‘People forget how gigantic I was!’ Emmerdale star Lisa Riley opens up about her previous weight problems and finding love

Not many actors would jump up mid-interview and invite you to feel their taut thighs, but then again, there really aren’t many actors like Lisa Riley.

Frank, funny and fabulously loud, Lisa has been keeping the nation’s viewers entertained for years with her hilarious portrayal of Emmerdale’s larger-than-life Mandy Dingle. Like her character, Lisa, 43, lives life at 100mph. Who can forget her moves on Strictly?

But Lisa has endured some tough times as well as happier ones.

After struggling with grief following the death of her mum, Cath, in 2012, she met fiancé Al and went on to quit booze and junk food, which helped her to shed a whopping 12st.

Now, the actor tells us why she’ll ‘never be size 28 Lisa again’, how she’s become a woman of ‘small needs’ and even after becoming engaged, why motherhood will never happen…

Hi, Lisa! You first announced your engagement in 2018. How do you know you’ve found Mr Right?

My fiancé Al is the only man alive who’s ever said no to me! I lost my beloved mother who was my rock and the only other person who would say no to me. People might say it’s mumbo jumbo, but somewhere up there she had a little bit of a hand in me meeting him. I honestly think that, because I wasn’t looking. Al’s just a great person. If I swept the streets or was a plumber or window cleaner, I think Al would love me just for me. He’s not remotely interested that I’m on telly.

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You play a mum on screen, would you still like children yourself?

That ship has sailed and I wouldn’t consider adoption or surrogacy. It’s not me and Al’s not getting any younger, he’s going to be 50 in November, but we couldn’t be happier. I feel so blessed. My family – my nephews and niece – are my world. They FaceTime me every day.

Why is Mandy keeping Vinny away from his natural father?

Mandy feels that wherever Vinny’s dad Paul goes, trouble is never far behind. There are some issues with money and gambling. He hasn’t been on the scene since Vinny was four. Mandy has raised Vinny as her own, even though she’s not his birth mother. She would kill for Vinny and she wouldn’t let anyone hurt him.

What eventually made you decide to lose weight? Did you suddenly set your mind to it?

I started thinking about my health. Still, to this day, I’m fanatical about it. Everyone at work knows that for lunch I eat either a bowl of soup or a plain jacket potato. I know that’s a bit anal, but that’s how I live my life now. With the skin removal I lost 12st 1lb – the surgeon chopped off 1st 4lb in skin. Since then my weight has more or less stayed the same.

Why did you quit drinking, did it affect your eating?

Drinking was eating. [I couldn’t have a drink without having something to eat.] If I went out for the evening with a few of my girlfriends for an Italian meal and the red wine was flowing, out of the nine girls in our party of friends, I would have been the only one in the whole group having a starter as well as a pudding.

How do you resist the temptation of crisps and chocolate?

You find the person that you are and that you’ll be forever. I’m never going to be Lisa Riley size 28 ever again, because that’s not who I am. I think people forget how gigantic I was. I look at pictures of me back then and think, ‘Who’s that’s girl?’ She doesn’t exist anymore.

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Have you changed much from your party days?

I’m a woman of small needs now. Steve Halliwell, who plays Zak Dingle, saved my life. He chopped up my Mastercard when I was just 19. I don’t need a designer handbag to make me happy.

Are you and Mandy Dingle anything alike in real life?

Mandy’s not as positive as I am. Someone said the other day that I’ve positivity coming out of every pore, and I do. I don’t do negativity or fake.

Jack White
Celebrity Content Director

Jack White is Celebrity Content Director at Future, working across Women's Lifestyle brands such as Woman&Home, Woman, Woman's Own, Women's Weekly and GoodtoKnow. When he's not interviewing your favourite stars or writing about the latest make-up/break up, you'll find Jack searching for new Gemma Collins memes, singing (badly) in the office or binge-watching crime dramas.