Great Britain

My 20s were full of terrible mistakes like my jailbird ex but I’m older and wiser now, says Ferne McCann

SHE was the Essex girl who loved late nights, boozy parties and takeaways.

But when Towie star Ferne McCann’s life took a terrible turn in her late twenties it was fitness and clean living that got her through.

She met her scaffolder ex on social media in 2016 and they had been dating for seven months when she found out she was pregnant with their daughter Sunday.

But Ferne’s joy was shortlived as three months later, in April 2017, her ex, then 25, was arrested and charged for throwing acid on a crowded dance floor in an East London nightclub.

Two weeks after Sunday was born on November 2, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Ferne, who turns 30 on Thursday, says: “Everything you think an ideal pregnancy would be, was robbed from me.”

Her dreams of being a family were ripped apart overnight and Ferne says she had to be strong and develop a “new armour” in the months after her ex-boyfriend’s arrest.

While friends and family rallied around her, Ferne also credits healthy eating and exercise for helping her to survive the toughest year of her life.

She adds: “Keeping healthy absolutely needed to happen or I wouldn’t have got through.

“I made some silly decisions in my twenties that I beat myself up about, but now I’ve realised that that is what your twenties are for.

“We all make mistakes early and we learn from them.

“I was giving a lot of time and effort to people that were not giving it back to me and I’ve stopped doing that now.

“Now I know myself, I know what I want and, more importantly, I know what I don’t want.”

In an exclusive chat with The Sun, Ferne tells how she moved her mum into her Essex home at the start of lockdown, that romance is on the back-burner and how she transformed her body.

Ferne, who found fame after appearing on The Only Way Is Essex for three years from 2013, says: “My mum moved in with me on the first day [of lockdown] as I’m not very good at being on my own.

“I’m a single mum and I usually make sure I’m busy with work and always have people at the house.

“Then the novelty wore off and two weeks in I was like, ‘OK this is rubbish’.

“I didn’t want to craft any more and I missed my friends, but then I had a word with myself.

'LONGING FOR A BOYFRIEND'

“I chilled out, slowed down and spent quality time with Sunday, and it’s been amazing. Of course, relationships have been tested.

“My friends have all been saying how much their relationships with their partners have been tested, then there’s me saying my relationship with my two-year-old toddler has been tested.

“I love her to bits but the terrible twos in lockdown is a challenge. I was one of those mums going, ‘Yessss!’, when the nurseries reopened.

“At the start I did have a bit of a longing for a boyfriend.

“I actually had a short-lived boyfriend who I dated from the end of 2019 to the start of lockdown.

“He was in New York and I was here, and I made the decision to split.

“Even though it would have been nice to have someone I fancy to chat to in lockdown, it was time for it to end.

“I was a bit jealous of friends who had someone to cuddle up to, but that soon changed.

“When I heard about all the lockdown arguments and break-ups I was more than glad to be spending it without a man.

“I tried a bit of online dating at the start but it was so boring as no one had anything to say. We were all locked in with nothing going on.

“I like meeting people face to face so Zoom dating was never going to be my thing.”

With a return to “normal” life some way off, Ferne admits turning 30 has been weighing on her mind.

She says: “About six months ago I was like, ‘I’m going to welcome 30 with open arms’.

“But now it’s here I’m thinking, ‘Oh my god I’m 30, I’m a fully-grown woman’.

“On dating apps I always reject 30-year-old men because I think they look too adult for me, then I realise that’s me. I feel like I’m still 25.

“My mum still does my washing for me every week. She comes round and picks it all up. I don’t care admitting it.

“She also cooks my favourite peanut butter bars and brings those round too.

“I hate it when people say ‘act your age’ because isn’t it better to still feel young?

“On the flip side, I’ve changed a lot in the past year. I spent a lot of my twenties pleasing people.”

It is clear the past few years have been an awakening for the former hairdresser.

Since coming third on I’m A Celeb in 2015 and leaving Towie, Ferne has appeared on E4’s Celebs Go Dating and starred in her own ITVBe reality series, Ferne McCann: First Time Mum.

She has also overhauled her diet and fitness regime, drastically changing her body.

She says: “When I was 26 I was out every weekend.

“I’d order a takeaway on the way home then wake up hungover and order a Domino’s pizza.

“I used to work out, but I never felt good.

“I said to my personal trainer, ‘I’m not seeing any changes’.

“That’s when he asked about my diet and I realised it was the problem.

“I decided to clean up my eating and that’s when I started enjoying exercise for the first time.

“I felt strong and happy — and then I fell pregnant and everything changed.

“Someone said, ‘You wouldn’t dream of running a marathon without training for it’ and that really stuck.

‘PROUD OF WHAT MY BODY WENT THROUGH’

“I needed to stay fit for labour, and although I had to adapt my exercises massively, I made sure I kept it up and it got me through.”

After her six-week post-natal check-up, Ferne got stuck into her fitness regime, despite criticism from social media users.

She says: “I couldn’t wait to get back to the gym as I knew how great it made me feel.

“People said I shouldn’t have rushed to get back into shape but it’s my right to want to feel good. I was so proud of what my body had been through.

“It had grown a human and I had a whole new-found respect for it. I loved my pregnant belly but I did struggle at first with what I looked like those few weeks after birth.

“So when I exercised and felt myself again I wanted to celebrate that on Instagram, and I don’t think women should be made to feel bad about that.

“When I don’t exercise I don’t feel good, and when I do exercise I feel good. It’s as simple as that.

“I love a lazy day. I love pizza and a bottle of prosecco, but I also love cooking a healthy salad and working out.”

Ferne has previously told how she has considered getting a breast op after being left with “spaniel’s ears” from breastfeeding Sunday.

She says: “I breastfed Sunday for six months, which was a lot, but I loved it.

“I never get broody when I see babies, but when I think of breastfeeding I get this immediate gush of emotions and I think how nice it is when you have that time with your baby.

“Then I also remember how much my boobs changed from pregnancy, during breastfeeding and immediately after.”

'I'M ADDICTED TO SUGAR'

Sunday now eats dinner with Ferne, who is keen for her daughter to have a healthy attitude to food.

She says: “I’m addicted to sugar and that comes from childhood as I always had sugar after I had a meal.

“I find myself rooting through the cupboards looking for old Christmas chocolates.

“But I was determined Sunday wouldn’t have that and I’ve made sure she eats lots of different healthy foods.”

Ferne is looking and feeling the best she ever has and wants to help other women overhaul their health.

On Thursday she launches Embodyment, her new online platform, providing home workouts, nutritious recipes and lifestyle advice.

Inside Sam Faiers, sister Billie and Ferne McCann's woodland-themed 30th birthday party for a pal

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