Body For Life Training – 12 Week Challenge Done

As many of you know, I started the Body for Life Training program about 12 weeks ago. Last Saturday was the last day of the challenge and I’ve had some time to get my thoughts together about my experience.

Overall, I think the program was a great way for me to start a consistent strength training routine. When I first started my journey to getting healthy, I was the queen of cardio. I either ran, walked or did the elliptical for 30-45 minutes each time I worked out. The cardio definitely helped me lose the weight! Fast forward 7-8 years, I have stayed at a pretty consistent weight through regular workouts and eating healthy, but I was still longing to be stronger- for instance being able to do a pull-up is one of my fitness goals. Oh, and ripped abs have always been on the wish list as well. 🙂

I knew I needed to amp up my strength training so I figured doing a regimented challenge would be beneficial. Janetha and Mama Pea’s BFL progress picts pretty much sold me on the Body For Life program so I bought the book, found a partner in crime and got started. This was back in May.

Body for Life book.

I followed the training plan almost exactly. Even when I was traveling for work I made sure to get in my workouts. I think I may have missed 2-3 workouts but I typically always made them up.

When I posted my 6 week update, I mentioned that I was feeling stronger, but that I had gained weight. This was fine because my primary goal wasn’t to lose weight and I figured it was just water retention or muscle building (although it was a little too soon to see that kind of muscle building). I thought that as the program moved on I would notice a difference in the way my clothes fit.

I definitely feel stronger – my arm and back muscles have definitely grown. I’ve also noticed a difference in the way my clothes fit, but not in a good way. All my pants seem so tight in the thighs and belly. <– Definitely didn’t get the abs I was hoping for, hence the reason I don’t have a picture of that to share.

Needless to say, this isn’t what I expected to happen when deciding to do Body for Life, BUT I think I know why I didn’t see the results I wanted.

  1. When starting the program I decided to amp up my protein intake by stick with my normal eating. I ate healthy for the most part but probably ended up eating more carbs and a tad bigger portions than what the plan recommends. This was probably my biggest mistake. What you eat is 80% of how your body looks and this challenge definitely solidifies that for me.
  2. Lack of cardio. The program calls for 20 minutes of HIIT, 3 times a week. I stuck to this as best I could but I think I personally need a bit more. Currently my life is pretty sedentary because I work at a desk 40 hours a week and then sit in front of the computer a lot at home so I think added cardio, even if it’s walking is good for me.
  3. Perhaps I didn’t go up in weight enough? By the end of the program I hadn’t really progressed to much heavier weights from when I started so maybe I didn’t push myself hard enough in that respect.

Here’s a break down of my thoughts on the Body for Life Training program based on my experience…


  • The 12 weeks went by really quickly
  • The program is easy to follow, with basic exercises and detailed descriptions
  • It doesn’t take a ton of time each day – 45 minutes to an hour of strength 3x a week, 20 minutes of cardio 3x week
  • I loved incorporating more HIIT in my routine – I do the stair master HIIT workout all the time now!
  • It helped me stick with a strength training program for 12 full weeks
  • I gained strength
  • I can see the results – especially in my arms
  • Several people (all guys) have said to me, “You look stronger!”


  • The program can be repetitive – each week you work your lower body and upper body on the strength training days and you always work the same muscle groups
  • I would like to see some compound moves that involve more than one muscle group added to the rotation of exercises
  • Limited focus on cardio and ab exercises
  • My weight jumped up 3 lbs the 2nd or 3rd week of the program and has budged.
  • My pants are tight and I don’t feel comfortable in my body. I feel consistently bloated. <– I’m not sure if that’s the added protein or something else?

So there you have it, I don’t have ribbed abs to show off but here’s what I do have:

My results at 6 weeks:

Girl flexing arms.

Girl flexing both arms.

My results at 12 weeks:

Girl flexing both arms.

Girl flexing both arms.

I haven’t decided what I want to do next. I know I will continue to keep strength training as a big part of my workout routine, but I might incorporate more full-body workouts rather than separating lower body and upper body into different days. I hope to incorporate more yoga, because as the program progress my yoga practice suffered. I’ll also probably add in more running now that the leg tingling issue I had been experiencing has pretty much cleared up.

