During an event to promote Sleep Number’s Better Sleep Month on April 27, Sweeney, 38, talked to PEOPLE about the crucial health lessons she hopes to pass on to her children and how she is preparing to return to Salem for Days‘s 50th anniversary later this year.
Sweeney has witnessed many weight loss journeys from the sidelines of The Biggest Loser. On a personal level, the actress has called body image “an issue very close to my heart.” Now, Sweeney is helping her kids develop an honest and “common sense” relationship with food.
“I hear so many parents still today who say things like, ‘Oh, my kid only eats chicken fingers,’ and, ‘Oh, I don’t want my daughter to have body image issues so I just don’t talk about food or bad food,’ ” Sweeney told PEOPLE. “I feel the opposite, I feel we need to inform our children of why we’re saying, ‘You can’t have dessert tonight.’ ”
The actress, host, author and mom said her kids won’t be taking any trips to the drive-through anytime soon – and they know why.
“I think there is a tremendous amount of harm in disguising the truth from our children,” she said. “I let my kids know right from ground zero we don’t eat fast food in our house, and here’s why.
“They put chemicals in it and they trick your brain into thinking it’s good, and my kids knew that for sure when they were like 4. I don’t mess around with that.”
Sweeney hopes to pass on to Ben, 10, and Megan, 6, a food outlook that favors practical rather than emotionally driven eating, a lesson Sweeney still grapples with herself.
“I always have this whole thing like ‘I’m entitled to a glass of wine, I worked hard all day,’ and there is somehow all these feelings about it or about my body,” she said. “I feel like I learned from guys that I work with, actors, who just do really clean eating and healthy eating and they’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s my fuel, that’s the deal.’ They’re just matter-of-fact about it.
“I look at them and I’m like ‘God I wish I had that, I wish I could just detach my emotion from it.’ That’s my goal, to really help my kids know the facts so it really is a practical decision rather than attaching your self worth to it.”
Sweeney said she hopes that when it comes time for her kids to debate that extra treat at the end of the day, “being armed with the facts helps minimizes the emotion attached to it.”
“I’m arming them with common sense approaches so that when they’re adults and teenagers and college freshman, they’ll be armed with the information, so that if they’re making bad choices, at least they know it,” she explained. “Hopefully they minimize the bad choices and know how to correct it when they want to.”
Retiring from Days also gave Sweeney time for some rest and relaxation after her decades-long run on the soap.
“I watched like eight episodes of Outlander in a row when my husband wasn’t looking. It was amazing to have that day where I could literally do nothing,” the actress said of her first few days off.
But soon, Outlander binges will be on the back burner once again.
Sweeney announced last week that she will be returning to Salem for a short stint to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary.
Sweeney said coming out of retirement at Days will be “very weird, for sure,” and the veteran star admitted she has some nerves about the reunion.
“Doing movies we do like eight pages a day, and than I have to go back and do like 50 pages in a day,” she said. “Oh my gosh. I said to the producer, ‘You know I’m really out of practice, right? Just so you’re aware it’s a really long time since I’ve memorized anything like that.’ I’m freaking out a little but am very excited to see my friends and be family again.”
When asked to dish about Sami’s return to her hometown, Sweeney kept pretty tight-lipped but promised fans are in store for trademark Days of Our Lives drama.
“I think I can say that it’s definitely an emotional homecoming and with family there is always going to be drama,” she teased. “Let me just say that it’s been over a year since I’ve had a tantrum or slapped anybody so I’m out of practice, I might need a refresher.”