In 2008, Fern Britton fronted a Ryvita Bikini Fit campaign after losing an astonishing five stone, which everyone believed was down to healthy eating and a gruelling exercise regime.
However, it soon transpired that the ex-This Morning presenter’s significant weight loss had been aided by a secret gastric band she had fitted two years earlier.
Despite the huge fallout and furious public backlash, Fern, 61, remains resolute over the headline-grabbing incident, insisting she never actually ‘lied’ about having the gastric band fitted all those years ago.
Twisting the truth
After her gastric band was fitted in 2006, Fern went from a size 22 to a size 12. At the time, the star was pocketing an estimated £200,000 as the face of Ryvita.
When she was asked about the secret of her jaw-dropping weight loss at the time, Fern didn’t make any mention of having had the surgical procedure, instead saying it was down to ‘lots of hard work’.
Fans of the relatable and much-loved host were understandably left feeling ‘cheated’ when it emerged she’d had some help to shed the pounds.
A year on from the debacle and with her popularity declining, Fern stepped down from hosting duties on This Morning with ITV bosses admitting they ‘weren’t aware’ of her secret surgery either. Fern later said that she had never been ‘motivated by money’ or ‘by ambition’.
Despite the wave of negative headlines, Fern praised her gastric band and how it had helped change her shape.
‘For me it’s worked,’ she said. ‘I’ve got good cholesterol now. I’m incredibly fit. I’m the same size I was at 24. I can do the splits – I’ve always been very bendy.’
But 11 years on, the TV star – who has been diagnosed with arthritis, which she describes as ‘the biggest challenge’ in her life – has reflected on body image, claiming that too much emphasis is put on the way women look.
‘I hate that people care so much about what size and shape of women’s bodies,’ said Fern. ‘I’m not perfect – my boobs and knees are going south – but am I bothered? Not really.’
And, with Fern currently appearing in the UK tour of Gary Barlow’s uplifting hit musical Calendar Girls, it seems she’s finally accepted her body.
But Fern – who is married to Phil Vickery – insists she wasn’t asked to share exactly how she managed to lose the weight.
‘I hadn’t lied,’ she said. ‘It’s something I did for myself, and I naively thought I’m entitled to privacy, but clearly I’m not.’
Fern said she had been exercising but nothing was working, so when her GP said she was a good candidate for the band, she agreed to the surgery.
‘I wasn’t unhappy the way I was. I was unhealthy,’ she explained. ‘I’d been recovering from having children, a divorce… all those emotional things.’
Fern said she only ever told five people about the procedure.
‘The Ryvita thing was not to do with losing weight, and I had the gastric band for health reasons,’ she insisted.
‘My cholesterol was high. My knee joints were starting to hurt. I couldn’t run. I was approaching 50 and I thought: “Do you know what? I’m going to be different when I’m 50.” I didn’t feel the need to let everyone know. I didn’t expect such enormous interest in body image.’