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Shape Up: I'd like my bottom to be perkier; SHE'S GONE FROM CHUBBY S-CLUBBER TO SVELTE SOLO POP STAR, BUT RACHEL STEVENS STILL HAS TO WATCH HER WEIGHT.

WHEN global singing sensation S Club decided to call it a day, it was a wake-up call for Rachel Stevens in more ways than one.

Determined to prove she could cut it as a solo singer, she started to shed her girl-next-door image.

Gone was the cute but chubby S-Clubber and in her place was a sleek sex kitten set to rival Kylie for her Pop Queen crown.

And Rachel, who is a petite 5ft 21/2ins, claims her dramatic transformation is all down to snacking on cold baked beans.

"Because I'm so small I do have to watch what I eat and my weight does fluctuate quite a bit," says Rachel, 26.

"I'd never say I was really fat but I do have areas where I put on weight, like my thighs - and I do get love handles."

"I don't agree with depriving myself but I can't go mad. I have crackers and I love eating cold beans out of the tin. There's no fat in them and they give you that protein fix."

Rachel blames her hectic lifestyle while in S Club for her weight gain.

The band enjoyed mega success, had 10 top five singles and racked up worldwide album sales of 13 million. But the constant touring and studio work wreaked havoc on her figure.

"It's hard because we're always on the go," Rachel said at the time. "It's rare that we sit down and eat a proper, healthy home-cooked meal. Instead, I end up eating rubbish."

After the band split up in May 2003, pop svengali Simon Fuller signed Rachel to a four-album solo deal worth pounds 1million. Determined to be a success without the others, she unveiled a sexy, slim new look.

It paid off. Apart from her hit singles Sweet Dreams (My LA Ex) and Some Girls, Rachel landed a reported pounds 100,000 deal as the first celebrity face of Pretty Polly lingerie.

She still occasionally indulges her sweet tooth - "I love my chocolate and my cheesecake" - but keeps in shape by watching what she eats rather than by following strict diets.

She has tried the high protein, low-carbohydrate Atkins diet, but soon got bored of eating little but chicken and fish.

"I only lasted a week," she laughs. "I love my carbs too much. Crisps are my downfall and don't get me started on Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I don't agree with Atkins. You need a bit of everything. I need potatoes."

She sticks to cereal for breakfast then has a lunch of quiche and salad. If she feels like it, in the evening she'll have the odd Chinese, Indian or Thai takeaway. "One where you can have a little bit of everything because my eyes are often too big for my belly," she says.

If she does overdo the takeaways, Rachel works it off on the running machine.

"I try to go to the gym a couple of times a week and I like swimming, too," she says. "I have to force myself to go but once I do, I feel fantastic."

She took part in a mile-long charity run for Sport Relief over the summer and uses an exercise ball to do sit-ups while watching EastEnders. Yet she's still self-conscious about her body.

"I've got lumps and bumps I'd rather hide," she says. "I'd like my bottom to be perkier - it's quite squidgy."

Not many would agree. The posters advertising her Funky Dory album had the type of traffic-stopping impact not seen since the Hello Boys Wonderbra campaign.

And since splitting from Holby City's Jeremy Edwards, Rachel has not been short of male attention.

In June she had several dinner dates with businessman Gavin Dein, 27. Then a few weeks later she was seen in Marbella with her old pal Mark Silver, 31.

When asked who she was dating, Rachel said she'd been seeing Gavin, but added: "It's early days yet.

"I'm playing the dating game. I've been on a few dates and it's really exciting."

HOW RACHEL DID IT

MUNCH ON LOW-FAT FOODS Instead of grabbing a chocolate bar, go for a low-fat snack like crackers - or cold beans!

GET AN INCENTIVE Rachel did a mile-long run for Sport Relief. See what charity runs are taking place in your area and sign up for one. You'll get fit and earn money for a good cause.

MAKE A CHANGE Is your lifestyle making you put on weight? If you're stressed and eating too much high-fat, high salt foods, try to choose healthier options like fruit and nuts.

TREAT YOURSELF If you feel like eating a takeaway, have one. Just burn off the calories the next day.

CAPTION(S):

GIRL NEXT DOOR: Rachel in S Club
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 5, 2004
Words:785
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