■ The former Coronation Street star, 36, on the Strictly tour, gut health and growing her own courgettes
How’s the tour going? Have there been any injuries or disasters?
I got my heel caught in my dress one night and my partner couldn’t lift me as he normally would but other than that there haven’t been any problems. We’re having the best time, it’s brilliant. I love the interaction with a live audience and to do it in arenas is surreal. When do you get the chance to do that unless you’re a pop star?
Is it daunting?
I get nervous but I’m used to performing live to an audience when I’m singing — I love it. When you hear the cheers, it’s just so lovely to get that feedback.
Is it nice dancing with Johannes Radebe again?
That man is a ray of sunshine and we’re getting better and better. Shirley Ballas said we’re improving on a technical level every night and we got our first tens, which is lovely.
What do you and Johannes have in common?
We both love a good giggle. We’ve got a similar outlook on life — we’re both very positive people and like embracing everything that’s thrown at us in life.
On the tour, the audience vote for a winner each night — have you won yet?
No. Kelvin Fletcher’s won every night. His show dance, nobody can live up to that. I’ve seen it a million times and it still gives me goosebumps. I’d vote for him if I could. He’s outstanding and the crowds adore him.
People were shocked to see you leave the TV show so early. What happened?
It’s such a shame. If we’d had a waltz we’d have made it through but it just takes one weak dance and I’d also had an injury that week. My ribs were being pushed back in just 20 minutes before our dance. I’m hyper mobile and my ribs move around a lot — and I had one sticking out. It made me more cautious when I did the dance and that showed in our performance.
What’s your ITV gut show about?
It’s for the Tonight programme and it transmits on February 13. I’ve been working with a geneticist and we look at gut health. Unlike most diets it’s absolutely not a fad. Your gut is like your second brain. It’s responsible for everything that goes on in your body mentally and physically. We look at what food you should be eating, how you can keep good bacteria in the gut and how you can be more aware of what you’re consuming in your diet.
How conscious are you of what you eat?
Very conscious. There are simple rules you can follow to keep a healthy gut and eat foods rich in probiotics. Over the years I’ve become more and more interested in nutrition. There isn’t enough education about nutrition in school. And you can save money from doing things like growing your own vegetables.
Any growing tips?
Things like potatoes and onions grow themselves. Tomatoes are a bit more tricky. Seeds don’t cost much — you will save money and you can do it as a family. My son is five and he loves it. He gets quite competitive about growing his courgettes.
How did you lose five stone when you were a teen?
I was 17 and it took a year. It was difficult mentally because I was terrified of going into a gym so I did fitness videos at home. It’s been a real journey for me. When I first lost weight I didn’t do it in the healthiest way — I did the cereal diet, which was cereal for breakfast and lunch, then a healthy dinner. Weight fell off because I’d gone from eating junk food all day to eating cereal but I’ve learned I should have been eating nutrient-dense food rather than eating for weight loss — because then you lose weight while fuelling your body correctly.
Would you have achieved your professional success if you’d maintained that weight?
Probably not because I wasn’t fit. I couldn’t walk up the stairs without getting out of breath. There’s no way I could have done Strictly at that time. I didn’t do an ounce of exercise so I couldn’t have done musical theatre or some of the more physical roles, and my ambition was to become an actress. Doing musical theatre is like being an athlete, you’re doing eight shows a week, so I knew to go down that path I’d need to be fit. So it was about being fit rather than weight loss.
Are you still in touch with anyone from Coronation Street?
Yes — Georgia Taylor, Jane Danson, Shayne Ward, Samia Longchambon and Antony Cotton. It sounds cheesy but we’re a big family.
Do you have any unfulfilled career ambitions?
West End at some point — we’ll see. I’ve always loved Les Misérables and I’ve always loved the old-school musicals. I saw Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl and I’d love to do something like that.
■ The Strictly Come Dancing Live UK Tour ends on Feb 9 at the London O2 Arena