On a shelf in the corner of Melanie Daly’s office sits a yellow, lumpy blob, that I later learned was a visual representation of one pound of fat that Daly uses to show her clients. “Skinny fat,” Daly explained, was body fat that sits on flat muscle and can only really be molded and shaped by growing the muscle underneath through weight training.
“That’s the beautiful thing,” Daly says. “Muscle is what creates the shape on your body.”
Standing at five-foot-two with fiery red hair, Melanie Daly is a certified personal trainer, nutritionist and women’s physique coach.
Still a competitor, Daly says she got into body building and competing over a decade ago when she saw the figure class come out for women.
“I love the human body — I love how they could make it look,” Daly says, “So, there was always this little tickle in the back of my brain, wondering if I could make my body look that way.”
A natural athlete herself, Daly says one of the biggest misconceptions about body building is the idea that people, women in particular, are going to get too bulky when they start lifting weights.
“That’s really not normal,” Daly says, “and that’s not how the body really responds.”
Daly says that this idea is only possible when people start taking additional hormones or performance enhancements to increase muscle mass, which does alter a body’s structure, bone structure and can change their voice.
“You can’t mess with the body system and not expect some of those changes to happen,” Daly says.
Daly’s mantra for every athlete and client she works with is “there is no change without challenge.”
In order for the body to respond, grow or change, you must demand more from your muscles each time you work them, Daly says
“It will rise to the challenge,” she adds.
Deemed her healthy addiction, Daly says building her body for competitions and seeing the changes from the hard work she’s put in boosts her self confidence and personal empowerment.
Backstage at bodybuilding competitions, Daly says contestants will most likely be in the “pump room” listening to motivational music to boost their confidence and get in the zone before they go onstage.
“You have to find your inner diva,” Daly says. “You know, whether you’re a guy or a girl, it takes a different kind of energy to get up on stage, you know, much less onstage in front of 300 people in a skimpy bikini.”
Finding confidence, or finding your inner diva, as Daly says, is a significant part of competing.
“It’s a matter of finding your mojo and just believing that it’s just one step at a time. One rep at a time, one day at a time,” Daly says, “but if you just keep plugging away, those little bits grow into this amazing adventure.”
Sitting on a glass counter in her North Austin salon and spa are former bodybuilder Debra Snell’s competition photos. Still an advocate for health and fitness, Snell says everyone has a different motivation for getting onstage and competing.
“A lot of it’s just to know that they set a goal and then accomplished it,” Snell says.
Echoing Daly’s words, the hardest part about competing in bodybuilding competitions for Snell was getting onstage in front of so many people.
“I loved the prep work though,” Snell says, “I know it is psychological — the benefits outweigh the sacrifice.”
Even though bodybuilding may not be for everyone, Snell says that she thinks it’s still important for people to make health and fitness a priority.
“I think everyone should do some form of exercise to stretch or push their muscles in some way,” Snell adds.
Even though he hasn’t competed (yet), airline pilot Scott Morris says one of his biggest passions, along with educating others, is weightlifting.
Working as a pilot, living a travel-based lifestyle and not working out as much, Morris started to notice differences within himself when he wasn’t practicing health and fitness in his day-to-day life.
“It was a lightbulb,” Morris says, “I started lifting and training. I started noticing, ‘Wow, like, I physically felt stronger,’ and it had all these positive benefits. It made me feel more energetic.”
As there are many physical aspects of weight training such as an increase in bone density and muscle mass, there are also mental and mood benefits too, Morris says.
“It’s very, very positive and powerful,” he adds.
Morris isn’t wrong. According to a recent study found in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, “Resistance exercise training significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adults regardless of health status.”
In addition to having an elevated mood, Morris says that working out boosts self confidence.
“The thing about weight training is there’s no quick fix,” Morris says, “If you want to have the benefits, you have to put in the work.”
Morris mentioned that one of his favorite quotes is, “It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” Morris says the quote by the ancient greek philosopher, Socrates, has always stayed with him.
Even though he hasn’t competed, Morris says he is interested in one day doing a bodybuilding competition because it would be a new, fun challenge.
Melanie Daly says that some of her clients that come in just wanting to lose weight end up becoming interested in competing after a few months of normal weight lifting and seeing how it has changed their body.
“The reality is, if you want to shape your body in any way — whether it’s to just look great on the beach in a bikini or to get up on stage — you have to do it through muscle training,” Daly says, “and muscle training is weight training.”