As far as eating goes, I’m going to combine ideas from the Tone It Up eating plan and Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet. I think this will help me get back to my “happy weight” and feel less bloated.

In other news, I’m currently in Philadelphia for the Healthy Living Summit, which I’ll be speaking at tomorrow!! I’m so excited.

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  1. I did the body for Life challenge about 10 years ago. I made a complete, 100% effort. There was no use in me doing it and doing it half-assed. like I said, I followed the book and the workout plans and the diet 100%. I had ridiculous results! I started in the program in the winter and by spring my family and friends would say, “what the heck!”

    In my experience, the diet is more important than the workouts. Creating the log was extremely helpful in the beginning. And after the second week I didn’t want the cheat day. Occasionally I would do a cheat meal. I did the workouts very closely to his plan – if not exactly. I was running and training for a marathon before this plan and I felt that 20 minutes of cardio was not enough – not near enough! But Bill Phillips is a professional and a published author and I was just a goofball who needed to lose some weight – so I did exactly what he told me to do, and the pictures in the book are pretty amazing and I wanted those results. So I followed the 20 minute cardio plan as well but as Bill Phillips says, they were high intense cardio sessions. And like I said, I followed this program almost 100% – as close as I possibly could and I had ridiculous results! I had my body fat tested and I was told I was in the dangerous range – unreadable. I did take before and after photos and that before photo was a great my experience, the diet is more important than the workouts. The eating log was extremely helpful in the beginning. And after the second week I didn’t want the cheat day. Occasionally I would do a cheat meal. I did the workouts very closely to his plan – if not exactly. I unfortunately cannot find my before and after photos. I ended up doing three body for Life 12 week challenges. After my third one I couldn’t lose anymore body fat or get more definition, and I started to crave bulk results. And my downfall was meeting my wife and going out with her for dinners, she hated my eating schedule/habits.

    Now I’m 47, and I’m safely well above the “dangerous body fat zone.” I’m looking to reread the book and make a commitment. A serious, all-in, 100% commitment again. I know if I do exactly what this book says – I’ll get the results I want. Sorry wife.

  2. Your legs, waist and hips got bigger because of the stairmaster. Stick with stationary bike or treadmill for cardio. The stairmaster and elipical will make things you want smaller, bigger

  3. I did it almost 20 years ago. Stuck to the regiment. Maybe missed a few meals or workouts. Got amazing results. If you don’t follow the diet,you won’t get the results. you may have done the same body parts but there are plenty of exercises for each body part.
    The idea that only takes three and a half hours in the gym over the course of 6 days is ridiculous for the results I got with that limited time in the gym.

  4. Thanks for the review. I have read a lot of reviews on the internet and am surprised by the varied results. In the early 2000’s I took the 12 week challenge and followed it EXACTLY. I was a 195 LB man, in reasonable shape. I lost 36 lbs. of fat, gained 12 lbs of muscle and looked absolutely ripped! I have used the principles of the program since then, jumping on to a 12 week run if I needed to dial back in. Despite what the book said, I WAS HUNGRY ALL THE TIME! Interestingly my metabolism is still fairly high at age 56 and weight gain is not much of a problem. I am in week 4 of another 12 weeks and dropped 4 lbs so far. This time I am not looking for the results I had 15 years ago, just want to slim down a bit. Good luck!

  5. I did body for life 15 years ago. At the end of 12 weeks I was absolutely ripped and my energy levels were through the roof.

    • You’re probably eating too big of meals and not working to full intensity. When you do your last rep, of a particular exercise, your intensity level should be at 10. That means, you should barely be able to lift the weight on your very last movement. If you’re not feeling completely exhausted, you’re doing it wrong and you’re wasting your time.

  6. Bloating and water retention with BFL is usually a whey sensitivity. If you switch to a plant based protein powder (make sure it has various sources to get all your amino acids!) you’ll slim down much faster.

    I always felt kinda sick after drinking a whey shake, and bloated. As soon as I stopped whey, it stopped! I’ve read many people are sensitive to whey and have this type reaction.


