Deputy Features Editor Lisa Denton recently interviewed actress and reality-show host Alison Sweeney by e-mail about "Days of Our Lives" and "The Biggest Loser" as well as what she wants the audience to bring to her visit to Ladies Night Out in Dalton, Ga.
Q: I've read that you were no more than a size 12 at your largest, certainly not obese but large by Hollywood standards. What's it like trying to live in that fishbowl?
A: It's really difficult to be under the Hollywood microscope. Whether people openly criticize you or not, you feel the pressure of looking "different" from you peers. I wanted to be competitive in the career I'd chosen, so it was really emotionally painful. My self-worth was really damaged by it, which was really hard to recover from, but with age and perspective I've learned that my confidence and sense of self comes from my own actions and making choices that are best for me, never mind what I look like in the mirror.
Q: You documented your struggles with weight in your 2004 memoir, "All the Days of My Life (So Far)." Was it difficult, or freeing, to go public with your story?
A: Both! I was glad to write it, knowing it would hopefully inspire and make a positive difference in the lives of my readers. So while it was at some points embarrassing, it was also cathartic and "freeing" is a good word. I was sharing the story to let all those other girls out there experiencing the same feelings know that they aren't alone.
Q: You stay busy with "The Biggest Loser" and "Days of our Lives," in addition to other career obligations. How do you make being busy work for you, rather than it being a source of stress?
A: It can definitely be stressful, and I go through days where I am tired and frustrated, and then come home to lots of family demands before I can put my feet up, but ultimately, it's so worth it. All of it. And that's where I get a renewed confidence that I'm doing the right thing, making the right choices.
Q: Do you find more people relate to you now for the soap or for the reality show?
A: I've been a part of "Days" for a long time - there are so many people who've watched over the years that there is an awesome, loyal fan base there. "The Biggest Loser" is something fans stop to talk to me about. It's just different.
Q: Tell me about your responsibilities on "The Biggest Loser." Are there any contestants whose stories/struggles have really moved you?
A: I get to know the contestants well, and I care about all of them. It's so hard to say goodbye when they get eliminated. Abby's story from Season 8 is one that I know will stay with me forever. Her strength and courage in the face of such an overwhelming family tragedy was truly inspiring. Also Michael, from this season, our heaviest contestant ever at 524 - his enthusiasm, confidence and willingness to just keep trying - he's been an inspiration to me.
Q: You've had some dramatic story lines on "DOOL." What's next for Sami? Any breaks from the anguish?
A: Sami has had quite a year. It's been tough to play such tragedy in her life and so many heartbreaks. Right now, we are shooting an amazing tribute to Alice Horton. Frances Reid passed away earlier this year, and they wrote it into several wonderful shows to pay tribute to her and her beloved character. We are immersed in that story beat, and it's wonderful to see so many wonderful actors return to the show to be a part of it.
Q: Your upcoming book, "The Mommy Diet," sounds like it's meant for family fitness with moms as the guiding force. What are some tips you can offer?
A: "The Mommy Diet" will be coming out a the end of the year, and, yes, it's filled with tips and guidelines on how to stay healthy and fit (mentally as well as physically) during and after pregnancy. There are so many wonderful books that I read and benefited from on how to take care of your newborn and young children, so I wanted this book to focus on the mom! Often, you get left out of the equation, so I really wanted the attention to be on helping moms take care of themselves, and then the trickle-down effect being they can take better care of their families.
Q: What do you hope women attending the Ladies Night Out in Dalton will take away from the experience?
A: I hope we all have a great time, and that people bring questions! I want to talk about how to find the balance between taking care of your family and taking care of yourself. So many contestants come to "The Biggest Loser" taking care of their loved ones, at the expense of themselves.. Learning that it's not selfish is a big first step. I have some tips on how to carry that forward, diet and exercise advice, ways to actually turn it into a reality - from one working mom to another.