My Favorite Lessons from Alison Sweeney

Hearing the news about Alison Sweeney’s departure from The Biggest Loser has caused me to recall the first time I met her and how I felt about her as I got to know her.

When I auditioned to be on TBL I had no idea that she would be the host of the show. She wasn’t the host DSCN0165(B)of the previous seasons. And let’s just be honest, she was a major soap star. So to say I was star-struck was putting it mildly. And she did not disappoint. She looked the part of a star and was as beautiful in person as she was on TV. But what I think we all thought was even more impressive ASis that she is just as nice a person as you would hope she would be. She was warm, genuine and truly cared about the contestants. What you saw on TV was exactly the person she was when the cameras stopped rolling.

I will admit I’m a little sad that she’s leaving Loser, but she has so many projects in the works. I enjoy watching everything she does because as a woman and a wife and mother – she seems to be living proof that you really can “have it all.” A few years ago I wrote a blAS2og about her. I thought in light of this recent news, I would repost it. I called it “My Favorite Lessons from Alison Sweeney.” They all still apply. So here it is again.

When Ali speaks of setting and attaining your goals; you had better listen because she’s obviously doing something right. She is sort of a role model for me in many ways. So I thought this week it would be fun to share My Five Favorite Things I’ve Learned from Alison Sweeney:

  1. There’s no such thing as luck. Some people may think that Ali has experienced a lot of luck in her career. But I have learned from her that there’s really no such thing as “luck”—it’s really about when opportunity and preparation meet. She focused early on what she wanted out of life and began preparing for it. Then when the door of opportunity opened, she was ready! I love that about her. And it’s a valuable lesson for all of us. You have to be prepared to receive all the things you dream of for yourself.
  2. You have got to love what you do! If you do you will excel! She says she was born with the acting bug and it shows. The reason she has been a successful actress and host for so long is because she’s excellent at it! Find what you love to do and do it!
  3. There’s no substitute for sincerity. When my husband Mike showed up on the set of The Biggest Loser a few years back he was a little star-struck to be meeting this Hollywood personality he’d seen on TV for years. We (the contestants) were in the middle of a photo shoot for Prevention magazine and I saw Ali walk up to Mike, wrap her arm around his, call him by name and ask about our son Noah by name. Wow! Talk about first impressions.
  4. It’s not always as easy as it looks. In other words don’t assume because someone looks like being in shape is effortless that it is. Ali is a gorgeous soap star. But she’ll be the first to tell you that her weight is always something that she’s worked on. I remember when the cast of The Biggest Loser went to Jamaica together. My team woke up extra early to sneak into the gym and get a jumpstart on working out to beat out the competition. When we walked in—Alison Sweeney was already in there working out. She always looks healthy and fabulous but it doesn’t come without hard work.
  5. Balance is possible without sacrificing excellence. I don’t know many (if any) other moms that work two jobs like she does. And I went to both of her jobs in one day once. She work(ed) on the set of Days of Our Lives for hours and then sometimes in the same day had to be out until 4:00 in the morning monitoring a Biggest Loser challenge. And yet because of her strong work ethic and integrity she maintains excellence in all she does.

“To whom much is given, much is required.” That scripture comes from Luke 12:48 but I think it really applies to Ali. She’s been given so many incredible opportunities but she makes a conscientious choice to make the most of each of them. I want to live life in the same way!


So although the Biggest Loser won’t be the same without Alison Sweeney, I do love her and can wait to see the exciting things that are coming up for her next!

A Letter to My Future Self

A few days ago during a particularly trying day (towards the end of a long summer) I posted a little letter to my husband and myself on my personal Facebook page. Humor always lightens the load and I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings at that moment. In my exasperation I thought, “It’s hard to believe there will ever be a day when we finally send our baby off to college and I will actually experience a moment of silence, an hour of time to myself and a house that stays clean for more than a Nano-second.”

Those thoughts resulted in the following entry, to the “Future Mike and Julie Hadden” as we have sent our last child off to college and are finally experiencing an empty nest. This is written in the voice of the current Mike and Julie who are living this exhausting life right now. Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children. They are among my most precious gifts from God. And I love being a mom! But if you are a parent of little ones (and/or a teenager) you may just be able to find a little truth of your own in the words of this letter.


