Actress Sarah Jayne Dunn has achieved a stunning 12-week body transformation to get in amazing shape for her wedding.
The Hollyoaks star was motivated to take on an online transformation program at Ultimate Performance to look and feel her best on her wedding day.
In 12 weeks, the busy mum and actress sculpted a fantastic new figure ready to walk down the aisle, and regained the pre-pregnancy body she thought she had lost.
Thirty-six-year-old Sarah says she feels leaner, stronger and more confident than ever with a body shape she hasn’t had since her early twenties.
Sarah’s wedding transformation saw her drop two dress sizes, lose 7 kg, and almost halve her body fat down to a lean and athletic 14%.
Her bespoke online weight training and nutrition plan helped her shed fat from her waist, stomach, hips and thighs, and give her the muscle definition she wanted to look perfect in her wedding dress, with as little as three training sessions a week.
She hasn’t had to spend hours in the gym every day or follow a drastic and restrictive diet – she has loved the build-up to her wedding, even enjoying two hen parties and still achieved her ideal body.
Now after her 12-week transformation and dream wedding, Sarah explains how she achieved her impressive results.
Sarah talks about the following:
What motivated you to start your online transformation with Ultimate Performance?
My main motivation was my wedding. I tried to tie in the 12 weeks leading up to the wedding so I would have a goal and something to aim towards.
I’ve also got an 18-month old little boy and after having a baby I just wanted to get back in shape and just feel like me again, and do it properly, sensibly, and just work really hard and give it my best.
What did you want to achieve for your wedding day?
I think when you’re getting married, you want to look your best and you want to feel your best on your big day.
So, for me, working towards that and getting in shape for my wedding day was really important.
I wanted fat loss, I wanted definition and I just wanted to feel my best; I wanted to feel energised and have healthy skin and all the things that go alongside being fit and healthy, and eating well and training well.
Was the wedding dress a stress before you started your transformation?
I think the stress of the dress fitting for the wedding day and also feeling in my best shape were things that were really important when I first started all of this.
I had my first dress fitting before I’d even started my 12-week transformation, so it was really exciting to have my next dress fitting, which was about six weeks in, and being able to see a difference and know that I needed my dress altering in the right direction.
So many brides go on crash diets or take drastic measures to get in shape for their wedding. How different has your transformation been from this?
What I didn’t want to do in the lead up to my wedding day was run myself into the ground, not eat properly, or make myself stressed out and not reach the goals that I wanted.
What I found on the 12-week transformation, is that it’s been the complete opposite.
I’ve been sleeping better, I’ve got loads of energy, I’ve been eating really well and I’ve got into the best shape I’ve ever been in in my life. It’s made it effortless.
All the stress that a lot of brides will go through to get themselves in shape or to fit into their wedding dress, I’ve not had any of that, which is amazing.
This has totally taken away the stress of thinking whether I’m eating the right foods or losing weight in the right way.
I’ve not had to think about anything because U.P. have been there by my side.
There are so many stresses leading up to your wedding day – and I’m still going through the other stresses – but fitness and diet haven’t been one of them.
It’s made a massive difference to that and it’s lifted a big weight off my shoulders.
Tell about the training you’ve done in the past Sarah…
I’ve done loads of training in the past. I’ve worked with loads of personal trainers, I’ve trained as a personal trainer myself, I’ve done every single class under the sun. I think what differs here is that it’s really simple.
You can concentrate on a core group of exercises that you stick to, you get your technique right and you get better at, and you increase your weights.
That’s all you need, and it works. I think I’ve tried to make it too complicated in the past and you really don’t need to. Simplicity is key.
What’s it been like doing your wedding transformation training online?
The training online has been great. It’s been really easy to follow.
You get a tracker the minute you sign up where you fill in what you’ve eaten and what training you’ve done and what weights you have used.
Your trainer is constantly looking at that and guiding you and picking up on things if you do something wrong or if you eat something you shouldn’t.
It’s been super easy. You’ve got that support there all the time. You never feel like you’re on your own. You constantly have someone there to reassure you and keep you training hard.
