Nancy O'Dell: How the Caregiver and Working Mother Finds "Me Time"

Featured Article, Healthy Living
on August 1, 2014

On any given day, Nancy O’Dell may be juggling an interview with stars like Madonna and Jamie Foxx or First Lady Michelle Obama with the demanding schedules of three kids—daughter Ashby, 7, and stepsons Carson, 14, and Tyler, 18. But there’s one thing the Entertainment Tonight co-host doesn’t let slip: her sleep.

“I really make it a priority to get my full 7-8 hours,” she says. “My husband, Keith, and I have adjusted our sleep schedules to our kids’, so I’m usually asleep by 9.”

As ET kicks off its 34th season this month, we asked the Myrtle Beach, S.C. native, 48, to share her secrets to work-life balance, the challenges of the sandwich generation and her favorite celebrity interview.

We’ve heard you’re a runner. How do you find the time?

I wake up at 4:30 a.m. to run on the treadmill, because in the evening I’d rather spend time with my family. I also use treadmill time to catch up on TV shows, and listen in during our show’s 5:30 a.m. conference call.

What’s your advice for beginning runners?

Treadmills provide a great way for both beginners and seasoned runners to maintain a running plan. I use it to change up my routine by adjusting inclines and speed. I also try to keep exercise fun. One day I left my heart-rate monitor on, and found out that a vigorous game of tag with Ashby and our Yorkshire terrier, Buttercup, burned more calories than I had on my morning run.

Any tips for healthy meals on the fly?

I prep and marinate chicken or fish and veggies in the morning that we can grill for dinner as a family. We grill everything—even salad! Grilled romaine lettuce tastes great after you add some Parmesan cheese and vinaigrette.

You lost your mom, Betty, to ALS in 2008. How was she diagnosed?

My mom’s illness and death were the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through. We were very close. Her doctor thought she had Parkinson’s at first, but then a friend suggested she be tested for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), a degenerative neuromuscular disorder for which there is no cure. She was diagnosed on Nov. 1. I always say that God gave me several months to enjoy being a new mom and for my mom to enjoy Ashby, who had been born in June, before she received the devastating diagnosis.

What’s your advice for other women in the “sandwich generation”—juggling young children and aging parents?

When my mom was first diagnosed, I wanted to do everything myself, and that was impossible, especially since she lived in South Carolina and I was in California. I learned to accept others’ offers of help. But I didn’t make the time to go running, and I didn’t watch what I ate. As a result, I didn’t feel healthy or have any energy. About a month after my mom died, I started trying to eat better and exercise again. I knew that if I didn’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t be able to take care of Ashby and my family.