Dear Mike and Julie,

While we appreciate the fact that your baby is going off to college and you are sad, please for the love of all that is holy, do not look back and romanticize how wonderful ‘the good old days’ were. Yes those days were fleeting in retrospect but living them seemed like an eternity (trust us). Try to put in perspective that during that time you were exhausted, ended up with at least one if not two kids in your bed almost every single night. That you never slept past 6:30 am, even the weekends. That it took 3 hours to watch a 30 minute TV show because you were constantly interrupted by bickering, bug bites, starvation, broken toys, or boo-boos that it took a magnifying glass to see. Remember that it took 30 minutes to get out the door to run a 5-minute errand and that errand would result in 29 minutes of toddler tunes, 7 minutes of fighting because someone touched someone, two stops on the side of the road to threaten to move car seats, and 10 minutes of crying because we apparently are ‘mean.’ That everyday day was spent cleaning up crumbs, folding the four loads of laundry done daily, and picking up the same “boring” toys you picked up 5 times already that same day.

Remember dear Mike and Julie, that while it is overwhelming how quiet the house is now – that you once locked yourself in the bathroom for just a moment of quiet while someone stuck their fingers under the door and asked when you would be finished “going potty.” And lastly, while you two drown your sorrows in a leisurely dinner out and talk about how you wish you could go back in time, remember us…the ones who ate half our meals crouched over the table cutting someone else’s meat, or under the table cleaning up a spill and think…maybe—just maybe—our baby heading off to college isn’t the hardest thing we’ve ever been through.

The Past Mike and Julie

PS. We’ve attach a picture of the toys we collected from all over11888006_10207284782022991_4949038643896102702_n the house (for the third time today), so when you two crybabies pull the box of the same toys out of the attic tonight to reminisce, you will keep your emotions in check.

Are you ready for your marathon?

Last night I was sitting in church listening to the guest speaker. My ears perked up as he began talking about how his wife was an avid runner—something he had no appreciation for since he had a car and that was his preferred method for getting from one place to another.

I kind of half-laughed when he said that, because with the busyness of life, running has taken a lower place on my list of priorities. In the past I loved to run. It was one of the few times I could get alone with my thoughts. He said his wife was a marathon runner and as he continued to talk about some of the reasons she enjoys running, it all resonated with me very loudly.

Here’s my spin on what he shared about the commonalities between a marathon and the race we call life.  There are three main things to consider:

  1. The preparation. When you embark on any race, you must first get ready. Those who train (prepare) are bound to do better. For example, in a marathon you must be sure to be stretched and hydrated. Likewise, in life’s journey – you must take care of yourself. Nourish yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually and prepare for the road ahead.
  2. The focus. Don’t get distracted by looking at the mile ahead or the one behind. Focus on the mile you are on right now. “Tomorrow has enough troubles of its own.” (Matt. 6:34) Stay focused on where you are right now. This will keep you stronger in this moment. If you do this, you’ll have what you need for the next one.
  3. The reason you’re running. I hadn’t really thought of it this way before, but the guy sharing last night said, “A very small percentage of those competing in a marathon are doing it to actually win it.”  He went on to say that most runners are there not necessarily to win, but just to finish.

I thought about the power of that statement. There is something extraordinarily gratifying about finishing what you started.  Not only do you feel powerful, but it prepares you for the next goal.

Are you running a marathon now? If so, are you prepared, focused and sure of the reason you’re running it?

First Half Marathon

At the finish of my first half marathon. I wasn’t the fastest. But I finished. And that feeling was amazing!

Meet Drew, and learn a thing or two…

I want to introduce you all to a very inspiring little boy.  His name is Drew, he’s 9 years old and…well, he’s kind of a big deal.

Drew is the son of a friend of our family.  My husband and his mom, Karen, go way back to college days.

Three years ago Karen took him for his 6-year old “well visit” and found out that—on paper—Drew had gained too much weight and he was headed in a bad direction as it related to his health, according to growth charts.  She very pointedly asked the doctor if her son needed to see a nutritionist.

