Angela Scanlon opens up about her 15-year eating disorder

Angela Scanlon opens up about her 15-year eating disorder
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Angela Scanlon, a TV presenter, shares all about her journey toward self-acceptance, gratitude, and joy after spending years battling an eating disorder and searching for a cure for her deep-seated insecurities. Angela Scanlon spent years battling an eating disorder and searching for a cure for her deep-seated insecurities. ((IMDb – Angela Scanlon)) ((Wikipedia))

At first glance, it looked as if everything that Angela Scanlon needed had been provided for her. Her career on television was doing really well. There were gorgeous photo sessions for magazines. She was under a lucrative deal with a well-known hair product manufacturer. In addition to that, there was an abundance of invitations to important events. But beneath the high-functioning front, Angela Scanlon was barely keeping it together. She was tormented by self-doubt, a preoccupation with comparison, and an eating problem, all of which she fought against for 15 years.

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This was a lady who had achieved every goal she had ever set for herself. Nevertheless, Scanlon claims that at the moment she experienced nothing except an overpowering sensation of emptiness. It was unsettling to get to a point when you thought, “This is it. This is the ideal job,” and to feel worse than you have in a very long time,’ she adds, remembering the period in 2016 when she was assigned the enviable task of filling in for Alex Jones on The One Show on her maternity leave.

She Said:

“On paper, I had everything that I had ever desired, but there was just a total disconnect, and I felt a tremendous amount of discomfort in my own skin. People would see me having a good time on television because I understood how to portray the version of myself that I was content to put into the public eye.

“But I found it impossible to enjoy it because I didn’t know who the hell I really was. And it was incredibly distressing because there was suddenly this stark realization that the work stuff I’d been putting everything into, wasn’t going to “fix” me after all.”

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The experience of birthing made me realise how detached I’d become from my body. The one I had punished, overfed, underfed and didn’t love at all.

Scanlon’s pain and subsequent recovery journey are put out in naked detail in her new book, Joyrider (Vermilion, £16.99), which is an uplifting and wonderfully written compilation of highly personal life events and the lessons she has drawn from them.

She describes having ‘foundations constructed on quicksand,’ describing how perfectionism and a need to please others have been ingrained in her from infancy. Angela Scanlon also discusses her 15-year eating issue, which started in her teens as a rejection of puberty. It eventually morphed into a frantic desire for power.

Regular fans of The One Show and BBC Two’s interior smash, Your Home Made Perfect, who know County Meath-born Scanlon, 38, as a confident, whip-smart, and extremely charming presenter would likely be rather surprised to read about her inner suffering. And she freely acknowledges that she is anxious about exposing herself in such a vulnerable manner.

She continues, “I’m not going to lie; it’s been quite a trip writing it!”. “But on the other hand, it has been quite therapeutic, and letting it all out there has been a huge relief.” The whole process consisted of searching for answers, determining who I am, and learning how to accept not just the good but also the bad, ugly, and irrational aspects of myself.

I was measuring everything I did against multiple other people and, so, on any given day, I either triumphed or I fell short.

Although Angela Scanlon, a mother of two, acknowledges that some of her problems started at an early age, it was an eating disorder, in the form of anorexia and bulimia, that took hold as a teen that drove her to spiral. By the age of 20, she was living on black coffee and canned pineapple. This would put her on the point of collapsing.

Angela Scanlon, speaking publicly for the first time about her eating disorder experience, says, ‘When it seemed like my body was changing and I was becoming a woman, I didn’t feel ready for that in any way, shape, or form. That was the beginning, and it quickly grew into my coping method.

‘People around me were aware, but it’s hard to assist someone if they’re not willing to be helped. That I wasn’t.’ Angela Scanlon recounts agonizing family gatherings when she should have been enjoying herself but was instead plotting her escape owing to her eating condition.

Although Angela Scanlon’s eating disorder issues are now behind her, replaced in her late 20s and ‘seemingly overnight’ with an addiction to work (the fixation with food, she adds, moved to her profession), Scanlon’s recovery genuinely started when she became a mother. Despite her struggles with parenthood, having Ruby, now four, gave her an entirely different perspective on her body.

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“‘I believe the experience of giving birth and nourishing a baby, and then seeing this beautiful girl luxuriate in her own wonderful rolls, made me realize how disconnected I’d grown from my body. I punished, overfed, underfed, and did not love at all. I’d been abusing her for years.”

“‘I was also very conscious of how judgemental I was of other people’s bodies, and I never wanted Ruby to feel scrutinized by anybody around her. So it became a tremendous motivator for me to examine how I reacted to my own body.”

Scanlon does not intend to return to work until the fourth season of Your Home Made Perfect starts shooting in September. She returned just 12 weeks after delivering Ruby, equipped with a double breast pump and still psychologically and emotionally reeling. She admits that she needs more time off. Her desire to return stemmed from the aforementioned addiction to work. This meant that her personal life was ‘always up for grabs’.

She Says: “Maternity leave can be a challenge because there’s a sense that you’re stopping while everybody else flies ahead, and you’re never going to catch up again. There’s this mad urgency to get back because otherwise, you’re going to be forgotten about. It’s pervasive, it’s everywhere, and while it can keep you moving, it’s also suffocating.”

Life is an absolute big bag of tricks and that’s part of the joy and also part of the terror.

Scanlon makes a deliberate effort to divert her attention elsewhere these days. She makes an effort to be thankful for all the good things in her life, no matter how little. This is the ‘joyriding’ referred to in the title of the book – the purposeful swerve into a’sweeter lane’. It took a long time to learn the technique. But it has changed Scanlon’s life.

Scanlon’s excitement from all of these initiatives is now palpable. This is the feeling she keeps returning to. ‘I’d lost access to any kind of pleasure, happiness, or lightness because I was utterly ignoring all of the other feelings,’ she adds. ‘However, in attempting to squelch the negative ones, I’d also disconnected from the good ones, to the point that I was numb and everything seemed flat.’

What does she hope readers will take away from the book? Scanlon grins at the question. ‘Oh, it’s all a f**king rollercoaster, isn’t it? Life is a huge bag of tricks, which is both exciting and terrifying. Some days we’ll cope with it, and other days it’ll all come apart – and that’s alright! ‘Everything is OK.’ We should embrace all feelings. That is the human melting pot.’

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