Nancy Elwell is one of thousands of people who have transformed themselves during the Burn the Fat Challenge, a 12-week body transformation contest held twice a year at the Burn the Fat Inner Circle website. (Starting in January and May). The challenge has been running since 2009 and is one of the few of its kind still promoted online. It’s the only one that’s free (for anyone who is a Burn the Fat Inner Circle member or reader of the Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle book)

During the three-month challenge, Nancy dropped 25.8 pounds, lost 6.5 inches off her waist and reduced from a size XL to a medium. But her transformation was beyond an aesthetic one. She also transformed her health, with fantastic improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.

This achievement earned her a special new Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle award, “The Best Health Transformation.”  Read her Burn the Fat challenge essay below and hear in her own words more about her results and how she did it…


What an amazing 12 weeks! I have dreamed of completing a transformation challenge for 40 years. Not only have I now fulfilled that dream at 63, it has been the best summer of my life!

I am finally living my life the way I always wanted to. A big aha moment was when I realized that for the first time in my life, I am now the woman I have always wanted to be – confident and strong inside and out.

I am great at sticking to workouts, but nutrition has been a different story. I went from 140 to 117 pounds my senior year of high school on 500 calories per day. But by my second year of college, I was up to 155. Since then, I have fluctuated between 145 and 200 pounds, stabilizing for the last several years in the 190s.

In a six-year span, I lost my husband (2017), mom (2019) and sister (2021). Bingeing on carbs was my escape from grief and from the stress of dealing with three estates. But I never gave up on wanting to lose weight and improve my health.

And then the stars aligned. The Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle book was posted in a Facebook group as the gold-standard guide for optimal physique development. I listened to the Burn the Fat audio book on a 12-hour road trip, found the challenge at the Burn the Fat Inner Circle, computed calories, printed workouts, and committed to fulfilling my dream.

Previously, my participation in activities depended on what the scale said. Often, I would not attend events because I had binged. I had no major health problems, but some health markers were on the rise. In 2019, I lost 30 lbs doing IF, but I regained it all and couldn’t repeat the loss again.

I have always been consistent with workouts until my all or nothing attitude took over: “One piece of bread – diet blown – eat the entire loaf.” Then even the workouts stopped. I started bingeing in childhood. It served a purpose (provided comfort) but it was a dysfunctional one and needed to stop.

During the challenge I referred to the Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle book often, making sure that I was doing everything possible to be successful. My plan varied little from week 1 to 12. Nothing fancy. Just commitment to the fundamentals. Commitment to the 4-part Burn the Fat formula:

1. Mental Training

Affirmations were a big part of my mental training approach. My favorite affirmation was, “I am a warrior”

I also focused on non-scale victories. For example, seeing muscle definition that I had not seen in 40 years and my clothes fitting differently.

Working on my belief systems was also important. In Tom’s book, The Body Fat Solution, he challenges a client’s belief that it is impossible to stay on track with nutrition while traveling and suggests changing the belief to it being possible to return home in a healthier state than before leaving.

This came at the perfect time for me to review as I traveled to visit kids and grandkids. I packed shakes and protein and was determined to not only enjoy the visits but to return home to this check-in with the scale showing a loss. IT WORKED! I ate what I knew would make me feel best, left the rest alone, and the result was a loss of over 2 pounds while traveling. Better yet,I felt fantastic the entire time, lots of energy, and my clothes were loose. Too loose actually. Good thing I took a belt! And I never felt guilty about my food choices.

Mental training also means putting the right stuff in your head. For me, that was audio books:

Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (Tom Venuto)
The Body Fat Solution
Atomic Habits (James Clear)
The 4 Season Solution (Dallas Hartwig)

2. Nutrition

One of the first things I did was change my meal frequency. Before, I was eating three meals a day. I changed that to five. My energy stayed more consistent that way, and I was too full after each with only three.

I prepared all my food for each day in the morning. I have a casserole dish that holds six cups of vegetables and I aimed for 145 g of protein and 3/4 cup of my no-guilt ranch dressing. I supplemented with one or two protein shakes. When the food is gone, I’m done eating for the day.

Based on how I know my body from past dieting, I kept the protein very high and the carbs on the low side. My macros were 45% protein, 20% carbs, and 35% fat.

My calories averaged about 1350.

I use the Cronometer app to pre-log next day meal plans.

3. Cardio Training

I stayed very active with a goal of 10,000 steps a day. I hit 15,000 at times. I did biking, and swimming and a lot of walking. I hadn’t been on a bike in 30 years! I just took it slowly with 30 minutes daily. I sometimes did Tabata routines which are shorter, more intense cardio workouts.

4. Weight Training

For lifting I did early morning workouts to make sure I got it done.

I trained four days a week using the two-day split. I lifted on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday And Friday.

On week six, I started doing supersets to increase the intensity and get the workouts done quicker.

See the most effective, time-efficient superset training program here

Almost everything in my life has changed since starting the challenge.

I can sum up my body changes saying that I see great beauty in the muscles that are being revealed. First, my legs looked better. Then biceps and triceps became defined. Next pecs and shoulders.

Nutritionally, this was the first time that I have established and was consistent following a sound, nutritional plan. I know I will always be prone to bingeing, but I’m confident that I will stay in control by continuing to strengthen habits developed in this challenge including allowing one treat, or one meal on one day of a special event. Gone are the days of Thanksgiving to New Year’s free-for-all!

I started the challenge at 185.6 lbs and ended at 159.8 for a total weight loss of 25.8lbs. I used a scale to track body fat%, knowing that it might not be the best method. According to the scale, my body fat drop was minimal (35.7% to 31.7%) and I don’t think that was accurate, but the progress could be seen in pounds and in measurements, which included:

Waist 41″- 34.5″ (minus 6.5″)
Low Abs 43″ to 37″ (minus 6″)
Hips 44″ to 37″ (minus 7″)
Clothing size changes: tops – XL to Med; shorts from 12/14 to 6

Maybe the most important improvements were in my health markers:

Blood Pressure: 129/84 to 119/76
Total Cholesterol: 183 to 147
Triglycerides: 100 to 76
C-Reactive Protein 2.78 to 1.59 (relative risk for future cardiovascular event)

My fitness improvements included more focused strength training resulting in increased weights for all lifts; longer walks, sometimes several times a day, and the addition of cycling and swimming into my weekly routine.

I feel that I’ve always been blessed in my life, and my weight has been the only aspect of my life that I chose not to have control over. I say “chose not to have” because when it comes down to it, I did have total control over my weight, my body, and my health, and I chose to often to allow food to be my refuge.

As far as mental attitude, I now allow myself to feel all the wonderful emotions that make us human. My relationships were always good, but they are now even better, as I am fully there for the important people in my life,including myself.

A few revelations/lessons I learned from the challenge include:

  • Stop Paralysis by Analysis! Commit to one tried and true plan (Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle!) and stick with it for 12 weeks. Don’t get distracted by other experts or trendy diets, no matter what your day-to-day results are.
  • Make healthy versions of traditional recipes and meals. For example, I made a ranch dressing with almond milk yogurt and sausage made with ground turkey and spices.
  • Listen to your body – If you are tired, just do some basic lifts/easy cardio. But do something.

What’s next for me? Keeping with the 12-week goal format, I am planning my own (unofficial) challenges through the end of the year. When the next official challenge comes up, I might not be ready for the physique category, but I will be 25 to 30 pounds closer than I am now.

Dream fulfilled!

~ Nancy


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

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Burn the Fat 12-week body transformation challenge
The next challenge starts January 1st. See the calendar and get on announcement list HERE

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