Facing new pressures to step away from her TV career, Fern's got a lot of thinking to do

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Fern Britton was snapped looking far from festive on a recent Christmas shopping trip – the strain of a tough year was etched on her face.

The 51-year-old was plunged into crisis in June after a backlash against her gastric band revelation and suffered further strain at home when her teenage son was mugged.

Fern has taken 3 weeks off work but says she’ll return to the This Morning sofa after Christmas. The shock decision has left many wondering what’s next for the presenter.

ITV told Now: ‘Because of her hectic schedule, it was agreed between Fern, the show and ITV that she took time off in the lead-up to Christmas. We’re looking forward to welcoming her back in the New Year.’

When Fern appeared on The Paul O’Grady Show on 27 November, she remained defiant about her decision to stay mum over her gastric band.

‘The law is that you keep medical stuff to yourself – and it was for medical reasons,’ she said. She told the audience: ‘I’m taking three weeks off and it’s the first time… I can be a wife to Phil, Mum to the kids.’

Sources close to Fern say that her husband, TV chef Phil Vickery, 47, wants Fern to be kind to herself.

‘He’s fed up with seeing her suffer,’ says a friend, ‘and has told her to think long and hard before going back to work.’

See the latest photos of Fern Briton and the full story in Now magazine dated 22 December – out now!