Melanie Daly biceps

Bodybuilder says “no” to unhealthy habits and steroids

Wearing a hot pink, rhinestone-studded bikini and five-inch heels, forty-two-year-old Melanie Daly flexed and posed her way across the stage at the 2011 International Natural Bodybuilding Association Natural Olympia competition in Reno, Nevada. As she displayed each curve and bulge of the muscles on her super-lean and tanned figure, Melanie reached the pinnacle of her career to win the top award—2011 Ms. Figure Olympia—in the presence of her loving husband and hundreds of fans. For Melanie, it was a surprising achievement, given how she got started in the sport.

“I was super shy as a child,” Melanie reminisces. “By the time I got to high school, I was tired of being a wallflower. Inspired to do something different, I took a weight training class my junior year.”

Melanie thrived in the gym. But as many of her classmates got in shape through power-lifting, Melanie didn’t bulk up. “I was dealing with anorexia,” she confesses. “I felt I wasn’t skinny enough to be attractive. Working out was a way for me to feel a sense of control about my weight.”

Melanie Daly

Her struggle for a sense of control continued as she attended Goucher College in Baltimore, where she double-majored in education and special education. Melanie continued to lift weights but took exercise to the extreme. She took up running, swimming, rowing, and dance classes, and she taught aerobics on the side. “There wasn’t a day that went by without at least one workout,” Melanie recalls.

As Melanie took psychology classes, however, she found herself examining her intense need for control. She realized that she had been going “overboard in an effort to maintain control of my life, body, and image.” “The desire to stay in control never completely went away,” she says, “but I made big decisions in college to be okay with my body.”

That meant she had to start eating more if she wanted to keep exercising so intensely. She realized that “food was necessary as a source of fuel for my activities. That’s part of what led me out of starvation thinking and into paying attention to how I could use food as fuel, rather than demonizing all food.”

After college, Melanie worked in the education field for years. But in the early 1990s, she became a personal trainer and certified nutritionist and began to explore Figure competitions, a category of bodybuilding. “Figure is about defined but very feminine muscles,” Melanie explains. “The emphasis is on symmetry and proportion, like an hourglass shape.”

Melanie first stepped onto the Figure stage after a coworker asked her to join their competition team. At the age of forty, she stood out among competitors half her age. Now, as a professional bodybuilder, she’s won numerous gold medal titles. Melanie works out four to five days a week, adjusting her training according to her desired goal for each body part.

Her passion for the sport is heavily rooted in a desire to compete drug-free. She notes that several bodybuilding organizations have no drug testing regulations, while others, claiming to be drug-free, simply use polygraph tests to determine eligibility. Melanie avoids competitions that encourage such dangerously lenient policies.

Melanie Daly working out with a machine

“The ramifications for those who choose to use steroids and growth hormones include early death,” Melanie says emphatically. “And frankly, their shape is not attractive. A drug-free competitor’s muscles are smooth and connected, whereas other competitors’ muscles look blocky and unnatural.”

Melanie’s stance on women’s Figure bodybuilding is clear: “I’m honored to represent drug-free bodybuilding, and I step out into the world every day more confident, fit, and fabulous because of this dedication.”

Visit Melanie’s website and blog at for daily encouragement.

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