Pop Culture

‘Biggest Loser’ host shares diet advice for moms

In addition to hosting the weight-loss reality show “The Biggest Loser” and starring on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” Alison Sweeney is a mom who has struggled personally and publicly with her weight. In the introduction to her new book, “The Mommy Diet,” she explains how you can get a great body, post-baby, without selling your soul or resorting to buying tapeworms on the Internet.

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Having a baby is a life-changing experience like no other. I’ll never forget the night my first baby — my son, Ben, who is now five — was born, and the moment when the nurse brought him to my room, handed him to me, and left me alone with him. As she walked away and closed the door, all I could think was, Where are you going, lady? Who’s going to make sure I don’t harm this innocent child? I am not qualified to be in charge here! A baby completely rocks your world. Mostly in a wonderful, amazing way.

Let’s be honest, though. Being pregnant and taking care of your beautiful little baby also mean some serious changes to your body, your sleep schedule, and your ability to take care of yourself. That’s normal, of course. Don’t feel like you’re alone in this, or like you’re the only mom who can’t figure it all out and get it together right away. Everyone goes through this stage, and that’s what this book is all about: You can still look and feel great! I’m not going to tell you it’s supereasy to eat perfectly, or that you’ll get your body back in two weeks, or that you’ll find countless opportunities for exercise and pampering every day. And no, you’re not always going to look like a perfect catalog mom, strolling casually down Rodeo Drive with a beautifully dressed, napping child in a fancy stroller.

The brutal truth is that your hair and makeup won’t be flawless, your socks sometimes won’t match, it takes many months to get in shape, and you’ll often be wondering when and where you can get another snack. (Especially if you’re breastfeeding ... you’ll be thinking about snacks a lot!) Now I’ll give you the good news: You can eat healthfully, be physically fit, look great, and find time to take care of you while at the same time learning to be a terrific new mom. Once  you enter the incredible world of motherhood, your priorities shift, as well they should. But you can’t leave you out of the equation. This is not at all selfish! Believe me, you and your family will be so much happier if you give yourself the attention you deserve and find ways to look and feel fabulous. I want to help you do that.

If this is your first pregnancy (congratulations!), you’re going to be reading a lot of books and getting tons of advice along the way. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on during my first pregnancy. And I got plenty of great advice — but I also got advice from many of the overly excited, usually well-meaning people who feel compelled to preach to every pregnant woman they see that she must do this and must never do that. You’ll hear people issue proclamations about everything from whether you can have a cup of coffee in the morning to the pros and cons of immunizations. I’m sure you’ve already run into this type. Well, that’s not how I roll.

And that’s not the kind of advice I give. Consider this book a safe space: I am not here to issue mandates or make you feel guilty or scared or confused. I definitely have opinions about all the main maternity issues, but I managed to survive two  pregnancies mostly by going with my gut. I encourage you to do the same thing. So what is The Mommy Diet? It’s not just a weight-loss book, though it is packed with information about how to eat right and get in shape. It’s about a “diet” of nutrition, fitness, and self-care that women can follow in order to look and feel fantastic — before and during pregnancy, and after giving birth. The focus of The Mommy Diet is getting you physically and mentally healthy and keeping you that way. It’s not about making you instantly skinny — sorry, that’s just not possible or healthy — though it will help you slim down for sure, in a positive, attainable way. With targeted advice and proven strategies for every stage along the way, The Mommy Diet will guide you through the three trimesters of pregnancy, the early postpregnancy recovery period, and the first nine months of being a mommy. Just as gestation takes nine months, it might take another nine months to feel “normal” (or better!) again — though you’ll be feeling really, really good much sooner than that if you follow the wellness plan outlined in these pages. The Mommy Diet will help you to be fit and healthy during pregnancy, lose weight sensibly after the baby comes, and look and feel great with tips for fashion, beauty, and self-care throughout the process.

There’s also a chapter for moms who are more than nine months postpartum and think they’ve held on to their baby weight for too long — this more intense “kick-start” program  can help any mom get herself into shape and start feeling better. And once you’ve attained your goals and just want to stay healthy, fit, and happy as the journey of motherhood continues, there’s a chapter about that, too.

The tips in The Mommy Diet are realistic, affordable, and doable for any mom. It’s an easy — and inexpensive — “diet” to follow. Because even though we’d all love to have endless time and money to devote to looking and feeling great, very few real moms and moms-to-be do.

