At 33, Laila Ali has already earned enough titles to fill 10 celebrity résumés: world champion athlete, founder of her own skin and hair care product line, Dancing With the Stars finalist, TV host, author, singer, health and fitness advocate, philanthropist. But the title she prizes most these days? Mom.
"Being a mom is the role that gives me the most satisfaction and happiness, and it completes my life," she says as her daughter, Sydney, born in April, coos in the background. "It's also one of the toughest jobs, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
Ali has never shied away from tough situations. At just 21, she followed her father, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, into the ring, forging her own path to sports stardom.
Ali also follows her father's lead when it comes to parenting, but in her own way. "My dad has always been very loving and nurturing," she recalls fondly. "I took that from him, and I'm going to be the same with my kids—except I'm more of a disciplinarian."
She has a better perspective on parenting now that it's her second time around. Sydney joins older brother, Curtis Jr. (C.J.), 3, who is named after his dad, Ali's husband and former NFL star, Curtis Conway.
Laila Ali's Get Fit Challenge
During these early months of Sydney's life, Ali is taking a step back from the spotlight to focus on her baby. She's a full-time mom. "The first five months, it's really important for me to be there all the time, especially because I'm nursing," she says.
While caring for her kids, Ali still has a full to-do list, and near the top of it is her goal to lose the 25 pounds left from her pregnancy. She's decided to share her progress in a regular people.com video blog, and with Get Fit Challenge posts on her web site (lailaali.com) so other new moms can follow her personal diet and exercise plan.
"I thought I could motivate and help a lot of people that way," she says of her decision to lose weight in such a public forum.
Although she's a world-class athlete, Ali wants other new moms to know that even she's not immune to the challenges of staying fit with a new baby at home. "I don't feel like working out, either. I'm tired. But it's a priority and it's important, so I get it done."
Like everyone else, she falls prey to junk food cravings -- which aren't made any easier when her husband brings home cake from one of her favorite bakeries. "I'm like, ‘Must you bring all that home?'" she says, laughing. "I'm on the treadmill working out and he's eating that."
Ali's Healthy Habits at Home
Cravings aside, healthy eating is a priority for Ali -- and her family. In the public arena, she has lent her voice to promote a number of health and wellness causes. She's teamed up with the Women's Sports Foundation, Kroger's health and wellness initiative, and the DoSomething.org Healthy Schools Challenge to fight childhood obesity.
At home, she models the same healthy habits for her kids. "The main thing I'm going to do is lead by example," she says. That means limiting sugar, salt, and processed foods and stocking her fridge with plenty of fresh vegetables. Keeping a healthy kitchen isn't easy with a toddler at home, especially a picky eater like Curtis Jr. "He wants to eat macaroni and cheese, rice, or pasta," Ali says. She's had to get creative, puréeing vegetables into his spaghetti sauce and juicing carrots into his milk to keep his diet nutritious.
The Importance of "Me" Time
Juggling two kids and a career that's always spinning in many different directions isn't easy. Ali keeps a balance in her life by making sure to carve out a little time for herself each day. "When Sydney goes to sleep and C.J. goes to sleep, then I have my moment. It could just be checking my emails or calling a girlfriend," she says. Caring for her two children has made Ali realize just how precious that "me" time is.
Being a mother has changed her in other ways, too. "Motherhood has made me a lot more patient," she says. "And I think it's made me look at things differently.
"I don't sweat the small stuff anymore. Certain things don't really matter. What's most important to me is my children -- and their health."