Claire Richards hits back at weight critics as she launches search to find Britain"s best cake


'I know I'll be the biggest girl on the stage but I don't care!' Claire Richards defends weight as she launches search for Britain's best cake

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UPDATED:

15:31 GMT, 13 March 2012

It was revealed yesterday that her Steps bandmates were all helping her get through gruelling dance routines since she's gained weight.

But Claire Richards has hit back at her critics, saying she doesn't care about being the biggest girl on stage and her husband adores her figure.

It was also revealed that the 34-year-old will host Lorraine's Cake Club – a search on ITV's Lorraine to find Britain's best cake.

Tempting: Steps singer Claire Richards has hit back at her weight critics, as it's announced she will host Lorraine's Cake Club, a search to find Britain's best cake

Tempting: Steps singer Claire Richards has hit back at her weight critics, as it's announced she will host Lorraine's Cake Club, a search to find Britain's best cake

Claire, who says she is now a size 16
and weighs 12st, says she has had to change her diet to give her more energy for the daily eight-hour rehearsals for Steps upcoming reunion tour.

It helped that the band practiced 'in the middle of nowhere', away from food chain shops, so she had been forced to take a packed lunch to work each day.

The star has struggled with her weight over the years, bouncing
in between a size eight and 20.

Speaking to Closer magazine, the singer said she felt pressure early on in her career to stay thin.

'When I first started out in Steps at 19, I really cared about what other people thought of me and the pressure to be thin was horrific.

'I'd bake a cake for my friends, then refuse to have even the thinnest slice, It was an illness. I switched myself off food because i thought, if I gained weight, I'd be chucked out of the band.'

Working hard: laire's bandmates have been helping her get through the gruelling dance routines ahead of their reunion tour which starts on April 2

Working hard: laire's bandmates have been helping her get through the gruelling dance routines ahead of their reunion tour which starts on April 2

Claire married Steps dancer Mark Webb
before her 2008 wedding to electrician Reece Hill, with whom she has
two children, Charlie, four, and Daisy, two.

'Everything's better this time around
because I'm a much happier person. I've been through a crap marriage,
but now I have a wonderful husband and amazing kids. They give me all
the support I never had before and being a size 16 makes me feel sexier
than ever – having a big bum and boobs rocks!

'I know I'll be the biggest girl on the stage, but I don't care. If I worried about that I'd send myself mad.

'I've realised eating healthily does make me feel better. Luckily I know Reece loves me at any size – he's seen me skinny, fat and everything in between and he adore my bum.'

A report yesterday said her bandmates feared she would be unable to complete the Steps reunion tour because of her weight.

Mellow yellow: Claire was known to show off her washboard stomach in bikinis in Steps' heyday in the late '90s

Mellow yellow: Claire was known to show off her washboard stomach in bikinis in Steps' heyday in the late '90s

Claire's
spokesman told the Mail Online the band – which include size eights
Lisa Scott-Lee and Faye Tozer – was helping her with the difficult dance
routines, ahead of their reunion tour which starts in Belfast on April
2.

Lee Latchford-Evans, who has worked as a personal trainer, is paying particular attention to the star.

Claire believes Adele, who recently
lost weight after undergoing throat surgery, and Jennifer Lopez are good
role models because they are not a size zero.

'Adele's lost a bit of weight, but
she's still not skinny and she looks great. And J-Lo has a shape to die
for. She's got so much more appeal that the skeletal girls strutting
down the catwalk runways.'

Claire says she has ditched takeaways, chocolate
and 'fatty sandwiches' in favour of porridge or fruit for breakfast, chicken
salad and broccoli for lunch and poached salmon with vegetables for
dinner.

The mother-of-two also said she
avoided white bread and starchy food as, despite them giving her an
instant burst of energy, she always crashed afterwards.

Fluctuating: Claire seen in 2008 - when she put out a fitness dvd - before and after slimming down from a size 20 to a size 10

Fluctuating: Claire seen in 2008 - when she put out a fitness dvd - before and after slimming down from a size 20 to a size 10

Fluctuating: Claire seen in 2008 – when she put out a fitness dvd – before and after slimming down from a size 20 to a size 10

Claire also revealed she would love
to have another child soon but the thought of being pregnant again
terrifies her because she suffered from terrible morning sickness.

Claire burst onto the scene with the
Tragedy band in 1997 as a tiny size eight, and often showed off her
washboard stomach in string bikini tops.

She
shot up to a size 20 at her heaviest after they disbanded in 2001, but
planned to slim down in time for her wedding to Reece Hill, the father
of her two children.

She
slimmed down to fit a size 10 wedding dress in November 2008 and her
plight was documented on BBC Three's Claire Richards: My Big Fat
Wedding.

Claire released a fitness DVD, Five Step Fat Attack, that year, but again piled on the pounds and shot up to a size 16.

Early
last year she slimmed down again to a size 10, but by December had shot
up again to a size 16, saying the size was too hard to maintain.