As a first course of action, the doctor told her that he believed that by being deliberate about portion control, watching WHAT he eats (not just how much of it), encouraging regular physical activity and being mindful of his weight through regular weigh-ins (every three months over the course of the next year)—that he hoped to be able to get Drew on the right track.

Their family had to draw a line in the sand that day and decide what they would do.  They knew it wouldn’t be an easy road many days.  Let’s face it, “moderation” isn’t a concept many kids (or adults) embrace.  And no matter how much a parent loves their child they cannot make this decision for them.  Because when it’s time to do the hard work of eating healthy and being physically active, no one can do it for you.

By listening to the advice of the doctor and making a commitment to healthier living, himself, slowly Drew began to see a change.

He had to truly buy into the mindset that occasionally a slice of pizza or a piece of cake is OK.  (And it is.)  But it couldn’t be a way of life; he couldn’t consume these things every day.  And life isn’t always fair.  Not everyone’s metabolism is the same, and that stinks.  When other kids could shovel in multiple cookies or donuts, Drew had to make the decision to limit his intake to one cookie or ½ a donut even while his friends over-indulged.

Drew has a love of sports that runs deep, so he decided that instead of sitting in front of the television with a bag of chips in his lap after school, he would become active with participation in flag football, basketball, baseball and wrestling.  He and his mom tracked his progress and they began to read the labels on their food and talk about smart choices.

This kid is 9!!  What wisdom!!

He recently went back to the same doctor for his annual wellness visit—now three years later.  And get this, he has grown 6 inches…and only gained two pounds!!

I’m not even his mother and still my heart bursts with pride for Drew.

He is proof positive that little changes—over time—make big differences.  I am so proud of him, on so many levels.  We should all take note of the example he sets and remember these things:

  • Be deliberate about portion control
  • It’s not just about how much you eat, but WHAT you eat
  • Look at labels and make smart choices about what you put in your body
  • Choose to be active instead of a couch potato—and find activities that are fun for you
  • Not everyone’s metabolism is the same, so learn to work with yours
  • Stick with it and don’t give up and you can see amazing results

Here is Drew at the beginning of his journey just three years ago—mid-journey—and now today.  What a special young man he is.


What is so remarkable to me is that because Drew “gets it” at his early age, he won’t have the same struggles many people when they get older in the areas of their health and weight.  I think his success is amazing and he is such an encouragement.  We could all learn a thing or two from Drew.

“Make-Over Memories”

Last night’s episode of “The Biggest Loser – Glory Days” was the popular Make-Over Episode.  I always watch with curiosity to see the mid-way transformations and to observe the contestants’ reactions to themselves.  And I always wonder how they really feel.

I viewed myself for the first time during the "Make-Over Episode" of The Biggest Loser, Season 4 - not convinced that I was satisfied with what I saw.

My first look at myself mid-way through the transformation process.

To be honest, when we did our make-overs in Season 4, I knew there was an expectation that I be elated with my appearance. I mean, they staged a big dramatic lead up to seeing ourselves for the first time in a full length mirror…then the great unveiling.  I tried to be exuberant…but truthfully I knew I wasn’t finished and wasn’t satisfied with what I saw.  I wasn’t even where I wanted to be for that point in my journey.

I recently read something a friend of mine (Misti Bryson) posted on Facebook that really sums it up with crystal clear clarity.  She wrote:  ” A person’s future is not based upon where they are.  It’s based upon whether they decide to stay there.”

Future Quote

I love that statement because it’s so true!  And it’s a philosophy I continue to embrace even all these years after my Biggest Loser experience.   When we experience anything in life [success or failure], whether it be in weight loss, or relationships, or career, or family…whatever it is – we can’t let that “moment in time” or those circumstances forever determine our future.  We have to constantly be striving for improvement.  New challenges.  New goals.  New dreams.

I guess the point of what I am trying to say is that our futures really are limitless!  And it’s exciting to think about what lies ahead.  If there’s something in your life that you aren’t happy about, it’s not a life sentence.  You can make a change.  Remember, your future is not based upon where you are!  It’s based upon whether you decide to stay there.

If you don’t like it, don’t be content to stay there.


My Take on a Blog About “Fatties” and Jillian Michaels

I want to “weigh in” (pun intended) on a topic that I actually feel qualified to address:  Jillian Michaels.

