It’s almost a year to the day since the photo was taken of a size 18 former steps star Claire Richards in her purple bikini. It’s taken determination, sweat and tears to get to where she is today – a staggering 5st lighter than she was last year.

On today’s shoot Claire, who’s 5ft 6, weighs just 10st 4lbs with a size 10 top and size 12 bottom. It’s the slimmest she’s been since revealing the results of her exercise regime following the birth of her son Charlie, three.

And Claire is clearly loving her new toned figure. “I feel like a yummy mummy! I can’t wait to buy a new wardrobe and slip into a few sexy little party dresses,” she says.

After giving birth to daughter Daisy, now 15 months, she felt strongly that she wouldn’t be pressured into losing her baby weight quickly.

We photographed her when Daisy was three months old and Claire was a size 18.

“I weigh 15st, I’m breastfeeding and I’m going to take my time to lose weight,” she told Closer.

True to her word, 12 months on, the former Steps star is happy to slip into a swimming costume to show off her new toned curves.

So, how’s the remarkable transformation occurred? “Sheer bloody-mindedness and lots of hard work,” laughs Claire. “It’s been a tough slog, but I’m delighted with my sexy curves.”

In October last year it looked like Claire had fallen off the diet wagon when she was snapped tucking into a fatty Yum Yum pastry.

“Those photos were mortifying,” she blushes. “My stomach looked enormous! It was a wake-up call. I’d been trying to eat well, and had lost around a stone, but I was still eating rubbish.

“It’s exhausting looking after two young children and I’d often reach for the biscuit tin, just for an energy boost.” Spurred on by those unflattering pics, Claire vowed to finally get to grips with her overeating.

“I’d stopped breastfeeding Daisy at three months, so it was easier to count calories.

“Then Closer stepped in and we devised a low-fat eating plan that was easy to stick to. “I stopped finishing off the kids’ leftovers and shrank my portions,” says Claire. “I’d cook low-fat versions of things like spag Bol and cut out all treats apart from the odd two-finger KitKat. I was eating around 1,500 cals a day.

“When we go out now, I just drink one small glass of wine instead of the three or four cocktails I used to have. Closer also provided a brilliant trainer called Liam Lonergan who’s done wonders – especially for my upper body.”

Since having kids, Claire says her body has changed dramatically: “My tummy has stretch marks and I still wear Spanx – plus my boobs will never be the same again! I’d still like to slim down a bit, but that will come with time.

“The best thing is I’ve got stacks more energy now. I used to feel totally knackered after a morning with the kids.” Claire has had a long and chequered dieting history. She says: “I joined Steps when I was 19 and was always on a diet – the pressure to stay slim was huge. I was always seen as ‘the fat one.’”After the band broke up, and she had baby son Charlie, the singer piled on 6st over five years.

A proposal from electrician boyfriend Reece Hill proved an incentive for her to slim and, thanks to a hardcore training regime, she got down to a size 10 for their 2008 wedding.

“When I lost the weight, I swore I’d never go back, but it’s hard to eat healthily all the time,” says Claire, who shared the secrets of her success in her fitness DVD.

But Claire believes exercise has made the biggest difference over the past year, adding: “I still do my DVD at home three times a week, because it works for me. I’ve also started kickboxing, which helps me tone up.

“I started running too – for about 40 minutes on the treadmill. It’s the best calorie burner!

“I have no childcare and it’s a constant juggle to find ways to train. But I do have a career in the public eye. I have to look good – and I think the industry is getting ever tougher on women.”

What about the rumours of a Steps reunion?

“I’d love my kids to see me performing, so we’ll see what the future holds,” Claire laughs.

“Losing weight has made me more confident. I was feeling like a slummy mummy – now I’m slipping into my yummy mummy clothes!

“Reece doesn’t mind what size I am but it does annoy him when I don’t feel happy. I think I’ll always be insecure. But I’m working on it.

“One good thing to come out of this is that I don’t think I’ve eaten a Yum Yum since I saw those photos. And I don’t think I ever will!”