With the right nutrition, weight training, cardio, mindset, and accountability, you can transform your body, fitness, and health more than you might imagine in only 12 weeks… Sara Ryan, 44, is one of thousands of people who have proven it with her results from the Burn the Fat Challenge. This challenge is a 12-week body transformation contest sponsored by Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle.

body transformation for women

The Burn the Fat Body Transformation Challenge is for women and men. It is held twice a year, once in January and once over the summer  at the Burn the Fat Inner Circle website.

During the three month challenge, Sara burned 20.6 pounds of fat and a lost a grand total of 28 inches (all major measurement points combined). As her photos reveal, she had one of the largest drops in belly fat seen among all the challenge finishers. (If you want to hear how to lose belly fat, keep reading).

According to her body composition test, she gained 2.3 pounds of muscle as well. To many people’s surprise, she followed a bodybuilder / physique athlete-style weight training program. (It’s a 4 X 4 body part split).

To measure her progress, she used a body composition scale. Everyone in the challenge knows and accepts that impedance analysis scales are not always accurate. However, all participants were required to do some kind of body composition test, if for no other reason than to emphasize the idea that there’s a difference between weight loss and fat loss.

The goal of this challenge is not to simply lose weight, but to burn fat and keep the muscle (or even gain a little muscle).

Following the Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle program, while also experimenting with her nutrition and training variables, she found what worked best for her. (Showing how important it is to customize programs). Her approach was a huge success as she won first place in the weight loss / fat loss division.

If you would like to learn exactly how Sara achieved the results you see in these photos (her diet, weights, cardio, mindset strategies and more), then you can read her Burn the Fat challenge essay below and hear in her own words all her secrets.

She wrote an amazingly detailed account of her 12-week transformation, and if you want to burn fat and gain muscle too, you will learn a lot as you read this.

-Tom Venuto


Although I have further to go on my fat loss journey, I feel this 12 week challenge has been a big success for me. I am feeling so much better in my body, and in my life. I met my challenge goal of burning 20 lbs, and it was all fat!

The absolute key to it all was incorporating ALL five elements of Tom Venuto’s Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle (BFFM) program together. In the past, I’ve been guilty of neglecting at least one or another of them.

The fifth element of body transformation in particular (support and accountability) gave me what I needed to stay on track and to keep showing up. This has by far been the most consistent summer I have had in YEARS! I was at least 80% compliant with my plan for 80 out of 84 days. Before I break down all the details of how I applied each of the five elements, let’s rewind a little first.

I first bought the original edition of BFFM in 2008 when it was a PDF ebook. At the time I was recuperating from a meniscus surgery and was looking to get fitter, stronger, healthier, and back into running, and BFFM was just what I needed.

Fast-forward to present day – and 4 kids later – and I also now have the updated Kindle version of BFFM. I’ve probably read BFFM 4 or 5 times. Also I have always read the BFFM email newsletters.

I have always enjoyed exercise, but in the last few years, the pounds have added up and it’s been a real struggle. Up until then, I had always been relatively fit. It seemed like it just kept getting harder to carve out time for myself. I was often sleep deprived and so run down that I felt I was losing my self-identity, and all that was left was a tired lump of mom.

I recently read that flamingos often lose their pink color during pregnancy and parenthood. It’s because providing nutrients to their young depletes them so much of the color-inducing foods and enzymes that their feathers turn pale or even white. Now, although I’m no flamingo, this struck a chord. Fortunately the pink feathers do eventually return.

For a long time, I’ve been stuck at a place where I want to feel like myself again. Yes, we all want better bodies, but it’s about more than that. I could go on about some “best-life” build up but it really boils down to taking better care of myself – consistently. This is the beginning of that journey.


Luckily, I have recognized how important the mental element is from the very beginning. Also, I naturally tend to be a very positive and tenacious person. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! In fact, my husband sometimes refers to me as Optimist Prime (kudos, if you get the Transformers reference!) Over the last several years, my goals regarding my health, fitness, and body image have rarely left my mind. Unfortunately, during that time they felt more like a wish than an outcome.

For this challenge, my main goals were to lose 20 pounds, hopefully all fat, and keep as much lean body mass as possible. I wrote these goals out, and saw them on my phone multiple times a day. I also have a calendar on my phone that I use to plan and track all my workouts. At the end of the day, to track how successful I was with both exercise and nutrition, I highlight the date either red (less than 80% compliant), yellow (80-90% compliant), or green (90-100% compliant). I only had 4 red days during the entire challenge. Sixty-eight of them were green.

My biggest obstacle during the challenge was getting enough sleep. Typically, I’m so busy that I feel like I am last on the list. I changed that by getting up early (before my kids!), and working out before doing anything else. I made the first thing I do everyday MY thing. I put myself first on the list.

I rarely get to bed early, so this was tough. But I have gone to new lengths to make sleep more of a priority. My morning alarm clock mantra became, “Now or Never”.

I have reached the point where I now KNOW that if I don’t get my exercise in first, the likelihood of it happening drastically decreases with each passing hour. It also helped to set my workout clothes out and have everything ready the night before.

Additionally, I can’t stress how helpful it is to make a contingency backup plan. Even just checking the weather the night before, and thinking, “If it’s raining, or there’s another air alert in the morning and I can’t make it to the park, I will do a cardio dvd instead.” Or there were a few times where I got to bed way too late, and told myself that if I honestly felt too exhausted to make it happen in the morning, I would swap tomorrow with my rest day.

