By Liana Jacob
MEET THE chef who once survived on a diet of processed foods and booze and even tried to stock a YEAR’S WORTH of hot cross buns in her freezer until she realised how big she had become when her wedding dress wouldn’t fit – prompting her to lose FIVE-AND-A-HALF-STONE and come FIRST PLACE in a bodybuilding competition.
Chef and group fitness instructor, Sarah Cracknell (33) from Perth, Australia, has been a chef for 18 years and due to being surrounded by food, she would consume in large amounts including drinking alcohol and processed foods.
Her weight reached its peak just before her wedding in April 2012 at 14st 2Ib and a UK size 16 to 18 and when she was at home trying on wedding dresses, she would cry every time, after realising how big she had gotten. She initially changed her diet and exercised to lose weight for her wedding, but she discovered how good she felt about herself from the weight loss that she decided to continue her fitness journey.
After participating in a photoshoot at her gym, her nutritionist recommended bodybuilding to her and despite never having heard of it before, she investigated and decided to try it out. She managed to reduce her weight to 8st 9Ib and a UK size six to eight for the stage and is now 10st 3Ib and UK size 10.
Her new bodybuilding body has helped her with her confidence, and she was shocked that she could stand on stage in front of people in a bikini, as she never used to wear bikinis before her weight loss.
She is now a fitness instructor and is proud of her body.
“Growing up I was never particularly athletic, but I was always out with the other kids on my street riding bikes and playing games down at the park,” Sarah said.
“When I started cooking, I grew up pretty fast. Most of the chefs I worked with were a lot older than me and most days after work I would hang out at a pub with them.
“I never focused on my weight or looks growing up, so I was basically in denial about getting bigger. I figured my pants must keep shrinking in the dryer.
“Two things made me realise just how big I had gotten; wedding dress shopping and trying to get dressed for a friend’s engagement party and I didn’t fit in any of my clothes.
“Both these events had me in tears and it really sunk in that I was about to have to go and buy size eighteen clothes if I didn’t get my act together.
“Then after that had been and gone, I wanted to feel good about myself and be fit and healthy. I would get tired very easily and walking up steps was a nightmare.
“I’d drive around the carpark at the shops looking for the closest parking bay so I wouldn’t have to walk too far.
“I wanted to be able to go out for bushwalks again which is something I always enjoyed with friends and hadn’t been able to do for a long time.
“Originally for my wedding I decided to lose weight by having weight loss shakes and soup. This left me with zero energy and motivation. Once I joined a gym and started working with a nutritionist, losing weight became enjoyable.
“I’d never had so much energy. My nutritionist would work on one habit at a time and helped me change my bad habits, my mindset and my entire outlook on life.
“We prioritised protein and lots of veg and added in a lot of carbs and healthy fats too. The better I started to feel about myself the less I felt like drinking.”
Since her diet overhaul and work outs, Sarah has entered into bodybuilding competitions where she has come in first place, second place and third place.
She says she used to feel too insecure to wear bikinis before she entered the competitions, but since losing weight she mustered up the courage to try it out.
“I was a very negative person before; I drank quite heavily, I had no self-esteem and felt trapped beneath a baggy jumper. Now I have an entirely different outlook on life,” she said.
“I find the good in every situation. After going through the transformation, and changing my life, it makes you realise that nothing is impossible.
“My husband and I just went on our first holiday since I’ve lost the weight and I think he was in shock about how much energy I had to keep exploring all day, and just how much ground we covered. Our last holiday had a lot of rest breaks and we didn’t get to see everything we had wanted to.
“It’s given me the strength and confidence that I never knew I had. I’ve made some incredible friendships with like-minded people.
“Everyone at my gym unconditionally supports each other to help each other reach their goals. It’s an incredible community full of people working together to a common goal.
“I had done a photoshoot at my gym; my nutritionist told me in one of my measures that another girl at the gym was about to prep for a competition and we’d make good training buddies.
“I had no idea what a bodybuilding show was at this stage, so I went and watched one and thought that I’d like to give it a go.
“I’d never worn a bikini in public and yet here I was training to wear one on stage. I entered four categories and was placed in all of them; taking home first place in fitness model novice, third in fitness first timers, fifth in sports model first timers and second in sports model novice.
“I once tried to stock a year’s worth of hot cross buns in my freezer. My diet was mostly processed food. You’d always find packet pasta and corn chips in my house, and a fridge full of soft drink and booze.
“Now my fridge is full of vegetables, yoghurts, meats, and healthy fats, and my cupboard is mostly spices, rice and oils.
“I try to keep my food simple and if I want a treat I prefer to have it out of the house so there’s no temptation to go back for more.
“Being surrounded by food at work was hard to begin with but once I started taking meal prep to work I didn’t have to think about it so much.
“There’s always a few people who want to comment on everything you’re eating or not eating which can become frustrating, but I’d just brush it to the side.
“Most people want to know the secret. Like maybe I’m hiding something. But it didn’t happen overnight. It was time and consistency. No secret.
“There will never be a perfect moment; find a coach and a nutritionist who can take all the guesswork and stress out of it for you so all you have to do is show up and be consistent.
“It also keeps you accountable to someone and also builds your knowledge around making the correct choices and turning old habits around.”