he laughs.
The most significant shifts Brian made during the Lifestyle Challenge were dietary. “I was trying to clean up my diet already,” he says. “Didn’t really know what to do, though.” After meeting with Jeannie Versagli, one of HAC’s registered dietitians, Brian decided to take stock of his eating. He started by listing all the meals he frequently ate and roughly calculating the calories for each. From there, he was able to determine the best go-to meals he’d eat for the duration of the challenge and exercise enough to achieve a caloric deficit each day. The real game-changer, though, was investing in HelloFresh, a meal subscription service that allows you to pick from a menu of dishes and then receive all the ingredients and recipes to make your selected dishes by mail each week. Brian says that ordering HelloFresh made meal prep, portioning, and calorie counting systematic and extremely easy to manage. In fact, he’s still utilizing the service post-challenge.
As familiar as Brian is with group fitness and other HAC programs, one-on-one training was entirely new for him. He was excited to have a trainer help him focus his fitness efforts with weight loss and muscle-building in mind. “My trainer, Dewey [Lightcap] – he’s very personable. He really tries to get to know you, tries to figure out things you want to do, what your goals are….” Brian says. “It was rough the first couple weeks because he was giving me stuff I’ve never done before. I was really sore after a while, but I loved every minute of it. Every session, I came back feeling better the next day.”
“I told Dewey the first week, ‘I am 100 percent committed to making this work.’ I just kept staying consistent with it, closing my rings, eating right, doing the training…”
After finding his groove in the first two weeks of the challenge, Brian started really paying attention to the data from his fit tech. Meeting the goals on his Apple Watch became a particular daily obsession. “There was one Sunday night at like nine o’clock – I hadn’t closed my exercise ring yet,” Brian chuckles. He asked himself, “is today the day that I don’t close my rings?”, then promptly hopped on the treadmill to hit that last goal. By the end of the Lifestyle Challenge, he had racked up an impressive 70-day streak of meeting his movement, exercise, and standing goals.
At the four, eight, and twelve-week marks, participants in the Lifestyle Challenge receive a leaderboard giving the initials of those who have lost the highest percentage of body fat thus far. When the week four email rolled out, Brian was tied for 4th place. He felt it was an important wake-up call; up to that point, he was consistently losing pounds but not much body fat. Dewey suggested that they shift his workouts towards lower rep counts and heavier weights. Thus, Brian opted to change up his diet strategy, too. “I really started to focus on protein in my diet instead of cutting calories,” he says. Increasing his protein would help him keep pace with his more intense weightlifting regimen and foster more muscle growth alongside fat loss.
In addition to weekly weigh-ins at HAC, Brian weighed himself at home religiously. However, without the extensive metrics that the InBody provides, he sometimes found his home scale to be discouraging. There were instances where he didn’t even want to come to the club for weigh-ins because he hadn’t lost any weight from the week prior, only to discover that his body fat percentage (PBF) had dropped after all.
“There were some days where I lost weight, but I didn’t lose fat, and some days where I lost fat but not weight,” he says. “So you never know.” The Lifestyle Challenge prioritizes changes in PBF over changes in weight for this very reason. Lopping off a few pounds can be done in many ways, some healthy and some not. But meaningfully shifting your body composition requires consistent, thoughtful lifestyle interventions. After slightly reworking his exercise and diet approach, starting between weeks 5 and 6 of the challenge, Brian’s PBF began to drop consistently and in greater amounts.
Working from home may have caused Brian to fall off the fitness wagon in the first place, but it was also crucial to his transformation over the past 12 weeks. Since the pandemic, he has become a permanent remote employee, and commuting less has given him more time to get gym-ready and head to HAC. As a result, Brian is confident that he would not have been able to achieve the results he’s seen had he been back in the office. “I probably could have gotten there with eating right,” he says, “but, you know, I didn’t really know what eating right looked like, either.”
Brian takes a lot of pride in the strength and endurance gains he’s made during the Lifestyle Challenge. He’s gone from barely being able to finish one cycling class to regularly attending back-to-back group fit classes and from only being able to eke out a single push-up to knocking out 10 in a row with ease. “It was hard going from where I started to where I ended up,” he says with self-reverence. “I’ve really come a long way.”
Brian anticipates that he will be able to maintain the habits he’s built, just with a little more leniency. He’s still got weight loss goals to work toward, but he wants to be realistic. For instance, a few weeks after the end of the Lifestyle Challenge, he took a family trip to Disney World, indulged in a Mickey Mouse pretzel here and there, and accumulated tons of steps in lieu of meeting his exercise goal each day. And while he’s relieved to have made it through his trip without throwing his progress out the window, it’s back to business now that he’s home.
Since signing up, Brian’s determination to make the most of the Lifestyle Challenge never waned. “‘I need a personal win,'” he remembers expressing to Dewey in their first week of training. “‘This whole COVID thing, being home alone – it’s been very boring. I need a win.'” For 12 straight weeks, Brian’s “fun weekend plans” consisted of group fitness and hitting the treadmill. Each day, he made concerted efforts to move and eat to fuel his body, and he remained wholly focused on self-improvement. “I told Dewey the first week, ‘I am 100 percent committed to making this work.’ I just kept staying consistent with it, closing my rings, eating right, doing the training… Exercise-wise and diet-wise, I just kept it going, and [my weight] kept going down a little bit, maybe one to two pounds per week. I wasn’t going crazy with it; I feel like there was a good, steady, consistent style to it.”
“Win or lose,” Brian concludes, “I definitely felt a thousand times better than I did when I started.”
“I would like to thank Dewey for being a fantastic trainer and for keeping me motivated every week for all 12 weeks. I would also like to thank the great instructors of the group fitness classes I regularly attended – Chris, Judy, Mike, Liz, Kristin, Stephanie, Susan, and Regina. And, of course, my wife Wendy for her support and for keeping me on track.”