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Shape Up: It was a vicious circle ..the more unhappy I became, the more I ate; CORRIE JANE'S HEALTH BATTLE.

B LOATED, overweight and exhausted, actress Jane Danson couldn't have felt less like the man-mad wild child she played on Coronation Street.

Just six months after she took the role of sexy Leanne Battersby she had piled on a stone in weight and felt constantly drained.

It was only when she went to the doctor that she realised the condition Polycystic Ovary Syndrome had caused her to pile on the pounds.

This common ailment can cause weight-gain, excessive body hair, acne and depression, but can be controlled by healthy diet.

"PCOS was a wake-up call," says Jane, 25. "So I took control and realised that eating sugary food was making me feel worse."

But now she's back on our screens after a two-year absence and weighing just 8st 3lbs.

"They have nice food on set at Corrie and I've often been tempted by the pies in Roy's cafe," she admits. "I also crave biscuits but I try to resist.

"Doing 12-hour days can make eating difficult but now I plan ahead.

"If I'm going somewhere with limited catering, I'll bring my own food - a sandwich or salad.

"Yes, I still have a sweet tooth but I cope by cutting down on junk and having fruit or sugar-free gum. In the evening, I'll have a dinner of, say, pasta with veg and chicken.

"I still have takeaways, especially after a long day's filming, or occasionally at home with Rob, my boyfriend. We'll also go out to eat sometimes but I don't tuck into any old thing, as I once did.

"Things have been really hectic since I've been back in Corrie but all that activity has helped keep me fit. I'm a lot more organised about my health and diet this time and I'm far more sensible about what I eat."

During her first Corrie stint Jane was single and ate a lot of convenience food because she couldn't be bothered cooking just for herself.

"I got upset about my weight and it was a vicious circle. The more unhappy I became, the more I ate," she recalls.

"It was too many biscuits. You're bored and it's cold outside, so you comfort eat. I got stuck in that rut for a while - big time.

"When you're on screen so often, you're seeing yourself from every angle. I watched, thinking, 'Oh, no!' I was really upset and my self-confidence went.

"And it just wasn't me. When I was at school, I was eight stone, athletic and ate what I wanted. And to go up to a size I wasn't used to made me feel really uncomfortable. The turning point came when I realised I only had myself to blame. I took action and started playing badminton. I also followed my mum's WeightWatchers bible and the pounds soon dropped off."

But the key to her change in attitude is her struggle with PCOS. Before a visit to the doctor confirmed the condition, she craved sugar, put on weight and was tired, pale and withdrawn.

PCOS can also affect sufferers' relationships and self-esteem and, if left untreated, can lead to fertility problems. Luckily, Jane sought help and is coping well with the problem.

"I read all about it, bought the PCOS Diet Book [by Colette Harris and Theresa Francis-Cheung] and talked a lot to my doctor.

"I discovered the causes of PCOS are related to insulin levels, which is why I craved chocolate and was so tired. I also learned that you can help control it through diet and exercise - and that knowledge has changed my life."

The diagnosis has helped her maintain her low weight - she has a 24ins waist and wears size eight skirts.

"Luckily, a lot of the things that doctors recommend for people with PCOS are foods that I like and are good for you, so my body has benefited.

"I used to skip breakfast but now I start my day with something, no matter how busy I am. I'll have veg for lunch, maybe with pasta, or a wholegrain sandwich."

Exercise is now also a big part of Jane's life. "I've started a fitness routine for the first time in years," she says. "I joined a gym near the studios and try to go three times a week. I also walk a bit and have regular reflexology."

Jane's boyfriend of five years, Rob Beck, who starred in Brookside and Emmerdale, has also helped her new health regime.

"He's an experimental cook," she laughs. "But he prepares lots of things I should eat, like salads. He's been a very good influence. He doesn't have a sweet tooth and he makes sure I eat properly. He has also made me realise you've got to take time to look after yourself."

The couple bought a house together last year and Jane now divides her time between London and Manchester, where she rents a flat while filming.

