Sometimes the right opportunity comes at just the right right time. That was the case with Michelle the day she received an email invitation to enter the Burn the Fat Challenge 12 week body transformation contest

Entering a fitness contest such as the Burn The Fat Challenge might not have seemed like good timing in one sense.

On one hand, that same morning she stepped on the scale and saw she had hit her highest weight in years. The motivation and accountability to get that weight back off made it perfect timing.

On the other hand, she was getting ready to move and everyone knows how stressful that is.

In addition, Michelle also had a history of back problems underwent surgery the previous year. At the time the challenge was starting, she was still suffering from slow recovery and pain.

It was already understanding the mental element of physical body transformation and switching her thinking that spurred her on to say to herself, “Let’s go! Let’s do it!” despite these obstacles. And she did it. She started. She finished. And her 12 week body transformation challenge was a resounding success.

These are Michelle’s stats the  Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle 12 week Body transformation challenge:

Age 49
Starting Weight: 138.5
Finishing Weight: 122.8
Starting body fat percentage: 32.8%
Finishing BF%: 23.8%
Total Fat change: -16.2 pounds
Total Lean change: +.50 pounds

Below you can read Michelle’s challenge essay where she shares, in her own words, what she did during this life changing event.

Her essay is filled with some great tips with specifics on nutrition (even including a typical daily mean plan during the challenge. She also shares the nutrition and training (resistance and cardio), she did to achieve this transformation.

Plus you can see how her mental training, energy and enthusiasm played such a big part in her results.

We hope this inspires you, and that perhaps you will join us for the next challenge (link for details at bottom of page).

– Tom Venuto, Inner Circle Founder


Hey everyone ! My name is Michelle Musto. I am 49 years old at the time of this challenge (STILL not fifty… ha!) and I have finished! I entered the Muscle and Physique division judging.

It all started with an email from Tom Venuto on January 2, 2023 that said, “You are invited to the 2023 challenge.” I stared at that email. Hard. I flagged it. Then I went about my day. But my thoughts kept going back to it.

And what timing. That morning, when I weighed myself, the scale had hit a high I hadn’t seen in years. I had a mental war with myself, knowing how great it would be to enter the 12 week body transformation challenge and get back into shape, yet knowing that I just had too much going on to commit to something like that.

I mean, I was buying a new home, I had to pack. Closing day was coming up. I struggle with a physical disability which means constant chronic pain. I had re-injured myself, had a recent spinal fusion, followed by a slow recovery and new onset of pain. How could I possibly?

I remembered Tom’s Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle book. One chapter (Chapter 6) deals with the mental aspect. Training your mind. How your “mental computer” is programmed for success or failure. Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right. Suddenly I said, “SWITCH!” Then I said, “How could you NOT? DO IT! LETS GO!”

I spoke to my surgeon and got the ok to walk as much as possible. I set some goals! I just wanted to get back to around 18% body fat or between 122-125 pounds. I had entered the competition in 2015 and finished strong! I looked and felt great and my body fat was around 18% so I figured I’d shoot for that.

Well, I hit the weight goal (high five!) and I a finished around 23% body fat. What that has shown me is that over the last couple years I’ve lost some precious muscle. Talk about discouraging. But that’s ok, that just gives me another goal to work towards – building that muscle tissue back up!

Another goal I set was to do 10 pull-ups. That was harder. During covid lockdown, I had purchased a really nice pull up bar from Rogue. It’s pretty sick. But I was renting and really didn’t have anywhere to install it. I grudgingly put it aside, knowing one day when we bought a new home I could install it there. We found our dream home and had a move-in date of March 1!

I did everything I could to build up strength before the move. I was using the arm of my treadmill to hold onto and pulled my weight up that way. Once we moved into the new home, I was impatient as I waited for help installing the bar. Finally it went up! But I needed my pull-up assist band. Would you believe that thing snapped the first time I tried it? Scared the bejeezus outta me too! But I didn’t give up!

At first, I was doing “negative pull-ups.” This is where I could not pull myself up, but I was strong enough to resist on the way down. That technique helped me build up my strength until by the end of the challenge I did 10 chin-ups and also got 10 pull-ups (however, they were still assisted, just using a different band!).

How did I lose the weight?

I used the elements found in Tom’s Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle book! (Duh! Lol). Seriously, yes that’s what I did. And it was simple, but NOT easy!

Like I mentioned, I have a physical disability. I’ve had seven spinal surgeries, one just last year. I wont bore you with the details. But pain holds me back. A recent CAT scan revealed my spinal fusion had failed and my surgeon is waiting on my call to schedule the new surgery to fix ‘er up. We decided that I would wait until the move and once I’m settled in at the new place, thats when we’d go in and have it corrected.

I have used the program in Tom’s book for years to get and stay lean. When life happens and the pounds creep up, I go back to the book and the pounds come off…

That was until lockdown. And Menopause. And re-injury. And five-pound bags of gummy bears on Amazon. Seriously, why do they even sell those? Because my brain can NOT shut off the constant shoving of squishy deliciousness into my pie hole in my head apparently. I’ve never been a sweets-eater either. Fast forward to January 2nd, 15 pounds overweight and an email from Tom about the competition. I got excited.

