The Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney on raising confident girls, dressing for the body you've got, and finding your own best fitness rut-buster.
Alexei Hay "Three inches? That's nothing! I can rock 4-inch heels," Alison Sweeney says, talking about what makes her feel sexy.
"I'm short, so I can get away with a lot of high heels." Impressive. But can the host of The Biggest Loser sprint in those sky-high stilettos, too? "Probably," the actress (who goes by Ali) says with a laugh, between bites of a lunch of Cobb salad at an outdoor Los Angeles café.
No doubt she would trot off on a dare. The 38-year-old is crazy for challenges. "I like doing things that are hard. I like pushing myself," she says of the drive that helped her land the role of conniving Sami Brady on Days of Our Lives at just 16. Last Mayafter 21 years on the jobAli bid so long to the TV soap (and 6 a.m. call times) to spend more hours with her California highway patrol officer husband, Dave Sanov, and their kids Ben, 10, and Megan, 6."This is the first really big change I've had in a long time," she admits with a sigh. "Change makes me a little nervous."
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It's a rare moment of vulnerability for a naturally upbeat superachiever. But a few moments later, Ali leans forward to tick off her newest projects: finishing up writing her third novel, directing episodes of General Hospital and starring in TV movies for the Hallmark Channel. Still, compared with the grind of a daily soap, her new schedule seems almost breezy: "I might even be able to sleep in once in a while!"
On Days of Our Lives, you played a total bad girl. Do you miss acting outrageous?
I miss the challenge of trying to make sense of Sami's crazy behavior. I worried that it would be weird not to experience all those dramatic emotions every day. But in some ways, I've relaxed because I don't have to keep them so close to the surface all the time.
Have your workout habits changed recently?
I used to get on a treadmill, watch Scandal and 48 minutes later, I'm like, "I got a good workout." But it's important to pay attention to what you're doing. There are mirrors in a gym because you're supposed to be looking at yourself. There's a mindfulness to fitness.
Do you love to work out?
Hmm. [Laughs] I love how I feel afterward.
What do you do when you get in a rut?
I sign up for races because they keep me honest. I may not run a 26.2-mile marathon again, but I run half marathons because they're hard and intimidating. I'm like, "Oh, I better run tomorrow."
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Are you more committed to staying fit while you're filming The Biggest Loser?
Oh yeah. Being a part of the show has taught me so much, and there's a healthy mind-set that I've adopted. I want to have that positive outlook on life.
Body confidence is such an important issue on the show. How do you keep yours up?
We had a contestant this season who said she was going to love herself when she got to her target weight. I almost started to cry. As a mother of a daughter, I couldn't lose the opportunity to explain that there will always be something. You need to learn to love yourself no matter what your situation is. Body image is an issue very close to my heart.
Your daughter is only 6. Has it come up already?
Not yet. She's so young, but I've heard her use words like skinny. Around her, I'm hyperaware of all those habits women haveor, I haveof apologizing for my body. If I'm wearing a bikini, I don't want to wrap up in a towel or be the first person to point out my faults. I think, "I'm just going to wear this bathing suit and play with my kids and not think about it."
You acknowledge that we all have negative thoughts.
I struggle with them. There's something human in that. It's not that the feelings are wrong. It's what you do about it that means something. You might say, "Oh, my arms" when you look in the mirror. But if you let it bring you down, you're allowing that feeling to take over. Acknowledge the thought and let it move on. That's something you have to practice, and you can get good at it.
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Do you keep clothes that don't fit as incentive?
No. In general, you shouldn't buy clothes that don't look good on you. Like, I'm short. I can't wear clothes that look good on Heidi Klum.
You're coming up on 15 years of marriage. How will you two celebrate?
Every year on our anniversary, we have a dinner date and talk about how our relationship is going. We kind of give each other a job evaluation, which sounds a little embarrassing! We talk about our three favorite things about the other person and then three things that we could work on.
And speaking of milestones, you turn 40 in 2016. Will you go all out or pretend it never happened?
I love birthdays. So I'm down for any excuse to celebrate and be with my friends. On Days of Our Lives, my character became a mother when I was 18. Two years ago, I became a grandmother on the show, and people teased me about that. So there goes that milestone, too!
Alexei Hay WOULD YOU RATHER...
Wear lipstick or gloss?
Definitely lip gloss. Lipstick is hard to apply. You need a mirror and you have to pay attention. You can just glop on gloss anywhere.
Hot date or HBO marathon?
With an HBO marathon, I know what I'm getting. Hot dateyou're in uncomfortable clothes in some fancy restaurant and eating food you don't really like.
Hike or run on the treadmill?
A hikeI love the outdoors. You get to choose your path; it might get steeper. Maybe there's wind in your face. You can't dictate to Mother Nature.
Blow-out or au naturel hair?
I have to blow-dry my hair because it's stick straight and thin. If I don't, it looks really flat. I did it today. Pretty good, right?