  7. I also did the body for life but i followed it to a t and got amazing results, the idea of BFL is to hit it hard and not spend your whole free time in the gym but have a life as well. I am doing it again I have tried other things as well i used to be a body builder in the 80ies and we spent 2 hrs every day for 6 days a week in the gym. BFL gets it done and you see amazing results its a proven system if you follow it.

  8. Thanks for the great post, Brittany. I did BFL years ago and really enjoyed the results. I’ve started up the training program again and looking forward to some progress again. I saw you mentioned a problem with leg tingling clearing up. Did you ever find out what that was or what sorted it out? I wasn’t able to find a previous post about it. I’ve had leg tingling for no apparent reason for the past year and sometimes have a lot of pain with it. If you have any info or a post on it, I’d really like to know about it. Thanks for your great work 🙂

  9. I Did (3) BFL Challenges and lost 74kgs / 162lbs. I went from being fat to a fabulous body. My arms and back are my favorite. I went from wearing a size 44 / 24 to a size 8. I wear a small….SMALL… I feel so good! I have become a Personal Trainer and now teach the BFL Program to countless others. The mindset played a big part in my success. Journaling my food allowed me to see what work for my body on the program. I started to love the taste of water again. I became a role model and some what of a celebrity in my town because of my weight loss. Strangers greet me by name. Also, the Universal Law of Reciprocation has forever changed me. I have become more caring and more giving. I seem to get it back 10 fold. I’m sorry your challenge was not as successful as you would have liked. I fear you missed a few steps. The BFL DVD is very motivating, Eating for life has great recipes to help make a variety of meals that taste great including snacks. As far as my fitness, I am stronger, faster, and feel confident to hold my own in any arena I choose. I have trained along side of some of the fitness worlds biggest names. To see more go to my facebook page Patricia Akpan or email me at I can help you get restarted if you like. Good Luck with your future fitness goals…

  10. In all honesty, you did not work hard enough. You should have worked harder with your weights and upped your weights as you went along. You were in pretty good shape before you started, so you should have seen results faster. Lift heavier. And dont bother with extra cardio. If you do 3 intense hiit per week, it should be more than enough. This is an old post. I hope you progessed to heavier weights and less cardio since this was posted 2 years ago! 🙂

  11. I started BFL three weeks ago and it is going well. I will say that I have heard from several people that have also done BFL that the diet portion is VERY important (especially your carb intake). I am sticking to the approved food list (except on the free day…thank goodness for the free day!). Thanks for your post…I can see a difference in your muscle tone.

  12. The most important aspect of this plan is the diet. If you aren’t following the meals and sticking to your own diet there isn’t much to expect in the lean department. The diet if more important than the workout.

      • I did Body for life at 40 followed it strictly and yes it is healthy eating for life long and I looked awesome. I d post my before and after here if could. I and my husband continued for couple years relaxing food a bit once muscle built which burns fat. Only reasons we lapsed was we moved and our home weights which I did it all from home went in storage for over a year. Now I some18 years later and I am going to return to it. Hopefully for life. If it work all I can say is you didnt really throw yourself into it. I personally know six people who followed this healthy eating lifting exercise and all reaped huge benefits. My neice vehetairian win third place in her competition.

  13. Keep going! My husband and I just started a new challenge. Before my daughter was born, I went through the challenge (for the first time) and had several of your concerns. I talked to several people who had been through the program and made it part of thier lifestyle. The tips they gave me made a huge difference during the rest of my journey. First, water, water, water. Every time I as, I drank. When I worked out, I drank. It was huge. It kept things moving…like it should. No bloating. Secondly, they recommended that the days I did cardio, to add abs as well. One of my main goals was to have “abs” and boy did I. The muffin top and the six pack were there’s and amazing. Maybe adding more abs after you do cardio will add to that results you ae wanting? Also, mixing up e stretches and workout for abs. We ladies carry things differently and it makes a different on your body type and pre/post children makes a difference.

    To get the full impact and best results, keep it up. I also added light cardio on my lifting days, after I lifted. Nothing intense but working up a sweat and getting your heart rate up.

