Hillary Duff in Shape

When it comes to health and happiness, Hilary Duff is all about balance.

The Younger actress, 27, opened up about how she stays active while juggling work and motherhood, along with her favorite gym equipment and why she feels zero guilt about consuming lots and lots of cheese.

“There’s so much pressure to always have it together, and I’m not falling for it,” she said in the May issue of Shape. “Some days I feel great, others I feel pretty normal, and that’s acceptable.”

The mom of 3-year-old Luca (with ex-husband Mike Comrie) is well aware that life can — and will — get in the way of a fitness routine.

Her solution? “Real-life exercise,” she said.

“Carrying my son, for one,” she explained. “He weighs 35 pounds. The other day we went to Disneyland and he fell asleep in my arms, and I had to carry him back to my car, which was a 30-minute walk. I was dying.”

But when she can fit in a more traditional gym sesh (which happens about three times a week), she goes all in, making the most of weighted balls, battle ropes and big rubber bands.

“I do this thing with a sledge-hammer where I swing it and hit a rubber block, and it get out all of my aggressions. Everyone is like, ‘Uh-oh, Hilary’s got the hammer — get out of the way!'” Duff told the magazine.

The former Lizzie McGuire star also shared her one no-fail weight-loss strategy: ditching the drinks.

“I love my wine, but when I’m really trying to lose weight, that’s got to go. Alcohol is a trigger to make bad choices, just like when I get too hungry,” she said.

Her other culinary pleasure is cheese, which is the “key to a happy life,” according to the actress.

“It’s a real problem. I can’t say no to it! There’s a cheese shop in Beverly Hills, and my car is like a magnet to it,” Duff said.

The star doesn’t believe in deprivation and is more of an advocate for “grown-woman food.”

Hillary Duff on Shape cover

“I’d rather have someone pull my fingernails off than hunker down and go on an actual diet. It’s so hard for me,” she said.

In short, the busy mother is feeling good after a whirlwind of a year. (But who wouldn’t with abs like that?)

“I’m a 27-year-old mother. I feel fit and strong and happy,” Duff told PEOPLE earlier this month.

—Jacqueline Andriakos