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Amy Brenneman's Healthy Balancing Act

The 'Private Practice' star reveals how she takes care of family, career -- and, most importantly, herself.
By Lauren Paige Kennedy
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Actor Amy Brenneman of ABC’s Private Practice is in fine form these days. She’s finally learned "how to be nicer to myself" after a recent health scare forced her to put herself first more often.

Juggling a hit TV show while raising two kids (daughter Charlotte is 10 and son Bodhi is 6) with husband of 16 years, film writer/director Brad Silberling, Brenneman struggles to fit everything into 24 hours a day. And to stay sane -- and physically sound -- while doing it.

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"I'm lucky because I have help," Brenneman, 47, admits. "I think that for working parents, a big dirty secret that no one wants to talk about is finding child care that you trust. But unless you can hand off your precious children in a safe way, you can't find time [for work and other pursuits] or have a clear conscience."

In an effort to better care for herself, Brenneman works with a nutritionist, Los Angeles-based Ashley Koff, RD, who made small but important changes to the star's diet. She avoids raw foods, seeds, and nuts, and tries to stay well-hydrated.

Brenneman also makes exercise a priority but not an obsession. "I've always been fit. I'm lucky ... I have an internal clock, and I know when to move my body. And I have a wonderful trainer. I wandered into this hardcore Pilates place [last year], and she worked me out. Also, one of the great releases for me is to go running."

Amy Brennerman's Ulcerative Colitis

Being pulled in so many directions -- production schedules, kid commitments, red carpets -- does take its toll. For years, Brenneman suffered flare-ups of ulcerative colitis, a condition of the colon where inflammation and ulcers develop in the intestinal lining. Her health forced the Judging Amy and NYPD Blue alum to re-evaluate how thin she could be stretched -- metaphorically and literally.

"I lost a scary amount of weight while I was doing everything I could to avoid getting the surgery," Brenneman says, referring to the course of treatment recommended by her doctors. "I'm normally 130 pounds, but I got down to 105. Not good." She underwent two operations in 2010. The result? I'm doing really, really well. I feel great. And I'm so grateful," she says.

The unexpected bonus: "I don't drive myself so hard now," she explains, even if "I do drive people around me crazy at times. I schedule things a week or two out front. Then, as I get closer to the day -- and if it's not putting people out -- if I don't feel like it, I won't go.

"I try to stay in touch with my intuition as to how my day should go…there are lots of things we don't have control over. But I don't shame myself over it ... I try to have compassion for myself."

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