Sarah Jayne Dunn
Hollyoaks actress Sarah Jayne Dunn chats to new about maintaining her svelte figure and why she’s not a fan of the word ‘diet’
Sarah Jayne Dunn has always had an enviable figure, but after undergoing a serious body transformation prior to her May 2018 wedding to husband Jonathan Smith, she is in the best shape of her life. Just check out her buff physique in our exclusive shoot!
“My goal is just to maintain and enjoy life,” she says.
The 38-year-old went from a size 12 to a slender 6 six thanks to a combination of weight training and healthy eating.
And since tying the knot, the popular Hollyoaks actress tells new she’s never looked back, admitting she’s gone from someone who saw working out as a “chore” to someone who actually loves exercise.
“It’s the feeling after. You can’t beat it,” she says. “It’s that almost smug feeling when you train in the morning and it’s done and dusted for the day.”
Sarah – who has played Mandy Richardson on the Channel 4 soap on and off for over 20 years – is hoping that her and her actor hubby Jonathan’s love of staying fit is setting a good example for their three-year-old son, Stanley.
“Mummy doing exercise is the norm for him,” she explains. “I really want it to be a part of his life and for him to see it as normal and healthy.”
Here, Sarah reveals which reality show she would “kill” to take part in, the celeb whose body inspires her and why she’s “terrified” by the thought of Stanley starting school…
Hi Sarah! Why did you decide to focus on your fitness?
I’ve always been into fitness and have trained, but I was never consistent so I wanted to make it a lifestyle change. It was around 18 months after I had my son and in the lead-up to getting married, so if there was a time to get in the best shape of your life, that was it.
After a long day on set where do you find the motivation to go to the gym?
If I don’t go in the morning, I don’t tend to go at all because I do struggle with motivation of an evening.
Do you beat yourself up if you miss a session?
I don’t. I aim to do three or four weight training sessions a week, which is really doable. I do really early mornings and I try to train on Saturday mornings, too, as it starts my weekend off right. Stanley has a lovely time in the crèche at the gym then we have a bit of breakfast after – it’s kind of like a little date for us!
Is working out a stress reliever for you?
Yeah. I feel more energised and I sleep better. I never used to like training before – I used to think it was a chore – but I’ve got a passion for it and absolutely love it. It’s also a mental thing. It’s my time to clear my head.
What’s your diet like?
It’s all about balance. I’m good in the week, and by being good I mean I eat a lot, but it’s healthy food.
Steamed vegetables, rice, sweet potato, oats… nothing I eat is boring. I meal prep in the week so I never go hungry at work. I even cook my omelette the night before.
Do you allow yourself any cheat days?
Yeah, I allow myself to relax at the weekends and I don’t feel guilty about having a glass of wine, some cake or going out for a lovely lunch. I’ve got myself to the point where I can do that because my goal now is to maintain how I am.
Are there any super-fit celebs who inspire you?
Gemma Atkinson has always been an inspiration. When we used to work together at
Hollyoaks we’d both be like, “I can’t be bothered to go to the gym, let’s get a takeaway,” but our mindsets have changed now. We still eat takeaways and drink wine, but we’re really on the fitness buzz now and prefer
‘TRAINING IS MY TIME TO CLEAR MY HEAD’
the way we feel when we’re training. And if anyone gives me inspiration to train, it has to be Jennifer Lopez!
What’s your top diet and fitness tip?
People panic when they want to lose weight or tone up and then don’t eat enough of the right foods. I don’t like using the word diet because I feel like you’re restricting yourself.
You dropped from a size 12 to a 6 for your wedding…
That was never my intention. I wanted to lose fat, but that was post-baby, and I wanted to get strong instead of skinny. I’d like to be an advocate for mums taking their time to get back into shape.
Do you feel celeb mums who bounce back into shape in record time set a bad example?
I hate it when women feel pressurised into getting back into shape after having a baby.
It’s really important to do it sensibly and slowly and let your body repair and recover.
So you didn’t feel pressure to get your pre-baby body back?
I didn’t feel the need to rush. I was a mum for the first time and was loving having the baby and going out and having coffee dates – doing all the things you do when you’re a new mum. My baby was my focus and that’s how it should be.
How soon after Stanley’s birth did you start exercising?
I didn’t start doing anything properly until Stan was 18 months old. I was training, but I was doing it gradually – rebuilding my pelvic floor, all of those things women have to think about!