What are the benefits of doing online training?
The reason I wanted to do the online training was because I knew there was no way I would get into a training session three or four times a week.
What’s been perfect about training online is that I’ve been able to take full control over my program.
I’ve done some sessions at stupid-o’clock in the morning, I’ve done some sessions late at night after work, but that’s worked for me.
Did the one-to-one sessions with your trainer help too?
The one-to-one sessions were great and really helped along the way.
It was a chance to get checked that my technique was correct, that I was pushing myself hard enough, and that I was still using the right weights and I didn’t need to step up. It just pushes you to achieve the best results possible.
Also, getting into the U.P. Manchester gym, having your body fat measured, and seeing where you’re at with that is another little motivating tool.
How much support did you get from your trainer through the process?
The support that I got from my trainer was just invaluable. It’s just really nice knowing you’ve got someone there who has got your back.
If you’ve got a ‘stupid’ question, you can just send them a message, you’ll get a good response and you’ll know where you’re at.
It’s also just about having that reassurance that someone is tracking what you’re doing, so you don’t fall because you know that if you do, someone is there to pick you up. It just keeps you on track.
Is it surprising how little training you’ve had to do to get the results you have over 12 weeks?
I thought I would have to do much more training than I’ve had to do.
When you start something like this, you think you’ll end up doing like six sessions and it will be really full-on and you’re not going to have time for anything else.
But literally, I’ve hardly spent any time in the gym getting to where I’ve got to.
On a good week, I can get all of my training done in three sessions. That’s so achievable.
What makes the transformation process at U.P. so effective?
I think what makes the transformation process so effective is just consistency. It’s just sticking to your training and nutrition program, and that’s it.
There is no secret to it. It’s just about being consistent and disciplined, and putting your full trust in your trainer.
You start seeing results after one or two weeks and you know that you’re heading in the right direction.
How pleasing was it to lose weight from around your waist and hips?
It’s just been the best to lose fat from where I wanted to. It’s probably the thing that’s made me the happiest with my transformation, that I’ve not just dropped body fat and become a bit more defined.
I’ve dropped fat from where I really wanted to. As a woman who’s just had a baby, I love the way my tummy, hips, bum, and thighs look.
Actually, now when I look at my before and after pictures, I’ve not just lost fat, my body shape has changed which is really interesting to see in such a short space of time that you can almost be looking at two different people.
I’m so pleased with the results.
Where were you at with your diet and lifestyle like when you first started your transformation?
When I first started my transformation, I was going to the gym and I was eating quite healthily – I’ve never been bad with those kinds of things. But I wasn’t really consistent and I think that’s the key with this.
Getting into a rhythm and a routine, and finding consistency, with diet and training together have been crucial.
Did it help at the start of your transformation take the stress away from your diet?
By having the food preparation sorted for the first week, it did take away that element of stress away in that department. All I had to think about that first week was getting in the gym and getting my training going. My food was done.
Once I got into that, I was able to start meal prepping myself. It also gives you ideas about what you can do and what you can be eating.
It just shows you that there is variety and that you can have exciting, interesting, tasty meals, and that you don’t just need to stick to boring foods.
What did your diet look like during the past 12 weeks?
I’ve not really had to cut very much out during the 12 weeks.
The diet side of things has been much easier than I thought it was going to be. It’s just been about organisation and preparation, which I’ve found really easy and far less complicated than I ever thought it was going to be.
It’s really obvious the things that you end up eating. It’s not rocket science at all.
It’s more about portion control and getting into that routine of measuring out rice or sweet potato.
Then once you get into the rhythm of that, it becomes really easy and you can visualise and see what your portions should be.
There’s a huge list of foods that you can have. You’re in no way restricted and there’s loads of variety.
I’ve still managed to have the odd night out too. I’ve had two hen dos during the 12 weeks and still managed to lose fat throughout those weeks.
I’ve had a couple of nights out and a friend’s birthday, so I’ve managed to still live my life.
