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Q&A: The Biggest Loser’s Alison Sweeney on Food, Fitness and Family

alisonsweeneyYou may know Alison Sweeney from her role as host of The Biggest Loser. Or maybe from her long-standing role in Days of Our Lives. Maybe you’ve read her novel The Star Attraction or her memoir All the Days of My Life (So Far). Or perhaps her book The Mommy Diet is on your shelf from when you used it for help getting back into your pre-pregnancy jeans. Alison is pretty much everywhere you look these days: on TV, in the bookstore, on the cover of this month’s Women’s Running magazine. Despite her busy schedule, Alison managed to take time out with Babble to chat about body image, meeting challenges, and what’s currently on her running playlist.

Q: You wear a lot of different hats: mother, wife, TV host, actress, writer, runner. How do you fit it all in?

A: I really don’t have a typical day. Every day is a bit different depending on what my production schedule is for Days and Biggest Loser. Sometimes I end up working both shows in one day and that can make for long hours, but then the opposite, sometimes I end up with the whole day off, I get to work out, take my kids to school, catch up on other things… It ends up balancing out, but at the end of the week, or month, not every day.

Q: Getting a full night’s rest can be hard to come by, and we all know it’s important for good health. How do you prioritize sleep in your household?

A: Sleep is really important, I know that. Certainly the trainers at BL make a point of stressing it at the weigh-ins. But with work, the kids, or sometimes my personal life — like when I want to stay up to watch my favorite show — it prevents me from getting a full eight hours. I do the best I can.

Q: As the host of The Biggest Loser you get to see some pretty remarkable changes in people’s lives. What has been the most inspiring moment you’ve witnessed on the show?

A: There are so many inspiring moments. Hannah and Olivia’s transformations, Abby’s journey, and Tara pulling the car are probably some of the most memorable.

Q: I’m always looking for dinner inspiration. What are some of your family’s favorite healthy meals?

A: We are all about cooking as a family. My kids help prepare meals, and Dave is great at the grill. Our family loves to have shrimp kabobs with corn, bbq chicken and green beans, and other healthy meals that combine protein and veggies and that we can cook at home. We usually end the night with a bowl of blueberries for our “something sweet.”

Q: It seems like we’re always hearing about over-scheduling our children and giving them time to play. Do you struggle with that, too? How do you deal?

A: I think every family has to make their own choices based on their schedules and what their kids like. We want our kids to be exposed to everything, and then choose their favorites by the time their homework increases, so their activities are what they love. We also want them to be able to express themselves creatively through music because music is such a big part of our lives. Dave’s father was a musician and so was my mother, so music was important during our childhood too.

Q: What’s on your workout playlist?

A: Right now I’m listening to Imagine Dragons (“It’s Time” and “Demons” are my favorite.) I love anything by Maroon 5, and I also mix up my playlist with lots of classics from AC/DC, Tom Petty, and the Rolling Stones.

Q: Like so many women, you’ve dealt with weight and body image issues. When you look in the mirror today, what do you think?

A: I think we all deal with these issues to some extent throughout our lives. Every day I make the choice to live a healthy lifestyle (instead of aiming to be “skinny” or comparing myself to others) — watching my calorie intake and trying to get in a workout. I truly believe that every healthy or smart decision that proves I’m taking care of myself makes the next decision easier. I’m proud of how I’ve transformed my body, and I celebrate those accomplishments rather than focusing on the negatives.

Q: What advice would you give women who struggle to feel comfortable in their bodies?

A: The key is to make the choice to lead a healthy life and then do it. Don’t feel guilty about the effort or time it takes. Remember you’re setting a positive example for those around you by being a healthier you. Challenge yourself to eat better and to keep yourself in check with a food journal. Make a workout plan for yourself, and put it in your daily schedule just like you do any other appointment. Celebrate your accomplishments.

Q: What motivates you to take on new challenges?

A: I love challenging myself and always finding something new to do. When I started writing my novel The Star Attraction I loved the challenge of creating characters and telling a story. I just turned in my second novel, and I’m so excited for that to come out next year.

Q: The Biggest Loser is all about creating and achieving goals, no matter how difficult. What are some goals you are currently working toward, both personally and professionally?

A: I’m really excited because I’m working right now with Arnold/Orowheat on their Feed Your Better campaign to encourage people to create and achieve personal goals. My better is to take more time to slow down — whether it’s stretching after a run, going to a yoga class, or finding time to meditate before bedtime — remember, I need to sleep more!

Q: Do you ever feel stretched thin as a parent? When do you know to ask for help?

A: When I was pregnant with Ben, everyone told me to ask for help when I needed it. That was really hard for me to do because I am always someone who hates to even ask for directions. It’s tricky, but with my kids I’m able to set aside my issues and focus on their needs and what’s best for them. I have no trouble turning to my friends who share a similar parenting style and asking for their input to solve a problem.

Thanks Alison! Best wishes on your all of your endeavors!

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