This idea was also in one of the weekly Burn the Fat mini-challenges that took place during the 12-week transformation challenge, so thank you Tom Venuto for the reminder! Don’t just have a plan, have a backup. Have multiple backup plans. A plan for me often seems to change when it meets reality. It hardly ever works out exactly as I expected, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t successful.


For the challenge, I did a 4 x 4 split (a bodybuilding-style program) and completed the exercises using supersets (a time-efficiency technique). I did this in my basement with a weight bench and mostly dumbbells. I customized it so two days were dedicated to lower body. My ideal weekly schedule looked like this:

Monday: Chest/Back
Tuesday: Quads/Calves
Thursday: Shoulders/Biceps/Triceps
Friday: Hammies/Glutes

There were times where life got stressful and hectic, and I ended up moving things around to make it all work, but I still got all of my weight training workouts completed.

In addition to my workout calendar, I also used a spreadsheet on my phone just for tracking weight lifting workouts. I documented the date and overall time duration of the workout, as well as the weight, sets, and reps of each exercise.

Besides progressive overload, another aspect that I really wanted to focus on was actual exertion. In the past, once I was able to do 12-15 reps of an exercise I would grab the next heaviest set of weights.

In addition, I typically did abs on Wednesdays and Saturdays after cardio. Sundays were my rest day, although I usually still did some stretching and easy yoga.


Describing my cardio program will be short and sweet because it was simple. My initial plan was to start with walking 5-6 days a week, and eventually begin mixing in jogging. I aimed for 3-5 miles a day, and ran my first mile on day 13 of the challenge. I did this outside at my local park. As I mentioned above, if I couldn’t make it to the park, I did a dvd instead. I have a few kickboxing ones that are my favorites.


Planning and executing macro ratios has always been a struggle for me in the past. I feel that during this challenge I finally conquered it. I finally took the time to really accomplish meal planning, not necessarily prepping food ahead of time, but figuring out my calories and macros in advance so they would be right on target. Having go-to “mom lunches” on hand was also essential for me.

My goals for the challenge were 1300-1500 calories a day, with macros at 40-30-30 (protein, carbs, fat). Once I started jogging more, these changed a bit and my calorie target was 1450-1650. I also adjusted macros to allow for more carbs (35-35-30).

My breakthrough in mastering macros ended up being my nutrition app. Although I’ve used this app and a food scale for tracking for years, I finally started using them as a planning tool instead. I’m sure I’ve heard of this idea of using a meal planner or an app suggested by Tom in an email newsletter at some point but I had rarely implemented it before.

Since I usually got up and started by 5am, I would typically wait to eat until after I was done working out. I’d make a protein shake for my first meal after exercise. So when planning, I would add that, and then I would add dinner. Once those were in, I would add lunch and snacks, and then make adjustments to portions or even the actual foods until I got the numbers where I wanted them. Then I had a meal plan for the day and I just had to follow it.

I really love the idea of flexible dieting, and it has been the sole reason that I have been able to make friends with counting calories and macros. I am passionate about delicious food. This doesn’t mean I love pigging out on junk food. It’s just that I love cooking and enjoying amazing food.

By making sure the more decadent foods are in moderation, or even tweaked to be healthier, it’s still possible to enjoy them with the right mix of other foods throughout the day and still hit our goal numbers. Yes, we can even make it work with lobster ravioli in alfredo sauce. Also, this was my first time in the Inner Circle and I loved checking out and trying the Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle recipes too! Every one I tried was delicious!


I mentioned above, this challenge was my first time as a full member in the Burn the Fat Inner Circle. Despite buying the original BFFM e-book 15 years ago, this was also my first transformation challenge ever too. It turns out that this challenge WAS my fifth element!

Leading up to it, I knew summer break would be the perfect time to put some focus back on me. There would be way less going on with my kiddos as far as school and sports. It felt undeniable that the challenge would give me the extra support and accountability that I needed. Consistency has typically been really difficult for me in the last few years, and has been one of my biggest struggles.

I was also on a Burn the Fat Challenge Team (The A Team) with an amazing group of ladies. I am so grateful for their support. Being on a team was an even bigger help. In the past, I have often been easily discouraged if I had a weigh-in that I didn’t feel was successful, or successful enough. I had moments in the challenge where my scale numbers seemed off even though I had felt I was crushing it that week. My team all helped encourage each other to stay positive and keep going.

Being in the Burn the Fat challenge also brought my goals into a concrete timeline, providing more accountability just to get up and get that workout done every morning. Although I didn’t post on the mini-challenges, I still found it very helpful to take the time to read through them and work them out for myself. I wish I would have had more time to visit and post on others’ threads more than I did.

Moving on past the 12-week challenge, I’m looking forward to continuing this journey with my team as we would all like to keep going. My next short term goals are to break under 200 lbs and run 2 miles under 20 minutes. As for long term, I’d eventually like to be around 150-160 lbs, but that could change depending on LBM/fat percentages.

I’m seriously considering doing the Burn the Fat million step challenge this fall as I would like more accountability to keep going. This may be the end of the challenge, but it’s just the beginning of a better, brighter, happier, healthier future. The pink feathers are returning. (Yes, I just reached all the way back to paragraph #3).


Resources mentioned in this article:

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

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 Million Step Challenge
For details about the next Million Step Challenge CLICK HERE

Burn the Fat Inner Circle
Social Support Community For Natural Body Transformation CLICK HERE

Weight Training Program:
4 X 4 Muscle Training Program CLICK HERE (Members Only)

Burn The Fat Meal Planner
Nutrition And Meal Planning Software CLICK HERE (Members Only)

Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle Recipes
Nutrition And Meal Planning Software CLICK HERE (Members Only)

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