IN her own words, Mikyla Dodd became famous for being "the fat girl from Hollyoaks".
Born and bred in Blackburn, she struggled to come to terms with a lonely childhood and a difficult relationship with her father.
An abortion at 12 and both cocaine and alcohol abuse followed.
Each time she suffered an emotional trauma, she resorted to comfort eating which sent her up a dress size.
But now Mikyla has turned her life around.
She has released an autobiography, Playing the Fat Girl, and is in the process of training for a weight loss DVD due to be released on Boxing Day.
The actress spoke to us about her tough upbringing and how she finally ditched her demons and shed the excess weight.
MIKYLA Dodd broke the mould when she joined Hollyoaks as the first plus-size cast member to appear in a show famed for its plethora of stunning size eight actresses.
But behind her wise-cracking, self-confident imagine, Blackburn-born Mikyla was vulnerable and insecure about her overweight physique. At her biggest she was 24 stone and wearing size 28 clothes.
Now, at 30, Mikyla has turned her life around. She has lost eight stone and is just one stone away from her goal weight.
She has written an autobiography, telling of her upbringing in Billinge Avenue, Blackburn, and is working towards a fitness DVD for the post-Christmas market.
“The reason I wrote the autobiography was that I'm a person who has a weight issue that people seem to identify with," said Mikyla, who now lives in London.
“I think my story is one of success where I have battled my demons and come out the other side. It was also to make people who don't struggle with their weight understand that obesity is an
addiction, just like alcohol or cigarettes.
“Writing it was cathartic. It threw up a lot of things I'd buried deep down that, looking back, probably made me overeat."
One such struggle Mikyla faced in childhood was the often difficult relationship with her father.
In the book she writes: "I was a baby who was desperately wanted by my mum but not so much by my dad. By the time I emerged from the womb I had already committed two big blunders — I was a girl and
I had a fine dusting of ginger on my scalp."
She also tells of a time her father gave all her toys to a charity shop as punishment for complaining she was bored and countless times he humiliated her in front of others, calling her a "human
waste disposal unit".
But surprisingly Mikyla insists her father was not upset or offended when he read the book.
“I didn't have a halo myself," she said. "I was a little devil at times. Before the book came out I gave it my mum and said 'Make sure I'm not being unfair to him and that I remembered things how
they were'. She came back to me on a few things which I took out, but she thought I was quite noble at other times too.
“When the book came out my dad read it and he was happy. He said 'As long as she doesn't tell lies and it's not a witch hunt then there's not a lot I can say. I haven't been the best parent.' My
brother was quite upset when he read it though."
An obese teenager, Mikyla sought love where she could and had an abortion at the age of 12 after falling pregnant by her first boyfriend, an older Asian boy named Kal whom she met at Billinge High
School. Their relationship was forbidden by both sets of parents.
But the decision to get rid of the baby is not something Mikyla regrets.
“I would do the same thing 100 times over,” she said. “I feel bad saying that and if I could go back I obviously wouldn't get pregnant but it was the right decision. I wasn't ready to be a parent.
“I bumped into Kal about five years ago. I was in Hollyoaks at the time and I was driving through Blackburn in my BMW. It was when I first lost some weight and I was feeling quite happy with
myself. I saw him and was like 'Oh, hi!' To be fair, he did say 'You look fantastic and you've achieved everything you said you would'.”
But, although Mikyla was starting to face her demons, not all was as it seemed under the surface and during her 20s she drank heavily and used cocaine to fight her loneliness.
But after a sexual attack by a friend of a friend, she was adamant not to allow drugs and alcohol to leave her so exposed ever again and developed a no-gimmick approach to her health, which is what
inspired her to make the fitness DVD.
“I hope my success story will inspire others to put aside fad dieting and overhaul their lives," she said.
“This DVD is something they can do at home and it's all about gentle encouragement, not being insulted.
“Losing weight has changed my life. I've gone from having to shop in the plus-size section at the back of the shop to being able to buy clothes from the front of the shop, which I've never been
able to do before.
“But I'm never going to stop loving food and sometimes I'm still going to go out with my friends drinking and dancing to remind myself what I love about life and why I want to be a better healthier
l Playing the Fat Girl, published by Hodder & Stoughton, is out now in paperback priced £7.99. Her fitness DVD is due out on Boxing Day.