I just have to ensure that between those occasions I’m really bang-on it with my program, my training and my nutrition.
It’s not been difficult. I’ve really enjoyed my food.
Have the changes you made to your diet changed the way you feel?
Within a week, I noticed a difference in how I was feeling with my energy levels and fullness.
I used to have a real lull in an afternoon, whereas with my nutrition during the 12 weeks, I’ve had energy all day.
There’s never really time to feel hungry or have that lull. Just as you’re about to hit it, there’s another snack or meal.
I’m eating more than I’ve ever eaten. I’m eating so much veg. It’s really nice tasty food; it’s filling and your plate is colourful.
You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want to, but there’s loads of variety there – and no starvation! I’ve not had one boring meal.
Has it been an education about the foods that work for your body?
I do feel more in control of my diet. I have learned a lot both on nutrition and training.
You never stop learning, and the guys here at U.P. are so knowledgeable on these things, so I’m always picking up tips.
It’s taught me that I was probably making things a little bit too complicated for myself before.
But actually, by making it easier, I’m seeing the best results I’ve ever had.
I can see a way of now maintaining that because I’ve got that knowledge.
Was it important for you to start getting back into shape after having your first child?
When you have a baby, you don’t think you’re ever going to get back in shape when you first have them. It seems like a million years away.
I really wanted to listen to my body and let it heal and repair, and I took a lot of time to get my alignment back, strengthen my pelvic floor and all of those things that us ladies have to do.
I got to Stanley being 18 months when I started this and just felt ready to be ‘me’ again and get back in shape.
I think that’s really important with having a child for the day-to-day. He’s a heavy little thing – so squatting down with him, picking him up has gotten easier.
Even just lugging shopping bags around with them on your shoulder, and the child on your hip, those are things you don’t think of day to day that have got easier by me being physically fit and healthy.
I like that he can see that mummy is being healthy and training. I think it’s a really good example to set.
I think children pick up on everything that you do, so I want Stanley to see I’m eating healthily and that I’m enjoying healthy food – that it’s not a punishment, but that it’s day to day, and that’s what we have.
He will happily pick up broccoli and eat it. He sees me and daddy doing that, and it’s really important to see that instilled as normal and natural and healthy.
I want him to see mummy coming back from a run or going to the gym.
Do you feel a better parent for being in shape?
I think being in shape and being healthy definitely helps with parenting.
I have more energy, I sleep better, and training has just given me a much more positive outlook on my life.
That will always make you a better parent because you’re always going to pass that onto your child and have that energy and time for them.
Did you think it was going to be tough at first balancing being a parent with having a career and a busy life?
At the beginning of my 12 weeks, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to fit everything in. I just knew I wanted to and I had the wedding as the goal.
I’ve had to fit it around a work schedule that’s constantly changing, a child, a fiancé, and just life in general. I’ve really managed and it’s been so much easier than I anticipated.
I’ve just had to be a little bit organised. I think that’s been the key. I’ve just planned weeks in advance. It’s been totally doable.
Has it changed the way you live life or how you are as a family?
I think it’s changed the way we are as a family for the better. It’s given us more time, as silly as that sounds – you’d think we’d have less.
But actually, because we’ve been more structured with what we’re doing during the week. I’ve scheduled my gym sessions in my diary, so I know when I’m training, and because I’m meal prepping, we’re actually having more time together because once we do regroup as a family, our food is ready to go, so there’s not that time where someone’s having to spend another hour in the kitchen.
Or I’ve done my gym sessions early, so I don’t think ‘I need to go to the gym’ of an evening, because I prioritise getting that in on a morning. So it’s actually given us more time; I don’t know how that’s worked, but it has.
Has your transformation helped with your job or career?
It has made a difference in energy levels. I’ve noticed on screen that I’ve lost weight around my face and my skin looks healthier – it’s probably the things other people wouldn’t notice, but for me, I can see that.
I definitely feel more confident. I think that comes from feeling more energised and better about yourself in your clothes.
I’ve noticed my body change, and people notice your body change too – it’s a nice compliment. It gives you a little boost. It’s definitely helped throughout the 12 weeks to keep me focused and motivated.
