updated 05/28/2013 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 05/29/2013 AT 12:10 PM ET
From Biggest Loser to biggest helper: Alison Sweeney has answered your health and fitness questions! Nearly 150 of you submitted inquiries on everything from exercise and snacking to post-baby bodies and belly bulge, and Sweeney was more than happy to help you out.
Check out her answers to a selection of your questions below, and be sure to pick up her new novel, The Star Attraction, on amazon.com now!
How do you stay motivated and focused on your diet and exercise? –Rachel
For me it’s really important to keep up my cardio. I do have a trainer, but I don’t see him all the time. I work out on my own a lot: I run, ride my bike (both outside) and I take spin class. I try to get a good cardio workout in at least four times a week. In addition, at least once a week, I do a day of circuit training with weights. It helps me maintain muscle tone. My schedule is so busy all the time, so I can’t hold myself to specific times or a firm schedule, but these are my goals and I do the best I can. With my diet, I do try to think ahead – if I know I’ll be somewhere only unhealthy foods are available, I try to prep snacks to bring (like on an airplane I bring my own fruit & veggies to munch on). But I also don’t beat myself up for a few ‘cheats’ once in a while.
I am a 40-year-old mother of three, and I feel as though I’ve hit that ‘plateau’ that everyone talks about when getting older. I eat right, I exercise moderately, but I see no results. What can you recommend to mix things up? –Carmen
I know all about hitting plateaus and how frustrating they can be. For me, once I started to count every calorie, I realized how much I was eating that I didn’t account for. Keep a food journal and make sure to eat as healthy as possible and have a good breakfast. Change up your cardio to push your body in different ways too. Good luck!
What does your diet/exercise plan look like on an average day? –Anonymous
Usually I wake up really early for work on Days of Our Lives. I eat oatmeal with blueberries almost every day for breakfast. Then, after I shoot my scenes, I get a chance to fit in a workout. Either a run outside, or I meet up with my trainer for some strength training.
I work the night shift. What could I bring to eat that I won’t gain weight? –Taryn
I suggest cutting bell peppers, cucumbers and also taking cantaloupe or a cup of blueberries with you. A cup of blueberries only has 80 calories plus it gives you fiber and vitamin C. And make sure to drink plenty of water.
Any suggestions of hard, short workouts for someone always on the go? –Maryjane
I’ve learned that I get a good intense, short workout by running sprints on the treadmill. It’s not always about distance – a workout is about the intensity you put into it. So when I don’t have a lot of time, I really focus energy and go really hardcore – run 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for several minutes. Then I do a similar intensity doing burpees (pushup, jump to your feet, and then jump in the air, then back down to pushup). Hope it works for you, too. I would love to eat healthier on a budget, but with myself, my husband, and four boys, it’s beyond tough. Do you have any suggestions on how to eat healthier for weight loss – without breaking the bank? –Kenisha
Here’s the thing: I totally understand what you’re saying, but inexpensive food also means you have to eat a lot more of it to fill up. So even though a loaf of whole wheat bread is more expensive, one piece is much more satisfying and nutritious than its all-white counterpart. Does that make sense? Potatoes even get a good rap in this instance – they’re a way better, inexpensive option than, say, potato chips or French fries. Also, save money on drinks; sodas aren’t a great way to spend money, and are nothing but sugar. Plus, drinking your calories is never a good idea.
It seems like running is the choice exercise to slim down, but so many people, including myself, abhor it! Is there any other cardio that is as effective as running to help shed the pounds? –Kelly
If you hate running then it’s not going to help you lose weight because you’re not going to do it. The trick for me was to find cardio that I enjoy – a spin class where they play loud music to distract you, or hiking outside, or a class like kick boxing or something that might challenge you physically. There are a ton of options out there! Find one that works and keeps you coming back.
I literally eat more candy than anyone I know, and going on a diet that doesn’t allow for at least a little candy every day is simply not realistic. Any words of advice for sugar addicts like myself? –Guest
When I was pregnant my doctor recommended that when my sweet tooth cravings acted up, that I should eat fruit. I know it’s not what your brain thinks you’re craving, but give it a shot. Eating a whole cantaloupe or blueberries is a way better alternative than candy. And, even if it satisfies you a little, and you have one piece of candy instead of seven, well, that’s something, isn’t it?
