"I'm a creature of habit," says Alison Sweeney, laughing, as she orders her favorite chopped salad (with tuna and extra cucumbers) for lunchagain.
It's a habit that's obviously working for her because Alison, beaming in a bright white tee and hot-pink bouclé blazer, looks the picture of happy health today. Not only has this host of The Biggest Loser shed the baby weight twice (she has two kidsBen, 7, and Megan, 3with her husband, Dave), but she also ran the Los Angeles Marathon in March and is training for the Malibu Triathlon this month. Her secret for getting into enviable shape? Making positive choices every single day. "Each time you make a healthy choice, it's easier to make the next one," says Alison, who's 35. It's not about achieving a perfect body, she adds, but "being the best you you can be today." Trust us: Adopt her clever ideasone a day, every day this monthand your best will look pretty darn good.
Eat like a kid all day today
"Kids don't eat fast. They take their time; they talk and laugh. Sometimes it's really annoying, because you're like, 'Come on, it's bedtime!' But try it: You'll fill up before you know it, because it takes 20 minutes for your brain to know your stomach is full."
Pack your own snacks this a.m.
"When I started eating healthy for my first bathing suit photo shoot [after giving birth to my daughter], I carried around a plastic bag of red and yellow bell pepper slices, cut up like carrot sticks, along with cucumbers and cantaloupe. Anytime I was hungry between meals, I'd snack on them."
Try a new multitasking move
"There's a flow to the Hindu Squat, so it gets your heart rate going, but it's about balance, too, because when you're down at the bottom, you're on your toes, then you're moving through the pose again."
Slather on some slimness before you head out the door
"We [apply bronzers] on Days of Our Lives a lot. I use Scott Barnes Body Bling lotion. It's almost like body makeup, but it's really sheer and there's a little sparkle in it. It looks good on everybody."
Have the same breakfast every day this week
"I eat oatmeal six days a week. It's not that I don't like varietyif I have time, I love to make an omeletbut I'm always in a hurry in the morning and steel-cut oatmeal with agave and cinnamon allows me to go through my day without thinking about it. And then if I'm going out to dinner or a special opportunity comes upfor instance, my husband and I went wine-tasting in NapaI can spend those calories on something special, rather than waffles for breakfast."
Wear fitted workout wear at the gym
"The reason there are mirrors is because you should look at yourself, evaluate how you're standing, and make sure you're doing [each exercise] right! So wearing close-fitting clothes is a way to set a good mental tone of, 'OK, I'm here to do business and I'm going to get it done.'"
Scrap everything that smacks of unrealistic expectations
"I'm not a fan of having a supermodel on your refrigerator, because you see the picture and you're like, 'That's not meand I'd have to stay away from the refrigerator to look like that.' Which, by the way, is such a ridiculous goal anyway! Nobody is going to all of a sudden, at 40, look like an 18-year-old model. Set your goals to positive things. Instead of thinking, 'I need to work out because I want to lose weight,' I'm thinking, 'I have to run a 26.2-mile race, so I have to run. Today. Now.'"
Include your favorite fresh herbs in your lunch salad
"In any given bite, you might have a leaf of cilantro, a little mint or basil, or rosemary. It spices up your tongue and adds a kick to your salad so you don't need a lot of dressing."
Weed through your closet and dump all the clothes you can hide behind
"I don't weigh myself; I go by my jeans. If your jeans aren't fitting, you don't go out and buy bigger clothesyou get yourself back into shape."
Add one move to your workout that makes you feel like a dancer
"With the Plié Jump, it's really hard going from a squat up to a jump. And the jump is so good for your calves, but you're not really thinking about thatyou're thinking, 'Oh my God, I want this to end!' But when I do it, I also feel very ballerina, like my daughter in her ballet class."
Use an olive oil spray to cook dinner
"If you're going to sauté something, lightly spray olive oil in the pan or on veggies before you serve them. It adds a nice flavor. We grill a lot, so I'll use a little on my corn or my shrimp."
Do something out of the box, exercise-wise
"One day on location, I was on the treadmill, and Bob [Harper] was like, 'Let's run sprints!' I said, 'No, I just ran for 40 minutes.' But you can't do the same thing again and again and consider that enough. Your body will get used to it and then it's not enough anymore."
