Sarah Parish

Actress Sarah Parish, 44, lives in London with her husband, actor James Murray, and their two-year-old daughter, Nell.

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with what I look like. I was a late developer. I was a tomboy at school and always running around doing sport and ballet. I was the flat-chested, skinny girl, but then I turned 16 and overnight I developed a figure and I absolutely hated it. I'd hunch my shoulders to hide my chest. I was incredibly self-conscious; and always wanted to be waif-like, but wasn't, which caused me great insecurity throughout my twenties.

Now I look back at photos of myself in my twenties and think, "What was I worried about?". Nowadays my body image is much better - I know I'll never look like Kylie Minogue, and that's okay. I'm a big-boned, athletic-looking woman and I have to make the best of what I've got. I like to stay fit and healthy, but I could probably give myself a break sometimes.

Clothes can be a problem when you've got boobs and a bum. I'll see a beautiful dress in a shop and then I'll put it on and it looks dreadful because I'm just too curvy. I have to choose carefully - I steer clear of high necks and go for tailored, fitted things.

I have a weakness for chocolate. I go through different phases. At the moment, I'm eating a lot of Lindt dark chocolate with coconut in it. It's so gorgeous. We buy four big bars when we do our weekly shop. I find myself sneaking into the pantry and snuffling it when I think no one's looking!

I'd love to look like my mum when I am her age. She taught ballet for years and my attitude to exercise and fitness has definitely been influenced by her. She's 84 now and I've watched how well she has aged, and a lot of that is to do with her fantastic posture. It's quite incredible how you can take ten years off yourself by standing up straight. I fought against that when I was younger. I'm really tall and I used slouch and think it was really uncool to stand up straight - now I wish I hadn't been quite so dumb!

My body has changed a lot in the last two years. I discovered a ballet, barre-based exercise class when I was in Canada last year. I really got into it, and in the space of three months, I lost nine pounds without changing my eating habits. It's a pretty intense workout and after class, I'd feel it in every muscle. I lost my wobbly, dinner lady arms and had this wonderful definition. My leg muscles and my stomach were really toned too. I went swimming with my friend and she looked at my tummy and said, "My god! Your stomach looks amazing!"

When I came back to the UK, there was no barre-based class over here. So I decided to start my own. I really stepped out of my comfort zone - I'm not business-minded in any way - but I saw this as a great opportunity. I found two trained teachers and two investors, and we developed a programme together. We've called it BARREtoned. We're already doing classes at a temporary studio in London and we're hoping to open our flagship studio in central London by the end of the year.

Find out more about BARREtoned at

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