Back-to-Back: How Samuel Shredded 8.1% Body Fat in his 2nd Lifestyle Challenge

by Nate Widom

Feeling déjà vu? You’re not going crazy! HAC member Samuel Utz placed third last year during our 2022 HAC Lifestyle Challenge. For 2023, he re-challenged himself, achieving third once more. While the placement may be the same, Samuel’s win could not be any more different. His journey comprises different strategies, challenges, and, most importantly, a different story. It’s a win more satisfying, and in his eyes, the road to get here has been a far superior accomplishment. Here’s his story.

“I really ran myself ragged,” Samuel recalls about the 2022 Challenge. “I probably did not do it in the healthiest way looking back at it. Not the right diet, not the right focus, it was really more about winning rather than long-term growth.”

While Samuel initially kept up the routine he’d developed, he lost his streak after some time. “I’m not gonna lie, after last year, I kinda just gave up on myself a little bit,” he says. “I just got so caught up in everything outside the gym.” During this time, he felt a feeling many of us go through during our journey. “I was definitely not in the right head space,” he recalls. “I’ve dealt with weight loss my entire life, and you kind of get to the point where it’s like, ‘What’s the point? I’m getting older, and I’m not gonna be like Channing Tatum at 21 with ripped abs. It’s not gonna happen.’”

However, Samuel consistently came to HAC for Tuesday’s personal training sessions with Rachel Evans. Rachel was Samuel’s personal trainer for the 2022 challenge, and even after last year’s challenge concluded, he remained a loyal client. “She’s actually amazing, so I knew after the challenge, I wanted to continue seeing her as a trainer,” he explains. “If I’m not pushing myself hard enough, she will call me on it. If I pick up a 10-pound weight, and she knows I could be doing those 20s, she’s gonna say that.”

After some time, Samuel knew he needed to do more and return to his former groove. He signed up for Project Zero—the same challenge that gained him free entry into the lifestyle challenge last year. Unfortunately, Samuel didn’t lose weight this year once January came around and consequently wasn’t eligible for the prize. He now knew to take things up a notch—and the next step was the Lifestyle Challenge again for 2023.

“I denied it for a long time, but I realized I am a competitive person,” Samuel explains. “I did [the Lifestyle Challenge] last year, and I knew I did well last year, so I was like, ‘Why can’t I do it again this year and try to do even better?’”

For the 2023 challenge, Samuel went in “full-throttle” and with a much better head space. In addition to seeing Rachel on Tuesdays, he added training sessions with her on Mondays. But something was missing. He needed workouts that balanced his love for cardio with a friendly social scene.

Once Rachel suggested her Thursday FIT small group class, Samuel fell in love. “I really clicked with the people,” he says. “They’re people that you can laugh with and discuss random stuff. They’re such amazing people, and I can’t say enough about them. They really motivated me to continue coming and being here.” Samuel even joined the group on Tuesday plus a Wednesday cycling class (even though he isn’t the biggest fan of cycling). While Samuel had similar experiences when taking group fitness classes, small group personal training helped introduce him to new friends and modes of movement. It was a welcomed change.

With a fresh workout routine, Samuel sought a new diet that he credits as more enjoyable and practical. “I just wanted to do more fun things this year that are more long-term,” he explains. “What can I do that’s reasonable?” Samuel would make a protein shake twice a day, eat a satisfying salad at lunch, a granola bar for a snack, and incorporate many eggs into his meals. As a weekend treat, he would visit Chipotle. He would make sure to drink more water and not deprive himself. Funny enough, he mainly removed soda from his diet during the challenge and hated it after drinking a bottle as a one-time treat.

Ultimately, things went smoother this year than they did last. “Luckily, I was on a steady pace throughout the challenge,” Samuel describes. “Last year, I stressed myself out because I yo-yo’d throughout the challenge. This year, even if it wasn’t a huge drop each week, there was a drop.” Seeing more stable and reliable results motivated him to keep pushing. Nevertheless, like last year, he still had to remind himself to keep going and not self-sabotage. “If you want to move forward and don’t do anything about it, you can’t expect change,” he says.

As the challenge concluded, Samuel lost almost 30 pounds and felt the satisfaction of hard work paying off. “I’m proud of myself because, at the end of the day, I still placed and worked hard. There is literally nothing that I could sit here and say that I could do to do anything better. To me, that makes me feel good.”

Samuel credits Rachel as one of his most significant sources of motivation during the challenge. “She works so hard here. I wanted to do this for her as well, and I wanted her to have someone in the top three that she trained because she needed that recognition,” he explains. “I told Rachel, ‘You’re still stuck with me four days a week!’”

By this July, Samuel wants to be another 30 pounds lighter and try the cold plunge tub in the aquatic complex. All in all, he wants to keep his same healthy habits going every day. However, he admits that continuing those healthy habits won’t come without ups and downs. While Samuel firmly believes that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, he knows firsthand that it’s easier said than done. “It is very easy when you see other people with muscles. They’re skinny, [they have] ripped abs, and you’re just like, ‘What do you do?’ That’s just something I have to overcome and continue my path.”

“For anyone struggling with weight loss, it is a journey, and nobody can tell you how to be happy except yourself. But also, at the end of the day, the only one standing in your way is yourself,” Samuel states. “I think that is a hard lesson to learn and the reality of the situation. We can’t change the past, but we can change the future. The only way to change the future is to change what we’re doing. Don’t let what other people say affect you. Keep moving forward.”

“I gave it my all, and it still paid off, and I really hope that I can inspire people to know that sometimes you hit a point where you need to reevaluate what your direction is and what you really want,” Samuel concludes. “If you’re not getting the results, you need to do something different. You can say I got the same result because I got third place, but I can tell right now that I am in a different place because I feel confident that I will continue doing this journey.”

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