Kirsty Gallacher reveals lockdown cured her divorce heartbreak — and helped her look amazing at 44

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Kirsty Gallacher has had more than her share of turbulent times recently. After her divorce from rugby star Paul Sampson, the beautiful TV presenter found herself crippled with stress and in need of a new balance between work and family life.

Eventually she made the difficult decision to leave Sky Sports after two decades.

2020 looked like the start of a more peaceful era, as Kirsty settled into her “dream house” in the Berkshire countryside with her sons Jude and Oscar.

But more upheaval was just around the corner. Kirsty was still unpacking boxes when the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK, turning her life upside down in the process.

“I was really unwell just as we were going into lockdown,” she says, recounting the panic of being struck with Covid-19. “I was wiped out for a good month. I wasn’t hospitalised but it was a very hard time. I had trouble breathing and found myself getting very anxious.”

Kirsty’s sons went to live with their father while she recovered, and initially she feared for her mental health. “Coronavirus is such a lonely illness when you’re self-isolating and having to stay apart from your children,” she says.

Then, to her surprise, Kirsty discovered an inner resilience as she grew physically stronger. “I feel because of this enforced lockdown I’ve been forced to deal with being on my own,” she reveals. “I’ve had to deal with that anxiety and loneliness and I feel like maybe, touch wood, I’ve cracked that one, which is rather wonderful. It’s taken years.”

“I’ve spoken to so many people who hate being on their own after getting divorced and that’s why you would jump into another relationship – because you are trying to make things all right. And that isn’t. Because you need to be all right on your own.”

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Today, that’s a point Kirsty feels she’s finally reached. “Lockdown has been a really big reset button,” she says. “I’ve found ways and means to deal with being by myself, like going for a really long walk, reading or just enjoying the new house.

“That was one of the reasons I moved – for a fresh start. I live where I want to live now, in the countryside, and I feel more liberated. I can breathe a bit more.”

Kirsty feels “very lucky” to be coming out of this time feeling stronger mentally. “It’s been so sad for so many, so I want to be careful what I say, but I’m so grateful I have been able to take some positives from lockdown,” she says.

“I’ve probably become even closer to my friends, which has been amazing. People like Gabby Logan, who’s my best friend, Natalie Pinkham and Sarah-Jane Mee – we’re all very tight. We’ve all been connecting tons of times a week, checking up on each other. These things have helped me, for sure.”

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Having such a tight female friendship group dispels a misconception Kirsty regularly hears about herself.

“There’s this preconceived judgment that I’m a man’s girl. I’m not. I’m a real woman’s woman. The idea that I’m icy and hard has really bugged me over the years,” she says.

“Just because I present football shows, people would say, ‘She only likes men and only talks to men.’ What a load of rubbish.”

In reality, any idea that Kirsty is an ice maiden melts away within seconds of starting to talk to her. She’s charming, smart and open and chats warmly about her girlie side.

“I’m desperate to put some make-up on again,” she laughs, recounting the experience of doing her own face for a recent TV appearance and discovering she’d forgotten how to. “I thought I’d better put some foundation on and I made a meal of it!”

Kirsty candidly admits to finding the idea of ageing “petrifying” but is wary of fighting it too hard. “I’m not saying never to surgery, Botox or whatever, but I’m not ready for it yet,” she says.

“Personally, I get really sad when I see so many youngsters having lip plumpers and things. If I could give any advice as a 44 year old to youngsters, it would be to leave yourself alone for as long as you can.”

She sighs good-naturedly over the tired truth that women are criticised both for choosing to age naturally and for trying to hold back time.

‘‘It’s a no-win situation, isn’t it?” she says. “I think that’s where we have to be strong as women. I personally respect women like Kristin Scott Thomas, who look natural and amazing. A woman with lots of plastic surgery does nothing for me.”

It goes without saying that Kirsty herself is doing an impressive job of defying time, even without any nips, tucks or needles.

Cheekbones like hers were always going to give her a natural head start, but she’s happy to admit to having had some professional help, too, in the form of A-list tweakment Ultherapy.

“It uses ultrasound energy to boost collagen production,” she explains. “It’s brilliant because it’s your skin working for itself. You only really need one treatment and then over weeks and months you see a change.”

“It lifts and sculpts and improves smoothness. I had it just over a year ago and my skin quality has been 100 per cent better.”

Kirsty’s been singing Ultherapy’s praises to her inner circle, who are understandably eager to try a bit of what she’s having.

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“Gabby came for a socially distanced coffee in the garden and she’s going to do it,” Kirsty says. “It takes about an hour and there’s no downtime. It’s not painless, but it’s bearable, and you don’t have to hide away afterwards.”

“It’s not like injections where you might have bruising. It’s something you can just do, then go live your life and see the wonderful results over time. My skin just feels great and rejuvenated.”

The rest of her skin regime is very simple, she says, but it works for her. Eschewing aggressive ingredients such as retinols and acids, she opts for gentle, natural British brand Ark Skincare.

“I adore it. No parabens, no rubbish and it’s really working for me,” she says. “There’s a Radiance Serum, £45 here, that gives my skin a lovely glow then I’ll put on the Age Defend moisturiser, £35 here and an amazing eye cream (Reverse Gravity, £48 here) which goes on with a freezing cold roller.”

She also credits her wrinkle-free appearance to a good diet, sleep, exercise and drinking lots of water. “I lead a very healthy life. I’m a really early to bed person. I actually go to bed at the same time as the kids.”

Perhaps more than anything, however, her radiant appearance is a reflection of her current inner happiness.

“I was so grief- stricken after the divorce, I didn’t really want to eat a lot,” she admits. “I was skinny as a rake and I looked older then than I do now. I had more lines and was gaunt. I look and feel much better now. I much prefer having a bit of a bum, a bit more muscle.”

That enviable sculpted physique isn’t the only benefit of her workout regime, either. “Exercise is very important to me, I think it’s vital for mind and body,” says Kirsty, who trains three times a week now she’s fully recovered from coronavirus.

“As soon as I felt ready I got back to it. My trainer and I have been doing lots of FaceTime sessions. I work out three times a week and I love my Wattbike, I’ve got the bug.”

Still, even superwomen aren’t infallible. “Do I ever feel like slacking off? Oh God, yes,” she laughs.

Kirsty says she’s grown in confidence in her 40s and now trusts her "gut feelings", reflected in her decision to step away from Sky Sports.

“I wanted more of a challenge, so I went freelance, which I really love,” she says, revealing she was life-coached in this direction by her brother-in-law, comedian Russell Brand. (Russell is married to Kirsty’s sister Laura.)

“He said, ‘It’s time for passion projects’ and he was so right,” she says. “I’m so excited about what’s happening. I’ve got a podcast coming out and, hopefully, the TV and radio projects I was talking about earlier in the year. Being able to pick and choose a little bit more feels liberating.”

Presumably it must help with work-life balance, too? “Yes, fully,” she says. “I’m a very hands-on mother, there’s nobody else to rely on at home — no husband, no partner.”

“I don’t want to just bring nannies in. Work is very important but my children come first, and they are definitely happier as a result.”

The same could certainly be said of Kirsty, too.

Kirsty Gallacher is an ambassador for Ultherapy UK & Ireland. Visit ultherapy.com for more information. Treatments start from £500.

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