I certainly know what it’s like to be busy. I’m a working mom with two kids (Ben, five, and Megan, one) and two jobs (I’m the host of the NBC show The Biggest Loser and I play Sami Brady on Days of our Lives). I get what you’re going through! When it comes to parenting, I am in the trenches — dealing with middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes and spit-ups, just trying to get a little sleep. And like most moms, soon after my kids were born I did start wondering ... When will I get my figure back? How do I get my figure back? When do I have time to get my figure back? Will I ever have a chance to get a manicure again? And what the hell did this baby do to my stomach muscles? Unfortunately, I didn’t have a magic button I could press to get back into shape magically fast. (I wish!)

Even though I am just another working mom in many ways, I’m lucky to have access to Hollywood’s best trainers and nutritionists (there are perks to starring in a hit weight-loss reality show!), as well as hair and makeup artists, stylists, and other experts who have given me tons of great advice, tips, and tricks for getting and staying in shape and taking care of myself. I’ve also learned so much from being part of The Biggest Loser. I’ve totally reevaluated my approach to diet and nutrition — in fact, I ate so much better during my second pregnancy (and got my body back much faster than I did with my first pregnancy) thanks in part to the knowledge I’ve gained from the experts on the show. So I want to share all that—plus helpful hints from my own experiences, and other real moms’ experiences—with you. After all, we moms need to stick together and help one another out. Moms should never have to go it alone.

The Mommy Diet is organized in five sections: before pregnancy, during pregnancy, the nine months after pregnancy, a kick-start program for anytime, and a maintenance program for all moms. The pregnancy section is divided into three chapters (for the first, second, and third trimesters), and the post-pregnancy section has month-by-month chapters, because things change quite a bit during that time. In each chapter, I cover fitness and food, with specific plans for working out and eating, as well as general tips. I  also cover fashion (because you want to look good throughout this process, and you can!), self-care (all the little things you can do to pamper yourself, plus take care of your skin, hair, and nails — which isn’t frivolous but truly necessary if you want to maintain a positive outlook), and romance (another key to feeling great while you’re pregnant and as a new mom).

You can read the whole thing at once and then go back to the different sections as needed, or just take a few minutes to read whichever section applies to you at the moment. When you’re a new mom, you often have only a minute or two at a time to read, so just flip to the chapter for whatever phase you’re in and get tips to help you right now. And you can always check in at alisonsweeney.com for more recipes, more exercise ideas (some moves are better explained in video than print!), and an online community of moms who are also following The Mommy Diet. It’s a good place to go for up-to-the- minute food and fitness news, feedback to your personal questions, connections with moms in your area, and great support whenever you need it.

Before you begin, though, you need to understand the bottom line when it comes to taking good care of yourself: You have to want to do this, and you have to acknowledge that you’re the only one who can do it. You’re the one who will have to get to the gym or a yoga class, or get out for a walk or a run. You’re the one who will have to buy the healthier groceries—and eat them (not junk!), too. You’re the one who will have to make sure you’re getting you time. No one can do it for you. I remember being on set at Days of our Lives a year after Ben was born. At that time I was not feeling confident about my figure — and the “I just had a baby” excuse was starting to wear thin. I was in a scene with a gorgeous, fit actress, and as she left the studio, I saw all the cast and crew members watching her walk away. She was a head-turner, for sure. I said out loud what all the women watching her were probably thinking: “I would do anything to have that body.” And then, after a beat, realizing that everyone  had heard me, I joked, “... except eat right and work out.” It got the whole crew laughing, and then we went back to work. I thought about that incident a lot that night. It was a really big awakening for me. I realized that I can look like that, if I’m willing to do what it takes to get there. And so can you. You can go after what you want. It’s not about secret Hollywood grapefruit diets, buying tapeworms on the Internet, or selling your soul to the devil. It simply comes down to making the decision to fight for what you want. Whatever motivates you, whether it’s fitting into those size twenty-seven jeans again (or for the first time), or being able to chase your child around the playground without getting exhausted, you have to decide what your goals are and find the will to go for them. With the help of this book, you have all the tools you need to get there.

Copyright © 2011 by Alison J. Sweeney. Published by  Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed with permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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