Plan tomorrow's workoutnow
"Put it in your calendar like any other appointment."
Psych out your taste buds this afternoon
"Cinnamon is so good for you. It's an antioxidant, and it's also deceptive: You associate it so much with sugar that it makes you think you're eating something sweet. I put cinnamon on peaches that are cut in half, then barbecue them, which melts the fruit's natural sugars a little bit."
Next time you struggle to get through a workout move, think, "Results!"
"The Warrior Sit-Up is different from a normal sit-up. It's hard, but it's not impossible, and I like the resultsI like the abs."
Put out your sneakers tonight to taunt you tomorrow
"If my sneakers are out, they're like, 'Pick me, pick me!'"
Try a veggie you've never eaten before
"When I do one thing that's good, I immediately start to feel better. I don't wait for Monday. I don't wait for a holiday. I don't wait for my birthday. I don't wait for January 1. I start right now."
Sit up straightstarting now!
"It makes you at least an inch taller, maybe two."
Enjoy what's fresh
"Eating food that's in season tastes so much better. My trainer even said to me, 'Potatoes are not the enemy.' You shouldn't have mashed potatoes every day, but at the same time, you're at the farmers' market, and potatoes are in season? Have a potato! My husband brought home a crate of strawberries. It was the most amazing, satisfying deliciousness."
Today's the day: Think of an exercise move you've been afraid to try and do it
"The Piston is really hardyou're just going and going and going. I'll put it in the middle [of my workout] to get my heart rate back up."
Make this chopped salad for dinner
"A friend of mine brought over a vegetable salad that was one of the best things I've ever eaten. Just cut up cooked broccoli, asparagus, green beans, raw carrots, and roasted corn into neat little chopped bits and add cilantro and avocado, then toss it. The fat from the avocado and a little bit of saltthat's the dressing. It's so good and so refreshing!"
Measure your plates; if they're more than 10 inches across, replace them
"We bought smaller plates. And we put less food on them."
Create a playlist that's geared specifically to today's workout
"I have four different mixes: Run, Super Spin, Sweat, and Yoga. When I'm running, I want to be surprised, so I have 75 songs. For spin class, I need rhythmic songs like Beyoncé, Coldplay, Pink. Sweat is a little louderChristina Aguilera, Kanye West, Jay-Z. And for yoga, I chill with Dido, Elvis Costello, and Jewel."
Do one of your exercise moves in slo-mo
"The Mountain Climber is really fast-paced, so it's good to slow it down sometimes to make sure you're doing it right. I do the move at least twice on each side really slow, then I speed it up."
Reverse the ratios at your next meal
"I'll make a stir-fry with a huge amount of vegetables on the plate and just a little bit of rice underneath it. So it's a whole plate full of broccoli and green beans and shrimp and maybe chicken and then a little ricenot rice with three pieces of broccoli on it like you get at restaurants."
Use what you've got on hand
"If I'm running and I see a parked car at the end of the street, I'll sprint or do walking lunges to that car."
If you crave sugar tonight, go to bed early
"One thing I learned from Jillian [Michaels] is that when you're tired, you crave sugar because your brain needs sugar to sustain itself. So when you're tired, one of the first symptoms is that you'll look for something sugary to eat because you're trying to stay awake. So think of it that way, instead of, 'Oh, I'm so weak-willed.' It's not that. Close your eyes! You need rest."
Call your own bluff
"In spin class, I used to drink a lot of water, and I had a trainer say to me, 'You're stalling. I don't think you really need water.' And I was like, 'Busted!'"
Have dinner out and eat whatever you wantjust not all of it
"If you're going out with friends, go for tapas or order family-style that way, you just get a little plate and you end up satisfied because you're trying all these different foods. Plus, you eat a lot less because you get a little bit at a time and you eat two bites."
Push yourself past your comfort zone
"One time I was about to work out with Jillian in The Biggest Loser gym and I told the assistant director, 'If I don't come back, please come get me!' So he came and I was doing some version of lifting myself up in a very painful way and I wanted to die. I was at number 4 in a set of 12 and he said, 'Ali, I need you.' Jillian said, 'No. We're going to stay here until you finish, because you need to know you can.' She was so right."