In a recent blog from a woman who calls herself “Jeanette” and operates a blog identifying herself as “The Fat Chick” (I’m not going to give any links – if you care enough to find it, you can through a quick internet search) she took on Jillian and criticized her approach and her motives.

Jeanette stated, “In an epic moment…my Facebook feed threw up this little fact:  ‘Jillian Michaels has published her ‘Top 3 Guidelines for Improving Body Image’ at This seems in line with her recent move to distance herself from Biggest Loser after she made untold millions screaming at fatties on the show.” She went onTHE BIGGEST LOSER Episode 414 further to judge Jillian’s credibility and her intentions.

It’s clear that she has never met Jillian, nor has she been mentored by her.  She’s never sweated through one workout with her.  And she clearly has no personal insight into her motives.  I, on the other hand, do.  And seven years after she stopped being my trainer on “The Biggest Loser” I am still in contact with Jillian.

I will interject here that I know that people have varying opinions of the Show.  Some have lost interest.  Many contestants have come out with negative reports of their experience.  I don’t discount anyone’s right to feel like they do.

But it’s particularly difficult to sit back and watch someone like “Jeanette” be so critical.  Among the many things I objected to in her blog was the term “fatties” – which she used to describe the contestants on BL.

In response to her comments, I want to make my own:

I was one of those fatties that she yelled at on “The Biggest Loser” and I can tell you that never once did Jillian make me feel less-than or unaccepted.  She empowered me to love myself enough to change. Change my thinking, my circumstances, my negativity, my self-doubt, my weakness. Weight comes in many forms and losing it doesn’t make you a better person, it makes you realize the person you were all along; the one God created you to be.  Jillian was a catalyst for acceptance in my life, not from anyone else, but from me.  That was life-changing.

That’s my opinion.  I welcome yours’.


What’s Holding You Back?

We had quite an exciting day yesterday at our house!  Emma Kate, my precious baby girl, started walking!!

Both of her brothers walked early.  So when she got to be fifteen months old and was still not the least bit interested in doing anything other than crawl,  I will admit we were starting to wonder what was up.

I would try to get her to walk everyday.  I’d hold out my arms to her and plead with her to take just a few steps towards me.  Nope.  Not interested.  She’d plopped her sweet self right on the floor, and then scoot off on her hands and knees.

She had just started what the pediatrician called “cruising” around the furniture; which was suppose to be a good sign.  But she had to be holding on to something to have the confidence to take a step.  Last night she grabbed hold of a pillow on the couch and took a couple of steps away.  Then another one.  Then another.  Before we knew it she was walking all around.  Holding on for dear life to the pillow.  She obviously thought it was holding her up.  And with that pillow in hand, she had all the confidence in the world.  We’d take it from her and she would sit right down and revert back to a crawl.

Before long we noticed she had picked up a toy of her brother Jaxon’s.  It was an Indian-type flute I had gotten him from my recent trip to South Dakota.  It was a relatively small object with beads and feathers dangling off of it.  But we noticed as long as she had that in her hand, that she had the confidence to continue walking.  She seemed to believe it was holding her up too.  We called it her “magic walking stick.”

Finally, as the night came to an end she tossed the stick to the ground and took off walking by herself!  And not a timid stumble here and there.  She was walking confidently and strongly – taking big strides and making impressive turns without falling.  We clapped and praised her accomplishment and she clapped for herself – grinning from ear to ear.

Watching my little one reinforced something significant to me.  It reminded me that Emma Kate could walk long before she knew she could.  She had the physical ability to do it.  She had the strength and the stamina.  The only thing holding her back was the fact that she didn’t believe she could.  Once she gained a little confidence – first with the pillow and then with the stick – she realized her own strength and ability and was able to take off with a vengeance.

Needless to say, she hasn’t sit still all day today!  It’s like she’s discovered a new talent; an exciting new “power” she possesses that she’s proud of and anxious to use.

I think this is an important question to ask ourselves.  What’s holding you back?  What are you capable of that you haven’t even let your heart and mind realize?  Put down your pillow and “magic walking stick” and take off for whatever it is you want to achieve or be!  It’s been within you all along.  You just need to put action to your steps.

Just for fun, here’s a little clip of last night…


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