My name is Michael Malone and I was recently very honored and thrilled to be given the first place award in season 9 of the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle Body Transformation Challenge. Tom Venuto invited me to write a guest post about some of the training, nutrition and mindset strategies I used during the 98 – day transformation challenge to get the results you see in my before and after pictures. For me, mindset was #1 and there were 3 key shifts in my mindset that made all the difference.

burn-the-fat-feed-the-muscle mikeMindset/Motivation

During this challenge, I read one of the articles posted on the Burn the Fat Inner Circle website called, Body Transformation and the Hero’s Journey, which was written by one of the previous challenge champions, Javier Garcia.

In that article, Javier quoted Joseph Campbell, who described the first step of the journey as “the call to adventure.”

For me, this challenge was a “call to adventure” and that was my motivation to enter. I had a sense that it was time to dream again. I didn’t know what to dream at first but I knew it was time to dream.

I also re-read the goal setting chapter of Tom Venuto’s Book, Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle (BFFM). Tom opened by stating, “This might be the most important chapter in the entire book – even though it has nothing to do with calories, protein, carbohydrates, fats, cardio, weights or anything else related to nutrition or training” and I believe that wholeheartedly.

Working through the process of mental training and reconditioning old mental patterns takes time and it wasn’t until near the end of the challenge that I had the ability to “visualize” to the point of clarity that I wanted. The important thing is to get started. As Tom said when giving advice on writing goals, “You can always go back and edit later.”

Get that image in your mind and get it down on paper. It took me several attempts to set a goal that resonated and left me with a sense of excitement and freedom from “inner conflict.”

My wife Rebecca was a huge support and an amazing agent in helping me get “real.” She helped me realise that I had some unhealthy mindsets that needed changing yet was patient, gracious and loving along the way.

There were 3 key mindset shifts that I made during this challenge:

1. My first key mindset shift was to value the relationship over the result.

The bottom line is: I told myself that I was doing this challenge to become a better me to become a better husband and father. That was my “reason why.”

There came a point toward the end of the challenge, however, where I was tested.

When I briefly attempted to do double daily workouts, my family life really began to suffer. I had a decision to make: cut back or push ahead. But when I was clear on my motive, it was a no-brainer – I went back to once-a-day workouts.

2. My second key mindset shift was to “chew the meat and spit out the bones.”

Here’s what I mean: I used to think that the way to be successful was to find successful people and copy their strategy for success verbatim. But during this challenge, I realised that I could be inspired by others, but I had to create my own rules. Basically, to “chew the meat and spit out the bones.”

At one time, I thought this saying was made up by people who were too lazy to follow a system properly, but now I appreciate the message wholeheartedly.

I think one of the most amazing things about the Burn the Fat Inner Circle online community is that there is so much inspiration and there are so many quality people there, and in Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle, there is a structured program with so much quality content, but the program also has a huge degree of flexibility inside that framework for you to create your own formula. It’s not rigid like typical diets.

3. My third key mindset shift was to “listen to inner guidance.”

I began to let go of my strict cause-and-effect thinking that was divorced from any connection with my heart. I began to do something that I had not done for a long time – listen to inner promptings. This gave me a sense of freedom and flexibility.
I began to listen to the “still inner voice.” For me, I believe this is the voice of God. Sometimes He would whisper things that wouldn’t make sense, but after obeying, it became clear why.

It wasn’t until I began listening to and following these whispers that I was able to get real clarity in setting my goals and power in achieving them. When you get tuned in to your inner voice, and you listen,  I think this is the point where the effectiveness of goal setting becomes “uncanny” as Tom described it in his book.

Food and Nutrition

I followed the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle baseline nutrition plan for the first 9 weeks of the challenge. For me, that meant eating approximately 2200-2400 Calories, 180-200g Protein, 180-200g Carbs and 60-80g Fat divided into 6 meals. Usually one of those meals was a protein meal replacement shake. My favourite was Labrada’s Lean Body Wholefood (apple/cinnamon.)

I think one of the challenges of following a “diet” is that being too strict can cause a level of emotional discomfort. One strategy that many people use to overcome this problem is to have a “cheat meal” or even a “cheat day” once a week.

Depending on how you define the word “cheat,” you could say that I never once cheated throughout the Challenge, or you could say that I cheated every single day!

For example, my usual breakfast was 1 whole egg plus 6 egg whites scrambled, ½ cup of oatmeal, ½ a grapefruit and a black coffee, but if I woke up and felt like something different, I would make it. I often made “protein pancakes” from rolled oats, egg whites and cottage cheese topped with blueberries. It was delicious, so to me, this felt like “cheating,” but it was basically the same on a macro nutrient level.  The rest of the family loved it too!

I used many of the recipes from the Inner Circle website recipe department and forums, as well as others from books and some I found online. Eventually, I felt comfortable enough to start making up my own recipes.

Toward the end of the challenge, I did begin to reduce carbs in my afternoon and evening meals for three days before returning to a baseline day every fourth day. It was important for me to enjoy the process and not just get a result, so instead of just eating chicken and broccoli plain, I researched “healthy low carb meals.”

I’m extremely grateful for those who posted their recipes at the Burn the Fat Inner Circle. I found that even when you’re on lower carb, you can get creative and enjoy your food. One favourite low carb evening meal that the whole family loved was “Spaghetti Bolognese” made using zucchini and broccoli cut into strips as the “spaghetti” topped with extra lean mince.

Perhaps the most effective nutritional strategy is one I stumbled on by accident: Our kids began to rate our meals on a scale of 1 to 10. So my wife Rebecca and I tried to outdo each other with healthy meals that the kids loved. We scored a few 9.8’s along the way and made sure these were repeat meals.


I benefited a great deal by keeping a training diary. In addition to recording sets, reps and weights, I also recorded the number of hours I slept last night, my energy levels and my mood. Doing this helped me value sleep as much as protein!
I paid special attention to squats and deadlifts and the night before or the morning of the workout I would mentally prepare myself so that the training was intense.

My cardio was mostly 30-40 minutes of moderate intensity runs along the river. I did do some high intensity interval training, but found I had to be careful with sprints because recovering in time to train my legs properly was a challenge. Toward the end I changed to using a spin bike and that helped.

Other Tips and Advice…

I think anyone who chooses to enter a transformation challenge will at some point have to deal with a less than ideal environment. Erwin McManus in his book, Wide Awake states: “Unless you learn how to adapt to your environment, to your circumstances, and to your challenges, you will continue to use them as an excuse, claiming they are obstacles that stop you from living the life of your dreams.”

Fortunately, you can recruit the support of your family and plug into a positive environment like the Burn the Fat Inner Circle, and then you don’t have to do this alone.

– Michael
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