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Actress and TV personality Alison Sweeney says she models healthy behaviors for her two kids. (Photo: Getty)
As the host of The Biggest Loser, Alison Sweeney has seen plenty of contestants who end up on the show because they’ve put their kids before themselves. So she’s learned firsthand how important a little me-time is to the overall health and happiness of a family. “I try to impress upon parent contestants the same things that I tell myself: It isn’t selfish to give yourself the time and energy you need to be healthy,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “Working out, getting to sleep on time, those things make me a better parent. Being the strongest me I can be allows me to be there for my family.”
Sweeney – who, along with husband David Sanov, is raising a 10-year-old son, Ben, and 6-year-old daughter, Megan – says her best advice for parents is to ignore all the advice and instead listen to your gut and go with what’s best for your kids.
“People love to have ‘the best’ way of parenting, but it really needs to be customized to the kid you’re dealing with and their personality,” she says. “My son is easygoing and sensitive, and he’s very affected if you’re disappointed in him — it breaks his heart. My daughter is a spitfire, and so we are stricter with her than we are with my son. He doesn’t need that, but with her, she’ll walk all over you to the moon and back. My kids are different people, so they need different parenting.”
Sweeney has worn many hats during her career. On Days of Our Lives, she played master manipulator Sami Brady for 21 years – a role she’ll be reprising for the show’s 50th anniversary later this year. As host of The Biggest Loser, she is a cheerleader for contestants trying to get healthy and lose weight. She’s also starring this Saturday night in the Hallmark original movie Murder She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery. But her most important job is that of mom to two kids, she says, and being their role model for healthy living. “I believe in talking with my kids about why certain behaviors are important. It’s not arbitrary, it’s ‘here’s what your body needs to be at its best,’” says Sweeney, who spoke to Yahoo Parenting on behalf of Sleep Number and the new SleepIQ Kids bed. “I don’t hide things from my kids. I let them know that ice cream is bad for you. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever have it, but you have to make smart choices. If you take the mystery and the silence out of behavior and share with them the common sense behind smart choices, it helps minimize body image issues and all other body attachments.”
Alison Sweeney, host of The Biggest Loser, says she carves out me-time in order to be a good parent. (Photo: Getty)
Sweeney says instilling healthy habits in her kids means sometimes pulling the mom-card. “I’ve seen too many instances where the ‘I want to be friends with my kids’ mindset leads to children who only eat chicken fingers,” she says. “My kids eat vegetables. Why? Because I said so, because I’m their parent. My kids were raised that way from day one, and that’s the way I was raised. My daughter is going through a thing where she won’t eat raw carrots right now. Fine, I throw them in some water and cook them, then she happily eats a plateful. And it’s not like my son didn’t ask for chips on the airplane, but when I said no, he said ‘then can I have a pear?’ It’s important to me to demonstrate to them that’s how I eat also.”
The 38-year-old describes her household as old-fashioned. “We have strict rules in our house about manners,” she says. “Please and thank you, pull out the chairs and stand up when my husband and I come in, my son holds the door open for me without being told to. They clean up their own messes and clean up their dishes without anyone telling them to. That matters to me and I work hard on helping them learn to be better people.”
Alison Sweeney and her husband, David Sanov, run what Sweeney describes as an ‘old-fashioned’ household. (Photo: Getty)
That’s not to say Sweeney doesn’t like to pal around with her kids once in a while. “My son and I are reading Harry Potter together,” she says. “I’m a bit of a purist, though. We read one a year because that’s how I had to do it.”
One thing she doesn’t do with them? Watch herself as scheming Sami Brady. “They’ve never seen me on Days and I prefer to keep it that way,” she says. “One day they will probably watch clips on YouTube and have a lot of questions.”