What size are you now?
I’m not as lean as I was when
I got married, but I’m between a size 6 and an 8.
What’s your favourite part of your body?
I’m proudest of building strength in my arms and I like my legs.
I’m quite happy to get them out. [Laughs] I think telly makes us look taller, as I’ve had people come up to me in Tesco car park and go, “Oh, you’re short.” And I wear flats outside of work.
Where do you stand on cosmetic surgery, now that so many celebrities are endorsing it?
It’s each to their own. There are people out there who’ve had things done but you can’t tell and they look incredible. Maybe Jennifer Lopez is one of them and, if she is, then I want what she’s having! If you want a little tweak here and there, go for it if it makes you feel happy.
Have you ever felt pressure to go under the knife?
I think there’s a certain pressure to feel and look a certain way, and not just for women. I wouldn’t like to be a young girl in this day and age. At nearly 40, I’m happy and confident in myself. I know how I want to look and feel so I don’t feel any pressure.
Does ageing worry you?
It doesn’t. And the fitness is something that’s gone hand in hand with that. I’ve never been worried about getting older, but then ask me again when I’m nearly 50. [Laughs] But then I look at people like J.LO and Kylie and think, “Let’s embrace it.”
How do you balance motherhood with your career?
I’m really lucky because we have the crèche and my mum and dad are really close by. He’s their seventh grandchild so you’d think they’d be over it, but they help out a lot. My husband’s parents live in Bath, but they come up and help out when they can. We always try to keep Sundays free for family time so Stanley knows Mummy and Daddy haven’t got to go to work. It really works.
What kind of toddler is he?
He is non-stop. He’s at that gorgeous age where he’s really inquisitive and bright, but he just wants to play all the time, which is exhausting. It’s, “Mummy, play with me.” It’s the nicest age so far for me, though.
Are you anxious about him starting school this year?
It’s terrifying! His birthday is in August so he’s going to be one of the youngest children in his year. I feel like it’s really early, but I think he’s ready for it.
Would you and Jonathan like another child?
Yes, but I just don’t know when and I don’t want to put pressure on myself or us. Saying that,
I’d get another pug now but my husband won’t let me! We’ve already got one and we say she’s our little girl.
Would you ever sign Stanley up to stage school?
I won’t force him into anything.
It’s his decision, but my mum and dad already say, “You can tell his mum and dad are actors.” He pretends he’s on stage and will do a performance for you.
It’s your second wedding anniversary in May. Has marriage changed the dynamic of your relationship at all?
Not really. We probably just annoy each other more! It’s got to that point where I’m like, “Can you just make the bed?” or
‘AT NEARLY 40, I’M HAPPY AND CONFIDENT IN MYSELF’
“Why didn’t you put the bins out?” Being married just solidifies things, doesn’t it? We’d already made all of the commitments
– we lived together, we got a dog, we have a son. I would have liked to have done it the other way round, but life doesn’t always work like that.
Is Jonathan romantic?
He is. I’m not really a massive, gushy romantic person anyway
– I find it a bit cringe – so the romantic things now are if
I come home and tea has been done!
You had a busy 2019 on
Hollyoaks. What’s in store for Mandy this year?
Oh my goodness. After she found a wad of cash in her daughter Ella’s bag in the flash forward special, it kind of maps it out – it’s not going to be a great year.
Is she completely done with Luke or are there still feelings?
I think they’ll always have feelings for each other, but I do feel Mandy’s kind of drawn a line under it – even though she’s always going to love him.
If you could bring one Hollyoaks
character back, who would it be?
It would have to be Becca, who was played by Ali Bastian. She was one of Mandy’s best friends and I loved their relationship. It’d be nice to explore that again but I can’t because she’s dead.
Which past cast members are you still close to?
Ali, Carly Stenson, Jodi Albert and I are really good friends and are always on the phone. Carly’s married to Danny Mac, so I see him a lot, and Matt Littler – there are loads of us. I’ve made some genuine friends.
Would you do a reality show like Dancing On Ice or I’m A Celeb?
Yeah, definitely. I’d kill to be on
Strictly. I don’t know how I’d be in the jungle, but everyone who comes out says it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. I’m not sure about Dancing On Ice – I might break my head!
Catch Sarah in Hollyoaks, weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4