The singer, who joined the band after they formed on The X Factor in 2011, announced she had quit the band in December 2020.
In a brand new interview, Nelson has clarified that she came to her decision due to the pressures of being in a girl group and the effect it was having on her mental health.
The singer said it was returning to work after lockdown to film the music video for “Sweet Melody” that she realised she had to take action. After arriving on set, Nelson had a panic attack.
“I immediately became a different person,” she told Cosmopolitan. “I had anxiety. Whenever we had a music video, I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to try and lose weight.”
She called the moment “breaking point”, adding: “I’d been in lockdown, and I’d put on a bit of weight but I didn’t care. And they said, ‘You’ve got a music video in a couple of weeks’ and I just panicked. I went on this extreme diet, with bloody shakes, and tried to eat as little as possible. On the day of the “Sweet Melody” video I had a panic attack on set because I didn’t look how I wanted to look and I found it so hard to just be happy and enjoy myself.”
Nelson, who said she “can’t believe how miserable [she] was”, explained that, after “sobbing in the dressing room”, she was told by “someone really close to me said, ‘this has got to stop’.”
The singer added: “For so long I worried about other people and letting people down. The only person I should have been trying to make happy was myself and I wasn’t doing that. I needed to do it for my mental health.”
Nelson, who is back in the studio recording solo material, added: "I feel like there have been a few people who don't understand why I left Little Mix, but am now in the studio making music.
“I never said when I put out my statement that I was coming out of the band to never be in the public eye or perform again, or do music. I was coming out of the band because I genuinely couldn't deal with the pressure of being in a girl band."
She said she feels “free” having left the band, and that the toughest part was constantly “being compared” to band mates Jade Thirlwall, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Perrie Edwards.