Now, November 1997
Louise - My Dieting Hell

Louise on her unhappy school days and why Baby Spice is a perfect role model for girls

 It was a miserable time for the 14-year-old. No matter what she tried, she seemed unable to shed the puppy fat that the wall-to-wall mirrors of her stage-school classroom would not let her ignore. Even worse, she kept comparing herself to another much taller and more slender, teenager at the school - a girl called Naomi Campbell.
 Difficult though it is to believe now, that unhappy youngster was Louise Nurding. Yes, that Louise - the one who's regularly voted sexiest woman of the year by various men's magazines and who's engaged to the extremely fanciable Liverpool and England footballer Jamie Redknapp.
 "I went through a stage of being paranoid about my weight at school and I was forever on diets," says the 22-year-old singer. "It's the kind of thing most girls go through at that age but, back then, it seemed as if counting calories was the most important thing in the world."
 "Most of my friends were the same. I consider myself lucky that it never developed into an eating disorder - I got it in check before it got out of hand. I was never anorexic, but I had plenty of friends who were."
 Louise's weight fears began while she was studying at the Italia Conti Stage School in London, alongside students including Martine McCutcheon, who plays Tiffany in EastEnders, Kéllé Bryan, Louise's former colleague in "Eternal", actress Emily Lloyd, supermodel Lisa Snowdon and, of course, Naomi.
 It was a highly competitive atmosphere and most of the girls Louise studied with had never-ending legs, pinched waists and looks that have since graced countless magazine covers.
 Being 5ft 5in and chubby - as Louise was at the time - was simply not the done thing.
 "Who wouldn't feel paranoid in an environment like that?" she asks. "It's more common than people like to believe for young girls to go through this. Some girls remain young physically for a long time, like stick insects. But at 14 I started to develop a womanly figure - and for a dancer that's bad news."
 "I'd go to auditions for parts I knew I'd never get because the castings would be full of these lovely thin girls with fantastic skin. It used to make me feel really inferior."
 To combat these insecurities, she created strict diets that left her tied and dispirited.
 "On an average day I'd have an apple for lunch and some cereal when I got home. I was so tired at the time, but I didn't know then that not eating properly leaves you feeling faint and exhausted."
 "I got away with it for so long because I never really lost weight, no matter how hard I dieted. I realise now that's because I was going through that puppy fat stage."
 But her priorities changed when some of her friends developed anorexia nervosa.
 "Seeing them so ill made me realise that it's more important to be happy and healthy than it is to look like a supermodel."
 "I'm not a skinny person now and I still have to watch what I eat - but I never diet. I like to think I'm a healthy role model for young girls because I am quite full-figured, That's why I got so annoyed when some newspapers printed pictures of Emma from the Spice Girls in her swimming costume and said she was fat. How irresponsible!!"
 "She looks just how a woman should look, and is a perfect role model for teenage girls. I only wish I could have seen pictures like that when I was at stage school. It would certainly have helped my friends who suffered with anorexia to feel like they were normal."
 The first of three children, Louise was born in Lewisham, South London. Her family moved to Woking, Surrey, when she was 12.
 It was apparent early on to her parents Lynne and Tim that their daughter was destined for the stage. By the age of five, Louise was making up tickets for her shows, which she sold to her family for 20p.
Within a year of leaving stage school Louise was performing for real as a member of Eternal, the all-girl group. They had six Top 10 singles and, in 1994, the year's biggest selling album.
 She left the group two years later, after an amicable split, to go solo - with similar success. Her new single, "Let's Go Round Again" from the album "Woman in Me", is out later this month.
 "I've got to take myself on to the next level and show people there's more to me than just a nice haircut and the work of a good make-up artist," she says.
 Louise became engaged to Jamie earlier this year. The pair have dated for 18 months, but were friends for two years before that after meeting backstage at a Take That concert.
 "We haven't set a date for the wedding or anything like that; getting engaged was more of a show of commitment," smiles Louise, who's based in London while Jamie lives in Liverpool.
 "I'm not being difficult by not talking about my love life, but it's hard enough having a relationship with the pressures of this job without having to cope with the public interest."
 "Jamie and I are no different from most couples in this country: we go out for meals, go to clubs occasionally and we get on very well."
 "He's only the second boyfriend I've had. I'm not the sort of person to go out with lots of different men - it's just not in me to be that confident around people I don't know. I've never chatted a bloke up in my life. I wouldn't have the guts."
 "In fact, I rarely get chatted up myself. If I'm out with the girls they're the ones who get hit on. I'm stood in the corner organising the cabs home..."