The former soap Lisa Riley star has opened up about the heartbreak of losing her mum, dancing and how Robin Windsor was her 'rock'

Most of us got to know Lisa Riley as the lovable Mandy Dingle from Emmerdale. But since leaving the Dales in 2001 her journey has been one of amazement and heartbreak.

Over the past two years the actress has lost more than half her body-weight shrinking from a size 28 to a size 12.

As well as appearing as a regular on Loose Women, Lisa also won our hearts when she took part on Strictly Come Dancing in 2012, partnered with Robin Windsor.

And it was this show which she claims helped turn her life around. Just two months before donning herself in sequins and glitter, Lisa’s beloved mum Cath died in her arms after a two year battle with cancer.

“I did [Strictly] for my mum,” she told You Magazine. “She loved the show. She would have wanted me to prove what I could do. I went in there this big fat girl and I refused to be the comedy turn. I have been to drama school, I have rhythm. I was going to show everyone not to underestimate women like me and that even if you are big you can dance. The whole experience was amazing.”

She credits Robin as the man who pulled her through when she felt at her lowest.

“Robin saw me at my worst, crying my heart out on my bed unable to move, and at my best when we were dancing. He was a rock. I don’t know why but being on Strictly helped me get through the worst time of my life. There was one point in Glasgow while on tour that I almost pulled out, but I knew Mum would have been so cross with me if I did that.” Lisa was voted out in the semifinals, but her cha-cha-cha remains one of the best-loved dances in the show’s history.

The following year, her father had a cancer scare and was eventually diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. “That was what did it,” she says. “I lost my mother, then I thought I was going to lose my dad. That was the moment I decided I had to change. I had to take control of my health and my life – I did it for both my parents.”

Well done Lisa, you look incredible!

Main pic: S Meddle/ITV/REX/Shutterstock