Bodybuilding bulking. Shannen Delilah /

By Liana Jacob

MEET the muscular Barbie who used to feel insecure about her ‘fat arms’ that she overturned her diet and exercise routine to build up her formerly rounder body into a bodybuilding success in just SIX months.

Social worker, Shannen Delilah (25), from Alkmaar, the Netherlands, was born into an active background; she swam, played football and danced regularly.

While she was only 11st, she disliked her features, such as her arms and shoulders that she thought were too big. Her insecurity prevented her from wearing girly clothes like tops that revealed her arms. Some discomforts included her legs touching each other during the summer causing them to chafe.

Before and after. Shannen Delilah /

It wasn’t until June 2015 that Shannen made the decision to hire a coach who helped her bulk up for her first bodybuilding competition and by December of that year she sculpted her body to nearly 12st, which resulted in her coming second place in the contest. Since then she fell in love with the sport.

In 2016 she competed in two shows where she came first and second respectively, but since then she has had a break from competitions until 2018, when she will be starting up again.

The bodybuilding Barbie. Shannen Delilah /

“I didn’t like my shoulders and arms; they were always big and fat in my opinion. Whenever my female classmates wore nice tops, I couldn’t wear them because I was too ‘big’ for them,” Shannen said.

“I felt like the hulk wearing those sweet little one-armed tops and my legs were always touching each other, which hurt when it was summer. At one point, my belly was always moving when I ran; I hated that feeling, so I thought I needed to change.

“I was changing to a healthier lifestyle and doing CrossFit for a couple of months in 2015. I took a home study in weight consultancy, and after two months I guess, I was thinking, ‘I could never help people with actual goals in bodybuilding, if I never tried dieting at that level and doing an actual show.’

Shannen used to hate her big arms, but now she goes from strength to strength. Shannen Delilah /

“So, I went for it. I took a coach in June 2015, and scheduled my first competition in December 2015. I came second place in my first competition, and fell in love with the sport immediately.

“Ever since I went for it, I have trained five to six times a week and I’ve been sticking to a strict eating plan. After my first competition I have trained a whole year, before I did my second show.

“It payed off, and I came first in the Ironman-Ironmaiden 2016 show. Then after one week, I did another show (Juliette Bergmann Grand Prix 2016) at A level in Holland (the highest level you can compete in, in Holland) and I came second again.

Shannen has had bodybuilding success in just six months. Shannen Delilah /

“After that, I decided to take a step back from competing, because of personal reasons and focusing on my mental health. It has been a year since I stepped a foot on stage, but I still manage to a strict diet and workout plan.

“I’ve learnt a lot about life and about myself; through painful decisions, hard work, a strong mind and I’ve learned that things can get better and will be better, when time is ready.

“I have learned that pain is really just weakness leaving your body. It has made me so much stronger; in strength, but mostly in my mind.
“From an insecure little girl, to a hard-working young woman who isn’t afraid to step her game up and kick some ass.

Bodybuilding bulking. Shannen Delilah /


“I started to consider which food I had to eat, but also when to eat certain foods. I started to learn more about fast and slow carbohydrates and good sources of fats and proteins.

“When I met my coach, I learned how to train properly. I did CrossFit for a couple of months, so I knew the basics of squats, deadlifts, push ups etc. but when I transferred to doing only fitness, I had to learn how to do proper training.

“We did split-workouts; when you take muscle group like chest, shoulders, triceps and we changed my diet to only clean foods like chicken, basmati rice and green beans, oats.”

Shannen and her boyfriend. Shannen Delilah /


Her full dedication to her new routine caused Shannen to neglect her social life which made it difficult for her. With her friends and loved ones worrying and asking her why she made this commitment to fitness, she found the process lonely.

“In the beginning, social events made it difficult, particularly when I had to cancel because I was tired, or had to train the next day, or couldn’t stay for dinner because I had my strict diet, and explaining to others why I wanted to do this.

“I felt like I was doing it alone. It is not a team sport. It is just you, facing yourself, every day and at that point nobody I knew was doing it or going through this strict diet like I was.

Shannen used to hate her big arms, but now she goes from strength to strength. Shannen Delilah /


“My family wants me to think about my health, but that is always my first thought. Health first, in mind and body.

“You’ve got to start somewhere, just do it. Just go for it. You are beating everyone on the couch by taking your first steps. Visualise yourself doing it, loving it, dreaming it, working for it and achieving it.

“My family and closest friends have always been very supportive, including my boyfriend who has helped me with my second and third show and when I bring my food it is not strange because they know me, and they think I am very dedicated and admire me for that.”

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