I’m a 33-year-old mom of three that at one point lost 80 pounds. Unfortunately, I have put on 10 due to poor food choices and lack of exercise. I’ve gotten the healthy eating back but as for the exercising, it’s due to the little time I have. I work a full-time job and go to school. I’m lucky to fit in six or seven hours of sleep – and I’ve read that sleep is one of the most important factors in weight loss and weight maintenance. I really want to get back to exercising but I don’t know where to fit it in. –Jeg3494
I’m the same way. If I get 6 hours of sleep, I’m grateful. It’s a tough call, because sleep is important. I think you’re right – maybe once Monday to Thursday try to get a workout in, and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday, really take advantage of your time off to work out. Also since you do work so much, really keeping focused on your nutrition will help a lot. Spend time cooking your meals at home and packing them so that you can make sure to have healthy choices available to you all day. I recently injured my knee and can’t do my normal running or Jillian Michaels DVD. I have a desk job so I sit all day. Can you recommend a good exercise routine while my knee heals? –Babs
You really need to talk with your doctor and physical therapist about what activities are best for you to do until your injury heels. Contestants on The Biggest Loser tend to spend more time in the pool and on the rowing machines but don’t do anything without first checking with doctors. Get well soon!
I’m a new runner, and I know you’ve been in my shoes! One day I can run two miles without stopping, and the next I can barely get through half a mile. How can I push through and build consistency? –Gina
A lot of that has to do with nutrition, hydration and rest. When I started to run long-term, I needed to evaluate what I ate before each work out. Make sure you are constantly hydrating yourself a day before the run as well as after and be sure to sleep before trying for a longer run.
As a mom of three, I would love to get some tips to lose the baby bulge. It seems that as I lose weight in other areas, my stomach becomes more obvious. I’m ready to lose this baby souvenir! –Carmen
I remember trying to do a sit-up after I had Ben and falling back and laughing. You’re literally recovering from an injury and you need to build those muscles back. Make sure you’re eating healthy (mainly proteins, fruits and veggies) and working out those core muscles. That’s what The Biggest Loser trainers taught me and it worked!
I recently lost 40 pounds. I want to stay active to help maintain my weight loss but I never seem to have any energy. Any advice? –Jleigh
Have you been working out? Often people drop pounds by cutting back calories. It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough nutrition if you’re working out and to get through your day. Also getting enough sleep is important, too! Eating enough calories doesn’t mean putting the weight back on – just make sure you are eating the right things!
I get up at 4:30 a.m. to work out then straight to work. I get home around 6:30 p.m. I have to go to bed by 8 p.m. to be able to get back up and start again. My problem is evening dinners. I can’t sleep hungry but I know I shouldn’t really eat that close to bedtime. Any suggestions? –Lori
Eating at night is always tricky. I’ve found that it’s better to stick to lighter things before bed, but it’s also when we’re the most tempted to cheat. You sound like you have quite an intense schedule. So try eating lighter fare, like veggies and a little protein. If you need a carb, try quinoa or another lentil that isn’t as heavy as pasta or rice.
Do you prefer to eat healthy ever day or do you allow yourself a cheat day once a week? –Angela
I don’t beat myself up if I have a treat but I try to have a bite of a cookie rather than a pack and to make a conscious effort to work out that day or the next one.
How do I keep from snacking so much? –Paula
I’m a fan of snacking, so I make sure I have plenty of healthy snacks wherever I go. That way I’m not starving at meals and eat a little bit throughout the day.
The Star Attraction is an inside look at Hollywood; the main character is Sophie, a publicist. It’s her story, dealing with the ins and outs of Hollywood, trying to balance a relationship and work … trying to figure out what she wants out of life! The inspiration came from how many years I’ve spent at Days of our Lives as an actress, telling other people’s stories. I love my job, but sometimes it’s frustrating to act out the stories of others when it’s not how I want it to go! So I started writing this character to just fulfill my own creative instincts. Now it’s crazy and thrilling to know other people will be reading it!
What was the novel-writing process like; how did you make time for it in your busy life? –Sarah
Well, my best friend definitely gave me insight into the life and work of a publicist. In fact I have several close friends who work in publicity, so many of the stories came from them. I took those and used my imagination for the romantic part and it all came together.