Skip to main content
University at Buffalo

UB Today

A publication of the University at Buffalo Alumni Association

Fall 2013

Features

Profiles

Departments

UB EVENTS CALENDAR

Join the Alumni Association

UBAA on Facebook

To stop receiving the print version and read UB Today online, > click here

To view a virtual version of the print magazine > click here. To view the PDF version of this issue > click here

Rachel Lynn Sunley, MPH ’10

Rachel Lynn Sunley

Bridal Boot Camp

Personal trainer’s prewedding drill blends positivity and scientific principles to help women prepare for the big day

Story by Jana Eisenberg, with photos by Douglas Levere, BA ’89

RACHEL LYNN SUNLEY, MPH ’10, upbeat, easygoing, ambitious, is an ideal personal fitness trainer. She’s lived it: As a preteen, she put on weight and found her self-esteem suffering. Lessons from each of her parents on exercise and eating right helped her to drop weight. And along the way, she realized a deep-seated passion.

These days, Sunley is happily helping others learn the same lessons—adding in science and savvy. During the process of earning her master’s in public health, her integrative project focused on weight-loss maintenance among American adults. She learned that about 50 percent of those who successfully lose weight gain it back in fewer than six months. She decided that she wanted to address this discouraging statistic.

“Immediately after earning my master’s, I got my personal-training certification and was working part time at a fitness club. I developed a comprehensive fitness program. Then I thought, ‘What would make this different?’ I love instructing boot camp style workouts; weddings, fashion, nutrition/eating healthy and cooking are some of my favorite things. I realized that bridal boot camps were exactly what Buffalo was missing! Some of the most motivated clients are women who want to feel beautiful and confident on their wedding day.” Her Buffalo-based business, Bridezilla Boot Camps, was born in 2011.

With her scientific knowledge and positive attitude (plus her undergrad degree in psychology), Sunley provides her clients with the tools to get and stay fit. It’s not a new idea—Google “bridal fitness” and you get about 48 million results—but her melded, science-based philosophy is innovative.

Her two closest advisers at UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions were Gary Giovino, chair of the community health and health behavior department, and Marc Kiviniemi, assistant professor in the same department who focuses on health-related behaviors. “Dr. Giovino and I frequently talked about eating the way our grandparents did,” Sunley says. “Mostly ‘real’ food, prepared from scratch.”

Sunley says consulting with Kiviniemi helped her to realize how much she wanted to apply her knowledge to the needs of real people. Now she’s deeply connecting with real people and real food on a daily basis—so much so that she recently gave up her job as a corporate wellness specialist to focus on her business full time. Her six- and 12-week bridal boot camps encompass multiple sessions in groups of six or fewer women—often a bride and her attendants, sister and/or mother. Sunley’s approach offers a 50/50 split between physical training and nutritional education. She rents space at a local gym, though some training is conducted at area parks and trails.

While she plans to experiment with couples boot camp, right now, it’s a female thing, Sunley says. “Including men changes the dynamic. In a gym or other co-ed environment, women can be intimidated or self-conscious. I want them to feel comfortable—in a private and intimate environment.”

The biggest challenges in Sunley’s business are clients with unrealistic expectations. “Everybody wants quick weight loss,” she says. “We educate them on healthy and realistic goals. Whether they want to lose weight, tighten and tone, or take their fitness to the next level, I help them establish ‘S.M.A.R.T.’ goals— those that are specific, measurable, action-based, realistic and time-constrained.”

As for the “b” word? “Most people find the ‘bridezilla’ name fun, like I do,” Sunley says. “Actual ‘bridezillas’ probably won’t come to me! Once they meet me, and see my personality, and sense of humor, they get it.”

Sunley

Starting small can lead to big results

To keep weight off, people need to make lifestyle changes, Sunley says. Start small and these modest, incremental changes can add up to big results. Here are some of her tips:

  • Set realistic goals—and hold yourself accountable.
  • Eat properly. This means minimally processed foods along with vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, complex carbs and healthy fats.
  • Add more activity to your lifestyle. Take the stairs. Park farther away. Avoid sitting for long periods of time.
  • Exercise regularly. Find something you love. Change it if you get bored. Aside from gym workouts, Sunley practices power yoga.

UB in the News

How Donald Trump ruined the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum for actual Civil Rights leaders

12/14/2017 An article in Newsweek about the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History, and the controversy over plans by President Trump to attend the ceremony, interviews Victoria Wolcott, professor and chair of history, who said Trump?s presence is problematic given his inability to denounce white supremacists in the wake of Charlottesville.

New downtown home for Jacobs School opens

12/12/2017 The Buffalo News quoted UB President Satish K. Tripathi on the opening of the new Jacobs School building. "The world-class design was a sight to behold. But to gaze upon the magnificent finished product is to fully appreciate it for the breathtaking building it is."

Gum infections may increase risk for digestive tract sores

12/8/2017 A Reuters article about a study that showed that gum infections may increase people?s risk for sores in the digestive tract that can lead to stomach cancer quotes Jean Wactawski-Wende , dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

More of UB in the News