    Keep going. I think you have seen good results and can get even Bette. I had my doctor run labs before the first round of BFL and afterwards my you’d, cholesterol and anemia had all changed. Huge results and total body! For someone that isn’t looking for large weight loss and not needing it either, toning Will take a little different approach.

  14. I did BFL a few years ago and did much more cardio actually. I think I was just impatient and wanted faster results. I was really happy with the results.

    Btw your 12-week photos look great!

  15. I did the Body for Life program as so… and got pretty much the same result as you. It was really disappointing when almost half way through the program, I had a man ask me when I was do. All in all, I feel sticking to a health diet and getting enough exercise, maybe adding a few power yoga calls to my yoga classes per week makes me feel better than louding up on protein. I love your blog and thanks for sharing!

  16. Have you thought of trying Physique 57 or Bar Method? It seems like that barre workouts would give you the muscle definition and abs you are looking for.

  17. One of my recent goals was to get more ab definition, but after researching, it seems like ripped abs might be an unrealistic and possibly unhealthy goal for most women. To show the muscle, your body fat has to be in the low to mid teens. A healthy body fat percentage for women is in the 20s or even low 30s. So, I’m exchanging that goal for more achievable ones – healthy eating, exercising longer, etc.

  18. Thanks for sharing your experience with the program! I love strength training and building muscle, but I feel like it’s harder to tell when/if I’m gaining weight from becoming more muscular or gaining weight from a calorie surplus.

  19. It’s interesting how our bodies react to dietary and exercise routine changes… I just ran a half-marathon and am training for a full. I thought that I’d drop a clothes size from all of the running, but my results have been opposite. My top half is the same and I am in the best shape I have ever been in for sure, but my thighs and calves have grown. My skinny jeans look really awkward now.

  20. Thanks for the update! It’ll be interesting to see what caused your stomach bloat. I seem to get that and it’s no fun :(. I’ve heard of tone it up… What’s their diet plan like? If you already wrote a post about it wanna send me the link to check out?

    Have fun at the HLS!

  21. What a great review 🙂 you definitely look stronger. Actually, I’ve been doing some weight lifting myself and used “The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises” to help build my routine. I lift weights three days out of the week, and each time is a full-body workout but it varies. For instance, workout A days I work on my quads one at a time and on workout B days I work them out simultaneously. There are little things like that 🙂 It also has more workouts in the back like “bikini body” or the “last 10 pounds”. There’s even a section for running workouts that get you to improve your time and such.

    Have fun at the Healthy Living Summit this weekend!


  22. I once took the BFL book out of the library as I was curious about the program, but stopped reading it even before I got to the strength training section. What can I say, it just didn’t resonate with me. That being said, I am curious about maybe just trying their approach to strength training, as currently I feel like I’m sort of lost on what to do in that area.

  23. thanks for the personal review after actually experiencing the challenge yourself! I think it’s so much greater than someone saying what they think about the program without trying it themselves.

    Your shoulder muscles sure do look amaazingg though!

  24. Thanks for sharing your experience with BFL. I think it sounds really interesting and I am kind of on the fence about trying it as well! I am gettin ready to run a 10k on Labor Day and I have been trying to figure out what I want to do with my fitness next. I love cardio so I don’t know if 20 minutes of HIIT would be enough for me much like you said!

  25. Thanks for sharing about BFL – I’ve heard a lot about it but I wasn’t sure whether to get the book or not. Still on the fence! I wonder is it worth doing if you already do a lot of strength-training?

    Enjoy HLS and good luck tomorrow!

  26. Good feedback on the BLF program… I’ve never tried anything like it, but have been curious so it’s nice to hear from people who have gone through the experience.

    Also I think I have that exact lulu tank! Love it.

  27. Thanks for providing an update! I am still following the BFL but frankly haven’t written much about it lately. I’ve noticed the biggest change in my arms.

    I think with the abs it really comes down to removing the fat over the abs, meaning a LOT of cardio. I feel like my abs are stronger as a result of BFL but have little to show for it iether.

    I think you are right in the bloating might be the protein. I also agree my quads seem HUGE. What is that all about?!

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