Alyssa Milano on Football, Spinning, and Why She Hates Eating Alone

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Alyssa Milano. Photo: Dirk Franke

Plenty of us grew up watching Alyssa Milano as Sam on Who’s the Boss? So, when we were invited to take a spin class at Peloton in New York with the actress for the launch of the 2016 NFL Women’s Apparel Collection, including Milano’s GIII Touch line, we couldn’t resist. Before subjecting ourselves to 45 minutes of intense cardio, the Cut chatted with Milano about being the busy mother to two young children, making time for wellness, and why she loves football.

How I start my day: The kids [Milo, age 5, and Elizabella, age 2] wake me up and then I can’t even think about it. I have to just dive into getting them ready for school, which is different with two than it was with one. I eat the Atkins lifestyle, so I [cut back on] carbs. In the morning, I’ll do a cup of coffee and then on the way to the gym, I’ll do an Atkins shake or one of their protein bars, or something else that’s fast, so I’m not going to eat the pancakes I make for the kids. It’s all a balancing act.

What wellness means to me: It’s an overall sense of feeling good, whether that be mentally or physically or health-wise. Just feeling good about who you are and the choices you make. Honestly, I think it’s really important that we take care of ourselves, and with the amount of things that I juggle in a day, as far as trying to balance motherhood and being a working mom, I don’t think I could do it without a sense of wellness.

On Atkins: First of all, I love that I can consider it a lifestyle. I’m not really good at dieting and I just think that for me, that word is setting myself up to not succeed. So really, the Atkins lifestyle has allowed me to not feel deprived, and to keep my energy level up throughout my crazy, crazy day. I feel healthier while I’m trying to balance it all.

The products that they have really helped me stick with it, because they have a lot of really delicious treats that help satisfy my sweet tooth, and you don’t feel like you’re cheating. They also have a great online community. I write a blog [for the Atkins website] and there’s lots of responses, chat rooms. They have a great carb-counting app as well.

How I like to sweat: I love spinning, which is why we’re here [at Peloton]. I also love Pilates and yoga. Occasionally I’ll take a dance class or a Zumba class. But I really like to spin because I feel like it’s a full-body workout: 45 minutes, you’re in and you’re out. I don’t really have time for much more than that. I used to do a lot of yoga, but I just don’t have time for a 90-minute class anymore.

How I sleep: I struggle to find enough sleep. I sleep usually from about midnight to 6 a.m. It’s interesting, but I grew up in this business, so I’m used to waking up very early, because you have to be in hair and makeup at 6 a.m. And you’d work crazy, crazy hours, and you’d come home and you just crash. Honestly I think that I just function okay with small amounts of sleep if I have to — I think my body’s just preconditioned to that.

Of course, motherhood puts a whole new spin on it because it’s very rare that you’ll sleep solidly because you always have one eye, one ear open to see if everyone’s okay. And I have weird hormonal insomnia: Right before I get my period I get where I can’t sleep at all, and those are the nights that I just kind of surrender to it and try to not stress myself out about not sleeping. If I’m traveling, I’ll bring melatonin just in case, if there’s a time difference.

How I’m teaching my kids about wellness: My kids are really young but they’re naturally super, super active, so for us it’s just about encouraging them and giving them the opportunity to be themselves, and to encourage activity over screen time and watching TV. I don’t believe in totally withholding sugar from kids because I feel like there is a good lesson in them learning moderation for themselves, so I do allow them to have sugar when they want to have sugar. And it’s so interesting in that they stop eating when they don’t want any more, whereas in adults I think we’re conditioned to just keep eating, especially with sweets.

We have an organic vegetable garden in the backyard. So my kids from a very young age would be in the garden with me and pick tomatoes or peppers off the vine and eat it there. And I think that’s so important. Kids love to see vegetables grow, and get to see that that’s where their food is from. To this day, both my kids, if there’s French fries on the plate and broccoli, they will go for the broccoli — even my 5-year-old.

On eating alone: I actually don’t like to eat alone. I think that has something to do with the fact that I’m Italian, and food is always about family and celebration and having meals. So if I’m alone, I’m much more likely to pick up a shake or a bar than I am to actually sit and have a meal by myself.

Why I love football: I love everything about football. I love that it’s almost like a choreographed ballet dance that they all do on that field. I love how smart the quarterback has to be, and how he runs the show. I love the thinking aspect of football. So often we think of it being this gladiator sport where they’re just ramming into each other, but a lot of preparation, thought, and intelligence has to go into winning a football game.

My best wellness advice: I always say, “Eat less, move more.” It’s about eating less carbs and moving more; that could mean anything that you enjoy doing that is actually active. It doesn’t have to be working out; it could be gardening or hiking or taking the kids out for a walk in the stroller.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Alyssa Milano on Spinning and Why She Hates Eating Alone