All the Right Moves
Alison Sweeney doesn't like to sit still. "I crave activity; being busy makes me feel accomplished," says the host of The Biggest Loser, author of two novels, marathoner, triathlete and mom of Ben, 9, and Megan, 5. So giving up her starring role on Days of Our Lives after 21 years on the show has been a bit of an adjustment. "I'm so used to having everything scheduled -- be here at 5 a.m. and there at 7 a.m. -- it's been scary to have all these unknowns," says Alison, 38. "But to me, fears are just new challenges and barriers that I look forward to breaking."
Besides spending more time with her kids and finally getting a chance to do some workouts she's been wanting to try, Alison is stretching her career muscles, too. She has signed on to direct episodes of General Hospital and an upcoming TV movie. "I want to put my energy into pursuing new passions as well as new adventures with my family," she says.
Here, Alison talks about how switching things up can reenergize your life.
Your latest novel is Scared Scriptless. After leaving Days, you are scriptless for the first time ever. How does it feel?
My last episode airs in October, so I think that's when it will really hit me. The show will always have a place in my heart, but I wanted to have more time with my family. My kids are so happy now, and I'm no longer thinking about nine other things while I'm with them. Everyone in my life has commented on how much more relaxed and at ease I am.
What fit activities do you like to do together as a family?
We bike, hike, swim, walk the dogs and play catch or kick the soccer ball around the yard. My parents introduced my brothers and me to so many fun things -- skiing, hiking, waterskiing. It's a wonderful memory, and it's something my husband, Dave, and I want to share with our kids. We want them to be brought up with the spirit of being game for anything.
What workouts are you planning to try in your new free time?
I'm really excited to start taking yoga classes. Before, my time was so limited I felt I had to do the most physically taxing workout I possibly could in 40 minutes. Now, I'm trying to focus on the mental as much as the physical. I want to stretch and push myself in different ways, so I'm a balanced, all-around fit person. I'm also getting back into riding horses, which is something I loved to do when I was younger. It requires complete concentration, so it's a great escape for me and a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours outside.
Why is fitness so important to you?
It's less about my weight or wanting my body to look a certain way and more about wanting the confidence in my ability to do whatever activity I choose to do with my family or friends. I might not be good at it, but I want my body to be strong enough for me to at least get out there and have a good time.
How do you motivate yourself to work out when you just don't feel like it?
The contestants on Biggest Loser are a major inspiration for me. It's a huge reminder to care for my body and to never take my health for granted.
What is the top diet tip you've learned from the show?
That eating healthy doesn't require suffering. There's a tendency to think food has to be bland and boring for it to be good for you, but there are so many healthy ways to add flavor to your meals. We grill a lot, which gives food a wonderful smoky flavor. I put cinnamon on everything -- my coffee, my oatmeal, my yogurt -- and I keep a mini herb garden on my windowsill that I use to flavor all kinds of things. A turkey roll-up with cheese, tomato and hummus feels gourmet and incredibly satisfying when you add a little fresh basil.
What do you eat when you need a quick energy boost?
Almonds. I keep a supply of them in my purse. My other favorite is Greek yogurt with blueberries, cinnamon and a little agave with slivered almonds on top. It's just delicious.
What's the one treat you have to have, no matter what? Red wine. I love it. I love it so much my husband actually built me a custom wine tap in our house. Best gift ever. He's not much of a wine drinker so I was always ruining a bottle for one glass -- or I felt pressured to drink more so it wouldn't go to waste. Now I can have just a glass, and the argon gas in the tank seals it back up, so one bottle can last for weeks.
What's your best stay-slim trick?
Calories have to be worth it! You'll never see me drinking wine on an airplane. If I'm going to indulge in wine, it had better be good -- and that goes for food too. If I'm going to eat something, it needs to be delicious.
Big Changes at Biggest Loser
America's favorite weight-loss show has undergone a makeover of its own. Jillian Michaels is gone -- for good, this time -- and two new trainers, Jennifer Widerstrom, a certified personal trainer who was formerly on American Gladiators, and Jessie Pavelka, a fitness expert who has hosted weight-loss shows in Britain, have joined the cast. "As a friend, I could relate to [Jillian] leaving. She made the decision that was best for her and her family, and I admire her for being true to herself," Alison says. "As a coworker, I'm sad because I miss her, but new people bring new dynamics, which is what makes a good show. And our new trainers are awesome."
The other twist Loser has in store for fans: The new contestants are former professional and Olympic athletes who have gained weight and are struggling to get their fit bodies back. "To have extremely successful pro athletes and gold medalists admit that they need and want help is incredibly inspiring," Alison says. "I'm really impressed by their determination to change. I think this season is going to blow people's minds."
The Biggest Loser premieres on September 11 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.