Biggest Loser host, longtime (soon to be former) Days of Our Lives star, and mom of two Alison Sweeney knows firsthand how hard it can be to juggle all of her everyday commitments and lead a healthy lifestyle. That's just one of the major reasons she recently partnered with Aetna as a spokesperson for their "What's Your Healthy?" survey, which looked at 1,800 responses from adults aged 25 to 64. While many of the findings point to info we've heard time and again, others were definitely surprising and shed light on how we can all lead more fit, fulfilling lives.
Ali recently took a time-out from her busy schedule to chat with us about her take on the survey and share a few inspiring tips for her fellow moms and anyone aiming to be healthier ...
What inspired you to partner with Aetna on this survey?
Well, I think it's just an important thing to help people get common sense tips that can help them make small changes in their lives that can lead to big results. It was a great study, and it really revealed some interesting facts about where people are in their lives so that we can figure out how to give the best tips that really make a difference for moms and people who are so busy, you know? Like if people had an extra hour in their day, Americans would rather exercise than sleep! People really are aware that they're not getting enough exercise in their day. I think just giving people that tip of how to find that time is a great way to give people a leg up.
What do you recommend to moms or anyone who is struggling to find time to squeeze exercise into their day?
I think, first of all, it's not an all or nothing, zero-sum game. Obviously, it would be great to try to plan ahead. My first tip would be schedule in a workout, schedule a class you want to take. And put it in your calendar. Make it an appointment. Make it something important you commit yourself and your energy and your planning to. So it's putting your gym bag in your car or arranging a babysitter to stay an extra hour, so you can get it done. So make exercising a priority on your to-do list. But once you've gotten past that, if that doesn't work out, that doesn't mean you end up doing nothing. It means before you hop in the shower, do a bunch of push-ups and sit-ups, leg raises. Find something in your house you wanna do some tricep dips on! There's always something you can do. You can take your kids for a walk in your neighborhood and do some squats and lunges while they're looking under rocks for spiders! You can build in a little bit, and that is something, and that does count! And if nothing else, it gets your blood moving.
The survey covered stress management, which is clearly an important part of being healthy overall but that we don't talk about as much as we should. How do you manage your stress?
I think that stress does make a huge difference in weight loss or preventing weight loss. We talk about it all the time at work, and I think that first of all, getting enough sleep -- that would be the number one thing I still need to work on! I never get enough sleep! So I know it is easier said than done, but that is definitely a great thing to try to make more time for and to not underestimate how important it is to get sleep! Beyond that, we looked into some sort of holistic or herbal things, like putting a lavender sachet under your pillow [to help you sleep]. Doing some stretching and yoga before bed, something really soothing that slows your heart rate down. Maybe working on some meditation or just some still reading, sitting there and enjoying the quiet. Maybe turning off the technology a little bit before bed, all of those things go toward being less stressed out.
The survey found that both GenXers and Millennials also tend to snack on unhealthy food when dealing with stress (48 percent and 51 percent) more frequently than Baby Boomers. Why do you think that seems to be on the rise?
We all know that you eat too much when you're not paying attention. Stress eating is a part of that, and it's also just eating because you're feeling something in your gut and automatically think to eat, you're not paying attention to it. All these snacks and short, quick meals available, it makes [grabbing] food that much easier rather than sitting down and cooking a home-cooked meal. We're all eating on the go. You eat, and you weren't even really hungry! I think [it helps to] pay attention to what you're eating, enjoy it! I hope it tastes good, and I hope ... maybe you cut up the apple yourself, and maybe have a little almond butter with it, and you can relax and enjoy what you're eating. When we're multitasking and doing nine things -- and believe me I am definitely guilty of this! -- you just scarf it down!
It was also interesting to read that Americans believe being overweight doesn't necessarily mean you're unhealthy. What's your take on that?
I think we do need to educate people on what those terms mean. People learning about what obesity really is vs. morbidly obese and what their visual expectation of it is. And starting to understand what the BMI is and how to reference yourself on that track. I think that understanding that being overweight really does lead to all sorts of other diseases is an important piece of the information to get out there. And also that it is hereditary. Once you start down an unhealthy road, you're going from a little bit overweight to starting to get into the category of obesity, you're becoming a part of that for your family and your dynamic and the people around you. There is a wide window of how that works ... Being overweight is a sliding scale. You need to not be in denial about what's really going on with your body. That's a question for your health care professional. There is always room to learn something new and there is always somewhere you can maybe take it to get a little bit healthier and understand how to take good care of your body. And if you feel you're doing that, and you feel you're leading a healthy life, and your doctor's okay with it, that's what it's all about.
What's your take on Ali's advice? What do you find the most surprising of the "What's Your Healthy" findings?
Image via Tom Rafalovich