Andrea McLean on her life after leaving 'Loose Women'

She lost her house, sold her car and gave herself untold stress during the pandemic when business ventures faltered – but former Loose Women star Andrea McLean has come out stronger.

Looking relaxed in her new home, McLean is reflecting on how, in the middle of the pandemic, she quit her job and six-figure salary on the popular ITV show following a breakdown to focus on her female personal growth business, This Girl Is On Fire (thisgirlisonfire.com), with her businessman husband Nick Feeney. They both became fully certified life coaches last year.

“It’s been a rollercoaster. I’d been thinking about it for a while, and for anyone who has stopped doing anything, whether a job or a relationship, it’s so weird when you say the words out loud,” says the Glasgow-born presenter, reflecting on her decision to leave Loose Women in late 2020 after 13 years.

Despite the hard times, McLean is now showing others how to tame their fears and create the changes they want – in her new self-help book, You Just Need To Believe It, in which she charts how you can unlock your courage and reclaim power in your life.

She shares her own personal journey, along with steps on how people can learn to believe in themselves and live the lives they want, with exercises including visualisation and journaling and guidance on sticking with habit changes and turning to friends.

Read: Five-minute micro habits to fit into your daily routine

Mother-of-two McLean has practised what she preaches, switching careers and now planning winters in sunnier climes with Mr Feeney. “Our second biggest market is America, so we are making plans to spend quite a few months of the year there. We’ve earmarked Miami,” she explains.

“I don’t want to spend any more winters in England. I’m 52 and we worked out we’ve got about 30 summers left. Do I want to spend them wishing I was somewhere else, or do I want to be somewhere else? Our ultimate goal is to move to Florida for winters and France for summers. We have booked it for next year.”

Andrea McLean with her husband, Nick Feeney (Ian West/PA)
Andrea McLean and husband Nick Feeney (Ian West/PA)

This ‘can do’ attitude and sense of taking control of her life is evident in the book. “People ask if I’d go back to TV, and yes, of course, if it really suited me, but my plans are different now. It’s about living in a way that suits me,” McLean reasons.

After leaving Loose Women, she worked 15-hour days on her business – but life wasn’t without its traumas. At one point, she says she was so stressed that her left eye kept twitching, her jaw hurt from clenching her teeth during what little sleep she was getting, and her skin was sore to the touch.

Read: Comedian Sue Perkins on stress and the power of kindness

Technical issues meant the launch of the This Girl Is On Fire app was months behind schedule and they needed more funds to move things forwards, while the publicity jobs she’d been counting on to give them a financial buffer dropped off because she was no longer on TV.

“The day we realised we had to put our home on the market was a dark one,” she recalls in the book. They moved from their house in Surrey the week before Christmas, and both had COVID at the time.

That period put a strain on her marriage, McLean admits.

“But what is so useful is that, because of everything I’ve been through in my bumpy life, I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t. My go-to is to go very quiet and not say anything, and I’ve realised through burning out that that’s a really stupid idea.

“I’m able now to say [to Mr Feeney], ‘We’re getting really tetchy and things are really stressed and it’s no-one’s fault, it’s just what we are going through and we need to address it’. Luckily I’m with someone who feels the same.”

They have relationship coaching with a counsellor through Zoom, which is a brilliant help, she says, as well as their own coping mechanisms.

“There are two human beings involved, there’s personality and ego. Clearly it’s not a Disney movie. But what we are able to do is sit down and talk about getting really prickly and maybe have a weekend doing our own thing.

“Our main problem is over-exposure, which is the same problem so many people had in lockdown, but a lot of people have gone back to work. We don’t do that. We work with each other. It’s finding ways where we can do our own thing,” she says. “He plays golf and goes to the gym. I’m not interested in golf. I like to pootle, but he finds pootling really irritating.”

Andrea McLean (Nicky Johnson/PA)
Andrea McLean has changed her life since Loose Women (Nicky Johnson/PA)

What keeps the marriage fresh?
“He really makes me smile. He’s a really good man. All he wants is for all of us to be happy and I love that so much about him. In your 50s, your dynamics change and what you want changes, and what you want is someone who’s pretty easy-going. We have fun together and we laugh a lot.

“It is hard when you are starting a business and you’re both entrepreneurs. The key to it all is getting some space and drawing lines in the sand. We also have times when we are not going to talk about work.”

Read: Ask a counsellor: ‘How can we get the spark back?’

They moved about one-and-a-half miles away from their old house, to free up equity to put into the business, but McLean says they haven’t really downsized.

“During the build-up to selling the house, I felt very sad because it was the house I bought when I got divorced [McLean has two previous marriages]. It was mine and it was where I’d raised my kids. The hardest thing to leave was my garden. Gardening is my happy place. I feel very happy when I’m pruning and weeding. Everyone leaves me alone because no one wants to help.

“But then I thought, there’s a lovely family moving in, they are going to enjoy the fruits of my labour. What’s lovely is that I can breathe out a little bit now.”

She says she doesn’t regret leaving Loose Women.

“Even though it seems really hard and challenging, I genuinely love what I do. When I left Loose Women, I drove away that day in the car and it was such a weird feeling, because it was all I’d ever known. From the age of 27, I’d worked for ITV. I had this box of belongings on my back seat – a cake, some presents and a card – and I looked at it and thought, ‘That’s all I have to show for all that time’.

“I felt at peace with it because I was starting a new chapter – and I’ve felt like that ever since.”

She says her breakdown before that was burnout from taking on too much work, but that she might be lured back to TV if it fitted in with her life coaching career.

“I’d love to help people overcome their fears, but not in a quick way. I’d rather work on something that takes a little time,” says McLean. “It’s never about the quick-fix.”

– With PA

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

LOADING MORE ARTICLE...