"I met Rob when I was commuting first time round, so we are used to dashing up and down the motorway to see each other," she explains.

Any wedding bells in prospect? "I have tried hinting in interviews, so I think he knows how I feel," she says with a laugh. "Yes, it might be nice one day. Rob is my soulmate and I would certainly like a family - lots of kids."

J ANE first fell for Rob when she was 13 and he was in Brookside. She had posters of him on her wall and, when she finally met him at an awards ceremony, it was a dream come true.

"I went right up to him, interrupted his conversation and asked where the bar was. I think he thought I was mad because he was standing right next to it. I just blurted it out because I was so nervous. I'd got that zing you get when you first see someone you really like.

"Rob was gorgeous. We just clicked and talked all night. He filled the gap in my life."

Five years on and their relationship is just as good. "Rob is very supportive. He knows the pressures of being away from home," she says.

And he doesn't get jealous of Jane's screen romances - a good thing, considering her character's behaviour. "Yes, Leanne's a slapper - but she's a softie at heart," laughs Jane. "I have a lot of affection for her but I'm not like her. She's louder and tougher than me."

Needless to say, there are stormy times ahead for Leanne in Weatherfield, this time because of her romance with Jamie Baldwin. "Yes, there is at least one person who isn't happy with Leanne," says Jane with a wicked grin.

"Of course, nothing runs smoothly for her, so it will be interesting to watch the sparks fly. Leanne has been stirring up trouble but she is older and wiser now - and so am I."

But Jane never takes her character home with her.

"As soon as I leave the set, it's back to the real world for me.

"Life is good now," she adds. "I have a great job, I've got my health sorted out and I feel good.

"I just hope that things run as smoothly for Leanne."

Pizza the action for Leanne..

FORGET healthy fare, it's an old-fashioned food fight as tensions between Corrie girls Leanne and Frankie finally boil over...

The bust-up, to be screened on January 26, is one of the funniest in years and had both Jane and co-star Debra (Frankie Baldwin) Stevenson in stitches. First up, Leanne "accidentally" splatters Frankie (centre) with tomato sauce. She retaliates by shoving a pizza into Leanne's face. A wrestling match ensues as the menfolk desperately try to keep the pair apart.

"They're hilarious scenes which viewers will absolutely love," says a Corrie insider.

HOW TO COPE WITH PCOS

WHAT IT IS? Around one in 10 women have polycystic ovaries, when tiny cysts form.

For about half of these women, the condition can develop into Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, with symptoms such as weight-gain, excessive body hair, acne and fertility problems.

The biggest lifestyle contributor to PCOS is eating too much sugar and refined carbs, which cause an unhealthy rise in insulin levels. That encourages cells to store fat, resulting in weight-gain.

HOW TO AVOID IT: Eating foods to balance blood sugar and so avoid insulin surges results in weight-loss and a reduction in symptoms. Try following a Low Glycaemic Index diet. This means eating foods that raise blood-sugar levels very slowly and limiting those that cause a rush in blood sugar.

FOODS TO EAT: Fresh fruit and veg, meat, fish, pulses, wholegrain carbs such as brown or basmati rice, wholewheat pasta and granary bread, cheese, yoghurt and milk.

FOODS TO AVOID OR LIMIT: Refined carbs including white bread, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, rice cakes and potatoes (sweet ones are OK). Sweetened fruit juices and alcohol.

JANE'S DIET TRICKS

IF you're going somewhere you know it will be hard to find healthy food, take your own salad or sandwich with you.

.NEVER skip breakfast. Always start the day with cereal or toast no matter how busy you are, or you'll ending up over-eating later in the day.

SWITCH from white to wholegrain carbohydrates - including bread, rice and pasta.

IF you crave something sweet, munch a bit of fruit or chew some sugar-free gum.

FOR more information, contact www.verity-pcos.org.uk or write to the Grayston Centre, 28 Charles Square, London N1 6HT.

CAPTION(S):

FIT AGAIN: Jane Danson, who plays the Street's Leanne Battersby; SOULMATES: Jane with boyfriend Rob
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 17, 2005
Words:1586
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