How quickly did you start noticing results?
I noticed the first change within the first week. Mainly with my sleep. I was sleeping much deeper and longer. Then within the first couple of weeks I noticed my clothes feeling looser and I was feeling less bloated.
My weight shifted quite quickly from around my tummy. Obviously being post-natal, that’s where I wanted to lose weight.
What did it feel like to see that it was working so quickly?
To see all those changes within such a short space of time, really pushed me on to keep going.
I was sticking to the nutrition and training 100%. It confirms that it’s working. Then coming in and getting measurements done and seeing my fat drop, and just feeling like clothes were looser, gives you such a boost.
It’s the best feeling in the world.
What have been your overall results?
I started out as a size 10 clothes size. I wasn’t big. It was never my goal to drop a dress size or to lose weight, per se.
I think I’m now a size 6, which I’ve probably not been since I was in my early twenties.
That was quite nice.
I think my body fat started around 26% and I’ve dropped down to like 14%. It’s huge. I never thought that would happen in a million years, especially after just 12 weeks.
What does it feel like being stronger?
I love feeling stronger. That’s one of my favourite things about this and that’s where I wanted to get back to.
I’ve really enjoyed that feeling and that’s what I want to keep improving and keep going. I don’t want to lose that.
Does weight training make you bulky when training for a wedding? How effective is it for getting in shape?
Weight training has been the main thing I’ve done over the last 12 weeks and it’s been that that has been the most effective for fat loss and improving strength. You can see that I’m not a big, burly man.
I’ve weight trained and increased my weights and still maintained being feminine.
I think women worry about weight training and worry about lifting heavy weights, and actually it’s something you should do and something that your body will embrace.
Being strong is great. I think it’s sexy and an all-round good thing for woman to do. Weight training is the reason I’ve been able to get into this shape over the past 12 weeks.
What have your husband and friends said about your transformation?
Jon is super proud of my transformation. He is a personal trainer, so he knew what was going to happen. He was just like ‘yes, that’s all coming together. You’re doing really well.’
It’s nice having someone supportive there with you. He has been able to help with meal prep and stand by me doing this.
It’s important to have people around you who understand why you’re doing it and will support you.
Friends have just been like ‘oh my gosh! Go on! You look amazing. You’re doing so well!’ Everyone is already pestering me for tips.
What are you most proud of?
I think I’m most proud of being able to get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes and feel happy in them.
It’s nice going shopping and feeling confident. Prior to this, I probably would have looked at some outfits and thought ‘I don’t feel ready for that yet.’ Or ‘I don’t feel comfortable or confident yet.’
Whereas now, I just went and bought a bikini for my holiday and I feel great in it and I feel confident.
Regardless of what anyone else has noticed, or what the stats say, it’s what it’s done for me mentally and physically, they are the nice things!
They want the secret recipe – there isn’t one. It’s really simple.
What are the biggest things you’ve learned?
The biggest things I’ve learned are just being on top of my portion control with food. I love food and I eat quite a lot, and although I was eating the right things, I was probably just eating too much of it prior to this experience.
I was lazy with meal prep and I’ve learned I just need to be more disciplined and more consistent.
Beforehand, you think it’s a bit scary and you’re not going to be able to do this, fit this in, or work it around your life, but it really is achievable.
That’s what I will take away – just keep it nice and simple, it’s easy, and I know if I stick to the rules, I get results.
What would you say to people who think you can’t get these kinds of results in 12 weeks?
I would say to anyone who thinks you can’t achieve this in 12 weeks is, you can! I just have!
It’s not a trick. It’s just consistency and sticking to a really good plan, and that’s it. You can do it. This transformation has given me ‘me’ back.
It’s given me my life back. I’m not just a mummy anymore. I’m now Sarah again and that’s just priceless.
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- Your results are a function of time spent following the plan; your genetic response to the right exercise and diet program; how hard you train; how consistently you come to the gym; how disciplined you are with your diet; & your starting point.
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