The British TV host sat down with PEOPLE exclusively for his first interview since the end of his marriage to the HGTV star

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Ant Anstead is getting candid about his surprising split from wife Christina Anstead in September after less than two years of marriage — and how he’s been coping in the months since.

“I think everybody knows this was not my decision,” the Wheelers Dealers host, 41, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's issue in his first interview since Christina announced they were separating via Instagram in September. “It really hit me hard."

"If you ask anybody that knows me properly, they know that I give myself fully,” Ant explains, adding of the Christina on the Coast star, 37, whom he married in December 2018, “I had so much love for her."

The automotive expert and longtime TV personality first hinted that the split was not something he had wanted in an Instagram post at the end of September, eight days after the news broke.

"Anyone who really knows me knows that I don't like to share private matters publicly. I have remained silent while holding on to hope," he wrote at the time alongside a black-and-white photo of the former couple.

"I never gave up on us," he added. "I pray Christina's decision brings her happiness."

RELATED VIDEO: Ant Anstead on Life & Fatherhood After ‘Devastating’ Divorce: ‘I Realized I’m Worthy of Healing’

While Ant admits he was in a "very dark place" in the months following the separation, eventually, he says, “I reached this turning point . . . I had the choice to dwell on it, or move on and work on myself,” he says. He chose the latter.

He signed up for a 35-day online “breakup recovery” course, and a three-day faith-based retreat focused on mental health and physical fitness. He says that both helped him understand that “nobody controls me but me. It’s up to me to empower myself and realize how incredibly worthy I am of healing.”

Ant Anstead
Credit: Ant Anstead/Instagram

Now, he starts each day by calling his older kids in the U.K. (Amelie, 17, and Archie, 14), exercising, eating a healthy breakfast, and saying a prayer and what he’s grateful for. He also spends plenty of time with his youngest son, Hudson, 16 months, whom he shares with Christina.  

Ant Anstead son
Credit: Ant Anstead/ instagram

“Not only have I improved my mental health, I've actually made a real conscious decision to go and improve my physical health, as well. I mean, for the first time in my life, I'm actually now taking vitamins!” he adds with a laugh, noting that he feels more physically fit now than he did during his professional soccer career.  

For more on Ant and his life after divorce, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE or subscribe here.

He also acknowledges that moving on will take time, and that recovery should not be rushed.

“It really is a process,” he says of navigating his grief. “And the thing about healing is sometimes you feel like you’re making daily progress, and then, from nowhere, your legs get taken out, and you feel like you start again. But I'm certainly making steps towards healing, even if it's really slow.”

Christina and Ant met in the fall of 2017 and married in December 2018 in a backyard winter wonderland-themed wedding at their home in Newport Beach, California. Christina officially filed for divorce and joint legal and physical custody of Hudson in November. Neither partner is seeking spousal support.