WHEN Fran Parman returned to TOWI, after a three year absence, she was brimming with excitement.
But within hours, her happiness turned to horror – as vile trolls posted online abuse about her weight, calling her “fat”, a “prize sow” and a “hot mess”, and criticising the tight, white mini-dress she wore on set.
Now, in an exclusive interview with Sun Online, the 29-year-old reality star reveals she put on 3st in three months during lockdown, while looking after her 91-year-old grandad.
And she hits out at “bitter” trolls who post cruel comments on social media without considering the mental damage they inflict.
Of the abuse she received, she says: “I was shocked. I thought people were starting to realise there’s no need to be nasty. You don’t gain anything from being a mean person.
“I have put on weight during lockdown and I am doing something about it.
“But reading that abuse was awful. I am thick-skinned so I can take it but if it was another young girl being trolled this way, God knows what she would do.”
Fran, who has gone from 9st to 12st since lockdown started, is determined to defy her trolls by losing the extra weight – and it won’t be the first time.
After leaving the reality show, in 2017, she piled on the pounds as she dealt with the heartbreak of splitting with co-star James ‘Diags’ Bennewith, her boyfriend of three years.
But in 2018 she dropped 3.5st with intermittent fasting and regular workouts.
But when the Coronavirus hit, in March, she gave up her rented flat in Essex and moved in with 91-year-old grandad Frank, who recently lost his wife of 60 years.
“Because of the lockdown, and the loss of his wife, he was suffering from depression,” she says. “He’s a very, very sad man.
“Then he got a urine infection so he was very ill. He would get out of bed and fall over.
“There were no carers because of the pandemic, and doctors said if he went into hospital he wouldn’t come out, so I decided to move in to make sure he was OK.”
Fran, who was furloughed from her job in a London financial institution, admits the caring move took its toll on her own mental health.
“It’s been hard,” she says. “Mentally going from my own flat to one tiny room in Grandad’s flat and looking after him every day has been stressful.
“I stuck to the Coronavirus rules, I didn’t go outside for ages. But I’ve been sad because I couldn’t see friends and family and seeing everyone suffering brought me down. I like to see people happy.”
Stuck inside, Fran says she resorted to “watching Netflix and eating” for comfort, adding that it was impossible to work out in the small room where she spent most of her time.
“When I’m stressed I comfort eat chocolate,” she says. “But I love cooking so I also watch cookery shows to get ideas and sometimes I think ‘that would be nice with a bit of peanut butter or Nutella.’ Before you know it you’ve eaten the whole tub.”
After months indoors the prospect of rejoining Towie, for the 10th anniversary reunion series, felt like a breath of fresh air.
Single Fran – who starred in seven series before her split with Diags prompted her to leave – was looking forward to seeing best pal Georgia Harrison and co-stars Yazmin Oukello, James Lock, Clelia Theodorou, and Nicole Bass on set.
“I felt great. I was really excited to see my friends and go for a drink with them,” she says.
“Before I know it, people were messaging me on Instagram, saying ‘You’re beautiful, ignore the trolls’ and it was only then I looked to see what was going on.
No matter what size you are, you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it
“The comments were so vile, I was shocked that in 2020 this nastiness would still be carrying on.”
To hit back, Fran posted a long Instagram video, explaining the Coronavirus “hit me hard” and urging fans to stand up to trolls.
“I’m letting them know that I’m aware, and it’s not okay, I’m going to speak about it,” she tells Sun Online.
“I’m not happy with the size that I am but I’m doing something about it and I want everyone to know that no matter what size you are, you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it.”
Fran’s previous weight loss, in 2018, stunned fans and she is determined she can do the same again.
“Last time I’d put on so much weight people didn’t recognise me and now it’s happened again, unfortunately,” she says.
“But this time I’m going to take everyone on my weight loss journey, sharing my tips and letting them know how I’m feeling, because it’s okay to feel down.
“On every diet, you have the hard days when you want to eat all the burgers and chips in the world but you can’t. You’ve got to remind yourself why you’re doing this and I want to help others do the same.”
Once again, Fran is using a combination of fasting and exercise – three 40 minute high intensity training (HIIT) sessions a week and regular swimming.
“I’m bringing the exercise in slowly because when I push myself too hard, I tend to go the other way and go ‘F*** this’, I’m aching. I’m not doing it any more,’” she says.
“I go to a class so that I know I can’t back out, everyone’s watching and you have to put yourself through it. It forces me to actually do it.”
This time, she wants to shed 2.5st, to get to 9.5st because she is keen to keep her womanly curves.
“I’m older now and my shape is different,” she says. “I feel more like a woman and the weight tends to go onto my boobs and bum which I’m fine with. I just want to lose it from the stomach.”
Despite being upset at the comments, Fran found comfort in the thousands of people who reached out to support her.
“I can’t believe the support I’ve had and how many people reached out to me,” she says.
“For every nasty person there are so many more who are praising me for speaking out about it because nobody’s perfect.
“On Instagram, unfortunately, everyone shows the best part of what’s going on in their life and it’s not always roses so people appreciate that I’m being honest.”
Now she has one final message to the keyboard warriors who post body-shaming comments online.
“They must be very bored to be commenting on a girl’s life when they don’t know her troubles,” she says.
“So I wish them happiness because they must be very, very bitter in their lives.”