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.
By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
"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."