Ellis is no novice at lifting and fitness, nor is he a stranger to transformation contests. He has won special awards for most ripped and best body composition. He placed as a finalist in the Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle Body Transformation Challenge multiple times. And then he won the whole contest.

12 week body transformation age 57

Even as a fitness veteran for years, who had been in great shape, he said that in 2020 and even well into 2021, his physique had slipped. He entered the Burn the Fat Body Transformation challenge for motivation to change, though clearly also motivated from within, and strongly in touch with his values and reason why he was doing this.

In his opening challenge journal post he wrote:

“I am entering the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFM) Summer Challenge. I am in possession of more body fat than I’ve had in many years. This is unacceptable to me especially as I navigate the last few years of my 50s. That statement itself sounds almost surreal to me. I’m aging but can’t allow myself to deteriorate. This challenge will be a quest to regain strength and vitality while burning body fat. It will be difficult as I have competing priorities that consume my time and energy. That matters not. I must find a way.

I’ve been in leadership since I was a child. I’ve been the captain or co-captain of sports teams. I was an Army Officer responsible for leading my men. I am currently the Lead Physical Therapist at my Hospital and the Senior Pastor of my church. Most importantly, I am a husband, father, and grandfather. All of these roles have and do require me to be an example.

In some areas, I excel. In health and fitness, I have been failing recently. That needs to change and that’s why I’m here. I am setting some lofty goals and I will pursue them with every fiber of my being. Failure is not an option. I am to be an example.”

84 days later, stats and pictures revealing fat loss as well as muscle gain made it clear as day that Ellis had fulfilled on his pledge. The pictures say it all, but here are his before and after stats:

Starting Weight:186.4 lbs
Finishing Weight: 171.2 lbs
Difference: Lost 15.2 lbs

Starting LBM: 145.86 lbs
Finishing LBM: 153.69 lbs
Difference: Gained 7.83 lbs

Starting Abdominal Circumference: 34.0 inches
Finishing Abdominal Circumference: 29.6 inches
Difference: Lost 4.3 inches

Below, in his own words from his Burn The Fat Challenge winning essay, Ellis shares with us his training tips, diet advice and especially mind and motivation strategies, that allowed him to transform his physique right back to peak form in such a short time.

We hope this inspires you to pursue and achieve your goals and even join us for the next challenge (click here for details on upcoming challenges that you can enter).

– Tom Venuto, Inner Circle Founder


The title of this essay is the same as my progress journal. My overall goal was and is to be an example for those who look up to me for guidance and any others who may be examining my life.

My marching orders come from the Bible which says in 1 Timothy 4:12b, “Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity”.

The benefits of exercising discipline over our bodies through nutrition and exercise spills over to every area of our lives. I am thrilled to have achieved what I have so far, but my journey continues. I have learned through many trials and failures never to give up and keep pressing on.


I have started 14 transformation challenges and have completed 13. The last challenge I entered was the New Year’s challenge. I dropped out of that one due to injury and lack of progress. That was the first transformation contest that I quit and the shame and failure of quitting has not left me.

When I started this challenge, I had zero doubt that I would finish no matter what. In addition, I was invited to join a team of great people and there was no way I was going to fail my team by quitting. Failure does motivate me. I hate to fail, but I do. We all fail occasionally. The good news is that I usually come back from a failure with incredible resolve.


At the onset of this contest, my team leader Dave made a comment to me. He said, “Ellis, you can win this thing.”

That stuck in my head and I decided he was right, not only could I win, I would win. The decision was made, I would do everything possible to EARN the win, no excuses.


When offered food outside of my nutrition plan I used my super power, the ability to say no. I used it at parties, family dinners, and at work many times. Every time I said no, I was choosing between the lean body I was pursuing and the delicious food I was tempted with.

After week 4, I decided that everything I said no to would become a trophy for me. I created a photo album and when tempted by something delicious I would take a picture of it and put it in that photo album, my trophy case. I have many trophies in my trophy case now. As I look back at those photos, I have absolutely no regrets. I can have all of those things if I choose when I plan for them. I am in control, not the food!


This was my training mantra. When those sets and reps got really hard and my body wanted to quit, I would tell myself, “EARN IT,”, and I did. I know that nothing in life is free (apart from salvation in Jesus, see Ephesians 2:8-9).

I didn’t expect my gains to be easy or free, and they weren’t. I was, and continue to be willing to pay the price for what I desire.


There are always obstacles to work around, that’s why it’s called a challenge. Sickness, injuries, busyness, life in general create obstacles to overcome. For me, I believe it was week 3 when I injured my right knee doing deadlifts. I couldn’t straighten my knee for quite some time and still haven’t fully recovered, but I kept going and trained around it.

My next injury was in week 6. I noticed that my bench press was getting more and more difficult and the poundage was going down instead of up. This was due to my medial epicondyles (inner elbows) really hurting.

I knew (I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy) that continuing would really injure me and stall my progress. I would either have to give up the bench press or find a way to do it without tendon pain. The solution came to me. Blood Flow Restriction training also known as Occlusion Training.

I won’t take the time to explain it here, but the bottom line is that you can achieve hypertrophy using 20-30% of your 1 rep max. A weight so light does not hurt my tendons. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard. It is. You feel a burn and your muscles feel like they’re going to explode. I did this for my bench press and triceps pushdowns for 3 weeks to allow my tendons to heal. It worked great.

My final obstacle was a kidney stone and respiratory infection in week 10. I completely lost my momentum in that week, but kept going.


I did not compromise my plan. I stuck to it at all costs. There was only one day in this entire challenge that I ate something I didn’t plan or count and that happened with only 8 days to go in this challenge. I was trying to make up for week 10 by adding hours of walking to my day and that ended up being a mistake. It took away from my resistance training and just made me tired and hungry. Lesson learned.

We never know if we have the right plan if we don’t execute it. I stuck to the 5 elements of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle because they work. That’s what got me here and what will get me to the goal that I have yet to achieve.


I am so thankful for Tom Venuto and what he has created with the Inner Circle and these challenges. There is so much garbage and misinformation in the multi-billion dollar industry of health and fitness, yet Tom has remained true to his values of providing real, no-hype science and experience to guide us on our journeys. I have been an Inner Circle member since 2011 and will continue because of Tom, his staff, and this great community of people.

– Ellis

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