Natalie explains how she dropped from a size 16 to an 8

In a few months, Natalie Cassidy’s shed the image of dowdy Sonia Fowler by losing 2½st and dropping four dress sizes, not to mention 18½in all over. Now gets the lowdown on how she did it…

‘After playing Sonia in EastEnders for 12 years, I thought it’d be good to change my image,’ 24-year-old Natalie explains. ‘I was 10st 8lb [she’s 5ft 4in] when I started this diet, but it was my body mass index that scared me. I wasn’t just obese – I was off the scale.’

Her breasts were enlarged in 2004 from a 36A to a 36D but because of her weight loss, Natalie is now a 32E. She loves the attention she’s getting from the opposite sex.

‘I know it’s shallow, but I do,’ she admits. ‘I get wolf whistled at in the street and I don’t turn round because I’m not used to it.

‘I was always bubbly and confident before, but it does make you feel better about yourself. I’ve become a bit of a fox. I’ve just started seeing someone. He’s lovely. We met on my last job, so it’s quite new – and that’s all I’m telling.’

Natalie Cassidy in astonishing body swap - amazing weight loss

How did you lose the weight?

I changed everything. It was more about exercise than diet. I cut out rubbish. I cut down on alcohol, too – even though I love white wine – and laid off savoury stuff. Cheese, crisps and dips were my downfall.

And exercise?

I did my DVD religiously five times a week for 50 minutes at a time. When I first started, I was so unfit, but after about three or four weeks, it got easier. It’s all about mixing it up by doing aerobics as well as toning.

Had you done any exercise before?

Over the years I’d dabbled with exercise, but I’d never stuck to anything. I hate being all red-faced and sweaty in the gym, so I always preferred to do DVDs at home.

Where have you noticed the biggest changes in your body?

My arms. I’d always hated my arms and now I’ve lost 2in off each one. I’ve lost 6in off my hips and waist, too. But the best thing is that I’ve gone from a tight size 16 dress to a size 8! I’ve still got curves, but I can fit into size 8 Kate Moss Topshop jeans.

Have you treated yourself to a fab new wardrobe?

I love shopping now. I can fit into clothes that I couldn’t squeeze into before. I’d often go to Joseph and come out with a lovely cardigan before, but I could never get a pair of tailored trousers.

How did you find it to do your first bikini shoot?

I’d never worn one before and it was brilliant. I’ve always loved shoots – I’m just a bit of a poser. I’m even considering walking around north London in a bikini!

Your family must be incredibly proud of you.

When I told my dad [Charlie, 70] I was going to lose weight, he said: ‘You’re big-boned, it’s the way you are.’ I went away on a tour with a play and didn’t see my dad for three months. He couldn’t believe the change. We went to a family party the other week and it was like a comedy sketch. My dad had a couple of drinks and was shouting to his mate: ‘Look! She’s got no arse left! Turn round, show everyone, she’s got no bum, can you believe it?!’ My family were so supportive.

Were there any health scares in your family that made you decide to get healthy?

Heart disease runs in my family. I lost my mum to a blood clot five years ago and my dad had a heart bypass when I was 10, so it’s something I’m aware of that’s hereditary in my family. It did push me to get fit. At my age, you don’t think about heart attacks, but it’s important.

Do you get recognised less now?

I still get the hardcore people who know me, but a lot of people go: ‘That’s Sonia,’ and they go: ‘No, no, no, it can’t be – Sonia’s fat!’

Is it good to get away from dowdy Sonia?

Yeah, I had a brilliant time, but for me to move on as an actress I think it’s important that people can see me as Natalie Cassidy, rather than Sonia. I don’t think it’ll help in terms of doing better work, but I think it opens me up to a different range of roles. I loved Sonia, but she was frumpy. My ambition is to be a character actress, but maybe now I’ll get to play a few sexy roles at the same time.

Would you ever go back to EastEnders?

I’ve only been gone a year. I have no snobbery about it at all because it put me where I am today and I had a great time, so never say never. Then again, they might not want me back.

Whose figure do you most admire?

Kelly Brook looks fantastic – all the Strictly Come Dancing girls look amazing. I’d love to do Strictly. I remember watching it two or three years ago and everyone asking me if I’d do it, but I didn’t want to do it back then because of my size. 

Natalie’s body file

Weight Dropped from 10st 8lb to 8st 1lb
Dress size From 16 to 8
Chest 38in to 36in
Waist 30in to 25in
Hips 41½in to 35in
Thighs 24in to 20in
Arms 12in to 10in

Total weight loss 2st 7lb
Total inch loss 18½in

Get Natalie’s body with our top tips

1 Lay off the booze
‘I cut right down on alcohol,’ says Natalie. ‘Most people find that cutting back on alcohol helps them lose weight effortlessly,’ adds nutritionist Carina Norris, author of You Are What You Eat (£12.99, Virgin).
‘A large glass of wine – especially at home – can contain upwards of 200 calories.’
Slash the calorie content by pouring small and adding ice.

2 Eat breakfast
‘Skipping breakfast meant that Natalie’s blood-sugar levels were low by mid morning, meaning she’d have been craving sugary, fatty foods to try to keep her energy up,’
says Carina.

Studies show that breakfast eaters are slimmer than brekky skippers, so always have something first thing. Good choices include low-sugar cereal, porridge with berries or scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast.

3 Snack regularly
‘It’ll keep your metabolism fired up,’ says Carina. ‘Eating every three or four hours keeps your metabolism working efficiently, plus it keeps your blood-sugar and energy levels steady, meaning you won’t be prone to binge eating.’

4 Don’t be too strict
‘I still treat myself,’ says Natalie. ‘I love a glass of white wine and I still have a drink.’ Believe it or not, cheating on your diet will keep you slim, according to Carina: ‘If you cut out absolutely everything you love, you’ll quickly get bored and ditch your diet. Allow yourself to have the odd treat and you’ll be much more likely to stick to your diet
the rest of the time.’

5 Exercise
‘Doing something that gets you a bit hot and sweaty three times a week is enough,’ says celebrity trainer Nicki Waterman. ‘It could be a fitness DVD, a quick jog or a boxing class.’

In fact, if you mix it up, you’ll see better results because your body will be ‘shocked’ into burning fat faster.

Natalie’s old diet

Breakfast Nothing
Mid- morning snack Croissant
Lunch Sandwiches and biscuits
Dinner Meat, veg, potatoes
Snacks Wine, cheese, crisps, dips, chocolate

Natalie’s new diet

Breakfast Cereal with skimmed milk
Lunch Salad and roast chicken in a wholemeal pitta bread
Dinner Baked fish served with vegetables
Snacks The odd glass of white wine, fruit

See Natalie Cassidy’s work-out picture gallery >>

See Now’s special celebrity diet section>>

Karen Dunn