Written by: Channel 13 TV news anchor and Davis resident Pallas Hupe’
When you say the phrase “TV news anchor,” what comes to mind? If you’re talking about a female anchor, I guarantee you, most people seem to focus on hair, makeup and wardrobe. As a TV journalist who’s been in the business nearly 20 years, I know full well that first and foremost, television is a visual medium. However, most female journalists I know are far more focused on what they say, how they write and how up to date on the issues than they are on how they look at any given moment. We all understand, though, that it’s part of our job to look professional and polished. If we don’t, it just detracts from the message we are working so hard to get across. Want proof? I’ve received more phone calls and e-mails about my hair not looking right, or a necklace not hanging straight than I have on stories I’ve worked weeks to put together. I’ve come to terms with that, understanding that it’s just human nature and an unavoidable part of a business that sells “look” as much as “content.”
However, as a working mother of two, who’s spent my 20s, 30s and now part of my 40s in front of the unblinking eye of the camera, living up to the standard expected of a TV news anchor has been a challenge. In particular, the daily struggle not to gain too much weight. My shape doesn’t allow me to gain a pound without it being noticeable from the desk up and, believe me, I’ve heard about it when I have.
At one of my first jobs, I remember covering a hurricane – working all day fighting the winds and driving rain (you can picture those live shots). When we finally called it a day, we were exhausted. Our station management booked us into a local motel so we could get some rest but still stay close to the action. The girl behind the counter who checked us in looked at me, stressed and bedraggled as I was, and said “You’re the news lady aren’t you?” “Yes…” I started to answer, when she butted in “but you’re so much smaller in person.” “Well you know what they say…” I answered, “the camera adds 10 pounds.” “But in your case,” she added “it’s more like 40.”
I have to admit – that hurt! I think she actually meant it as a compliment, because I’ve heard variations on that theme many times since then – all well intentioned. But understanding the intent behind the comment didn’t take away the sting.
It got a little harder to take when I was pregnant with my first baby. I wasn’t supposed to announce it on air for a couple of months, and I naturally started adding a few extra pounds. That’s when I started getting critical calls from viewers asking if I’d been gorging on holiday goodies and even telling me to put the fork down (among other rude suggestions). You cannot imagine how relieved I was finally to come clean and admit I was expecting. However, I will never get over that I wasn’t allowed to step outside that cookie-cutter image of female anchor without facing a bitter backlash.
Although, I have to admit that even before I started in television, I wasted plenty of time and energy on this constant battle with body image. I came of age when the Jane Fonda workout was all the rage. How could I escape it? And I know I am not alone.
This self-consciousness, frustration and sometimes shame is just below the surface for so many women. I learned that lesson after hearing women I consider TINY berate themselves for venturing above an impossibly low number on the scale. Like them, I’ve never really ventured out of the weight range that, according to modern medical standards, is considered healthy. However, I’ve probably hung out more toward the upper end of that range…and that’s all it takes for my self-consciousness and self-criticism to kick into overdrive.
The most frustrating fact is, for most women I’ve asked, just a few pounds – those three tiny numbers on the scale – have enormous power over our thoughts, our feelings, our sense of self-worth and even our actions. The power of the scale seems to overwhelm our reason as we blindly follow the direction we allow them to point us.
I asked just a few women I know, “What happens when the scale is a few pounds over than you think it should be?” Their answers are very telling.
“My day is ruined. I’m a cow in a fat sweatshirt.”
“How can I eat less than a thousand calories today?”
“I just want to stay inside and hide.”
On a single day, it seems so many women let weight dictate what we do, what we allow ourselves to eat and how we feel about ourselves.
Well, I finally got fed up. As I move forward into the second half of my life, I decided to make peace with the scale and myself. No more cracking in the whip when I step on the scale and don’t see the perfect number I aim for every single day.
It took a drastic change in attitude as I began to look at the scale in a different way: as a source of power, rather than a drain on it. I realized I’ve been living in the same 10-pound weight range for the last 20 years, so that’s where I’ve now set my upper and lower parameters. Instead of living for just one magic number, I’ve given myself permission to move around within that “safety net” on the scale. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the number might often be a little higher than it was when I was chasing around toddlers. I’ve also allowed some flexibility in my wardrobe, with jackets I can sometimes button or leave open, and I now buy pants in various sizes. I’ve finally started treating my body and, therefore, myself with patience and respect.
I’ll share an analogy that seems to help me with this new-found peace. I mentioned that I am the mother of two, and my guys have been the source of more joy than anything else I’ve experienced. When I hug them both close to me, I visualize my outstretched arms on either side and hope they feel the love and safety in the space in between. Now imagine that feeling (hugging your kids, your hubby or even your pet) with one arm being the upper end of your range and the other arm marking the lower end. In the space in between – that warm and comfortable place – allow yourself to find not only a safe haven but also the source of your strength and power, and self-esteem.
Let me be clear, my arms can only stretch so far. I still cannot let that hug get bigger than I can handle. I still need to work to stay healthy. However, now I use my range as my guide. Yours might be five, 10, 15 pounds, or even 20. The magic numbers in the middle are just a goal. When the scale slides up or down within my zone, I now tell myself to relax, instead of panic. I give myself permission to enjoy and then work my way back down. And, sometimes when I do venture outside the safety zone (and yes it happens to everyone) then I know where I will feel best: inside that hug as I embrace my range.
(You can follow me on Twitter @EmbraceYourRang or @pallashupe)