These are the 4 elements:


I discussed this above (switch your thoughts and you reprogram your mental computer). But here’s another line I want to share with you that’s stuck with me over the years. I used throughout this challenge…ready?

“Nothing tastes as good as looking good feels!” I heard that years ago and whenever I wanted to stuff my face in a ravenous rage, that is what I would say to myself! It works for me!


I had to really crunch the numbers this time because getting close to (cough)..fifty..(cough) …the hormones are kicking my butt. My numbers have changed. My basal metabolic rate is lower and the muscle I lost didn’t help either. My non-exercise activity (N.E.A.T.) was lower over the last couple years due to the re-injury during 2021 and the (not so lucky) # 7 spinal surgery.

Once I had some numbers I put myself in a deficit and focused on 50-30-20 macros. From there I tweaked them over the weeks as the results were coming in. I weighed all my food and tracked every single thing I ate using MyFitnessPal.

I allowed myself one day per week to come in higher with carbs and let my body know I wasn’t starving. My body was thankful. Toward the end, I started having an extra ‘medium’ carb day and my macros gravitate towards a 45-35-20.

I have discovered many new healthy protein recipes, especially a great double chocolate protein muffin that I’ll use all the time now! God bless social media and viral recipe videos! (And don’t forget all the Burn The Fat Inner Circle recipes).

I mostly ate the same thing for breakfast and lunch, then had a snack if I was hungry in between lunch and dinner. Otherwise I’d wait until later in the evening to have a snack. Breakfast was protein pancakes if I had time, if I didn’t it was oatmeal and protein powder.

Lunch was protein green smoothies (I found it easier to drink my salad than to actually eat one) or tuna on rice cakes.

Dinner changed every night but was usually easier to stick to chicken breast or thighs, Tom’s lean meatloaf, or the lean ground beef/rice recipe. I’d combine that with either asparagus, broccoli or Brussels sprouts.

Snacks consisted of either nonfat Greek yogurt and half of a scoop of protein powder with blueberries and cinnamon, or light string cheese, cottage cheese on a rice cake (which tastes amazing with Vietnamese cinnamon by the way).

One day a week, I’d allow some sweet potato or brown rice with dinner. Let me tell you, those carbs taste extra delicious when you’ve been carb-cycling. Early in the challenge I had a cheeseburger during one high day, but decided that I would do better sticking to clean eating on high days for the duration.

Nothing was plain either. If I had tuna, I threw in some jalapeños or pepper relish to kick it up. My oatmeal would have oats, ground flax, chia seeds, a walnut or two crushed, cinnamon and sugar free syrup. I had spices and seasonings for every craving!


I was doing 5 days of cardio. For the first four weeks I focused on 20-30 minutes of walking on a slight incline on the three days I did resistance training. On the other two days I Did 40-45 minutes. During weeks 5-8, I increased the incline and added about ten minutes to each day making it about 45 minutes on resistance days and an hour on the other two.

And finally during the last month, I bumped it up to include additional walking at my NEW HOME ON OUR SCENIC ROAD every day! Oh that has been wonderful. I take my dog and walk as far down the road as my pain will allow me and start heading back.

My N.E.A.T. Has increased dramatically. My watch is giving me awards all over the place. That alone has been so motivational! Even with the added pain, I’m getting steps in. I trained abs two days a week after my long walk on the treadmill.


I started a (coincidentally) twelve week program of three mesocycles using a three day split. After each mesocycle, I increased my weights so that I was progressively overloading. I have to be very careful because of my spine. I can’t lift too heavy over my head and I really have to watch my form.

But if there was an exercise I couldn’t do, I found an alternative whether it was with a resistance band or some other way! It’s surprising just how much resistance and what a great workout a band can give you. Also, if it’s PHYSICAL, ITS THERAPY!

The most important aspect has been ACCOUNTABILITY. For the 12 week body transformation contest, I knew every week I had to take my measurements, and post to my journal. I knew at the end of the competition I’d be posting photos. These things kept me on track.

I’m so happy I decided to just go for it and enter the challenge. The 12 weeks flew by! I’ve set some new goals and I have all the new data and tools I need to keep going before my upcoming FIFTIETH (yeee-haw) birthday and into the future. I’ve learned to really clean up my meals and to watch the casual snacking in between meals.

Most importantly, I’m looking forward to finding that wedding gown and marrying my best friend!


PS Here is the link to my contest journal which I titled, 50 Is Not An F Word (Members Only)

Resources mentioned in this story:

Burn the Fat 12-week body transformation challenge
For details about upcoming Burn the Fat Challenge events that you can enter, CLICK HERE

Burn the Fat Feed The Muscle (Official Guide To The Burn the Fat Challenge) CLICK HERE

Burn the Fat Inner Circle
Social Support Community For All-Natural, No-BS Body Transformation CLICK HERE

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