Angela Scanlon: Why Motherhood Has Been My Greatest Challenge

Hailing from County Meath in Ireland, Angela Scanlon has certainly had a wide ranging career, beginning in style and fashion journalism before moving to TV and radio, with presenting roles
ranging from The One Show to Robot Wars, as well as her own show on BBC Radio 2. Now a mother to two-year-old daughter Ruby with husband Roy, she’s launched a podcast called
Thanks a Million to celebrate all those things we should be thankful for. Here, she tells us what she eats in a day, the life lesson that was the hardest to learn, and about a time she stepped outside of her comfort zone.

What do you eat in a day?

“Eggs – I’m a big fan of eggs. Scrambled, fried, any way really. I like to make a meal out of a bit of toast. Whether that’s eggs, avocado and smoked salmon, or toast with blue cheese and honey – it’s absolutely delicious. Sometimes I’ll have mushrooms with herbs, now they’re harder to come by these days, or a bit of cream in the top of them and loads of salt and pepper – that’s usually my breakfast. I tend to get up and have a coffee and then have breakfast a little bit later, so it’s more like a brunch. I used to have porridge, but even though people say it fills them up all day long, I’m literally starving an hour later. I just had some pasta – I’ve signed up for a course with nutritionist Karen Hurd who’s all about whole food, nutrition and a really heavy emphasis on vegetarianism, which I have dabbled with for a decade. A big part of it is a bean protocol, so I eat a lot of pasta, but made with lentils, and then it’s also chickpeas and big hearty stews, or roasted vegetables with chickpeas and lots of spices. Dinner and lunch are kind of interchangeable in that way. If I’m going to break out, I’ll have a bit of sushi at home if there’s a takeaway that will do that – that feels like the ultimate treat these days. And lots of chocolate!”

What life lesson was the hardest to learn?

“I think it was that I had to arrive fully formed, ready to go to everything I did, which made the doing of those things very lonely at times. I isolated myself, I always found it really hard to expose myself as learning something and to enjoy the process of learning. I always expected myself to know straight away, to have it done straight away, which took the joy out of a lot of things. I’ve recently been putting into practice that vulnerability, showing people that you don’t know everything and you don’t know what you’re doing sometimes and you need help. That was a big lesson for me, learning to ask for help, and that’s professional, personal, in every area of my life, but the reward from doing that means that you’re so much closer to people and the rewards are so much greater because they’re shared with people who are able to mind you when you needed it, and that’s been hard but also rewarding.”

What has been your greatest challenge?

“Having a baby, without a shadow of a doubt. It turns you inside out (literally), upside down and it throws a spotlight on your needs in people. For me, it was really tricky. I don’t think I was quite ready emotionally. Everybody says you can never be ready, but I definitely had to grow into being a mother. There are people that I see who seem to have arrived on this planet ready to be a mother, but it was definitely a role I had to grow into. Now, I absolutely love it, but it was one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life.”

When was a time that you stepped outside your comfort zone?

“All the time. I’m actually trying to stop myself from doing it because there’s a slight air of recklessness to how I do it. I think to myself ‘you know, you might try being a bit more gentle with yourself this week’. For example, when I first did The One Show, I had done very little live TV and I was sitting there on a sofa in front of a lot of people and then Robot Wars seemed like a surprising move to a lot of people but that was a massive part of the appeal for me. Documentaries is what I started out doing, so that’s was again very different from say Your Home Made Perfect that is on the moment. So I think I’ve always been really drawn to pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, particularly in terms of my work. In real life, maybe a little bit less. I can get a bit too safe and I probably need to actually apply that to my real life, not just my work life.”

What does being healthy look like to you?

“Balance. That’s it with physical, mental and emotional health. It’s about balance, kindness, and being kind to yourself. Back in the day, I would do a half marathon having done very little training, silliness really, but if I wasn’t in severe pain the day after a workout, I felt like it was a waste of time and money. I can’t remember where I read it, but it was about stress and the modern day, and the fact that we’re basically living in flight or fight and stress mode for the vast majority of the time instead of once in a blue moon, so our adrenals are massive pressure, and when we exercise with the view to releasing endorphins and all of the good stuff that comes with exercise, we actually fire off the adrenals again. That’s when I started doing yoga – I wanted to find an exercise that didn’t stimulate my adrenals. We don’t have to punish ourselves all the time, we don’t have to punish ourselves if we have a ‘bad’ day of eating. We’re all figuring it out.”

How do you balance work, family time and me-time?

“It’s just etching out a bit of time. Making a schedule and getting up at the same time and doing the same thing is not my bag. Obviously, my alarm doesn’t need to be set thanks to my little one, but I think it’s communication. We talk to each other about who’s going to do what and where I need to step in and where he can fill in. I guess the way everybody does it really – just ploughing on and holding on by the skin of my teeth!”

To read the full interview, pick up the June issue of Health & Wellbeing with Angela Scanlon, on sale on the 7th May.

Health & Wellbeing June issue cover