28, singer, West End star and for­mer win­ner of The X Fac­tor

Women's Health (UK) - - NAKED - ZOE MCCONNELL uk port­fo­lio photography

‘The evening my dress ripped while I was on stage per­form­ing the lead in The Body­guard mu­si­cal, I knew it had gone too far. By the sum­mer of 2015, I’d piled on three dress sizes over two years, go­ing from a size eight to a 14. My hec­tic tour sched­ule meant that I’d of­ten skip the gym, miss meals and then gorge on take­aways late at night.

I wasn’t overly trou­bled by the way I looked – I was in a happy re­la­tion­ship with my boyfriend Josh Gin­nelly and my ca­reer since

The X Fac­tor was go­ing bril­liantly well. But my mum has type 2 di­a­betes – which is as­so­ci­ated with obe­sity – and she had been un­well, so I knew that it was time to get healthy. If I didn’t, I’d risk de­vel­op­ing di­a­betes like my mum.

As a teenager, I ate healthily and was sporty at school. But now I needed some help struc­tur­ing my chaotic eat­ing. I started eat­ing six small meals a day: por­ridge for break­fast, soup for lunch, fish or chicken with salad for din­ner, and snacks of fruit and nuts in be­tween. I sud­denly had so much more energy from eat­ing reg­u­larly – which was es­sen­tial when I was per­form­ing on stage at night.

Healthy eat­ing en­cour­aged me to kick-start my gym rou­tine, too, and I be­gan work­ing out five or six times a week. Two years on, I’m three dress sizes smaller and 2st lighter, and I’ve built up mus­cle.

It’s been a slow process but the re­wards are for the long term.

Now, my train­ing sched­ule never changes – not even when I’m on hol­i­day. I be­gin with a 10-minute run to warm up, then an hour of cir­cuit train­ing. My fit­ness goal is to run the New York marathon be­fore I reach 30 and kids fac­tor into the equa­tion.

I’ve al­ways suf­fered from anx­i­ety, which height­ens oc­ca­sion­ally, so to help keep it un­der con­trol, I do half an hour of yoga or med­i­ta­tion be­fore bed rather than go out with the cast and crew, to make sure I feel re­freshed the next day. My health and hap­pi­ness are all that truly mat­ter.’

Alexan­dra Burke is the of­fi­cial am­bas­sador for Slim­fast

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