Holiday season is here and for many people, that means an overload of festive food with a side order of guilt. But maybe we should stop beating ourselves up over a few days, and instead focus on our general food habits.
That’s what the 35-year-old actress, journalist and beauty icon Maria Menounos did when she was 40 pounds heavier than she is today (yup — 4-0). We love that she's lost the weight and kept it off, but we also are big fans of her no-guilt attitude for enjoying the holidays. Earlier this month, Ocean Spray set up a giant cranberry bog in NYC's Rockefeller Center, and we chatted up Menounos there to learn how we can adopt her no-shame ways this holiday season.
How do you resist unhealthy foods during the holidays?
I don’t resist temptation and I think that that’s the key. Because I don’t resist, I don’t crave as much. [Recently] I was in the airport and I wanted M&M's so I had M&M's. I didn’t eat the whole bag because once I ate a few I was like, "Huh, I don’t need them anymore." But if I were denying myself, then I would want it. I remember from my days when I was heavier people making me feel bad about my weight. Almost to defy them, I would get a gallon of ice cream and hide in the garage and eat the whole thing. So I understand how my mind works, and so when I don’t deprive myself, I don’t crave it. And when I do [crave something], I have it.
So how do you keep from gaining weight if you're indulging over the holidays?
That’s a big concern for everybody. I always tell people that are concerned about that to cut back three to four weeks before the holiday just 10 percent of the bad things each week. Just make tiny changes leading up to the holiday so that when you have the holiday you enjoy yourself like I want you to. It’s a balance. You have been good for four weeks, so you can have a little here.
So you can actually go all in during the holiday?
Absolutely. And then I always say, after the meal take everyone for a walk around the neighborhood. Get a little exercise in.
How do you balance eating, exercising and pleasure?
I never deny myself anything. I just keep it to certain portions. I’m not going to overindulge. And if I go to a restaurant and I have a bunch of appetizers, I’m not going to get a meal. People don’t really listen to their stomachs. I have to pick and choose — you can only eat so much.
And so with fitness there are times where I can’t work out for months. But what I do is that I make sure I’m always active throughout my day. I’m taking the stairs. I’m running from point A to point B as fast as I can. I’m speed-walking in my office. I make sure to try to get 10,000 steps a day and I don’t feel guilty, because sometimes you just can’t [work out]. ... If I’m at a restaurant and I want to indulge, I’m not gonna beat myself up about it. I think that that mentality is what saves me.
You were once 40 pounds heavier — and have said you weren’t sorry about it and rocked it. Why did you change your lifestyle?
My dad was type 1 diabetic so I was putting myself at risk for diabetes, and at some point I had to look myself in the mirror and say, "You know what? It’s one thing to be a little heavier and it’s another to have eating contests with boys." I was taking it to another extreme and I was jeopardizing my health and so I had to focus on it.My boyfriend loved me just as much then as he does now. I was getting annoyed with having to work harder to find clothes that fit and looked good. So maybe there was a little of that as well, but it really overall first and foremost was health.
Was getting healthy something you did together with your dad?
No. He’s super fit and super healthy. He was my inspiration. I did it by myself. It was difficult because I didn’t use a trainer. I just wrote everything down I was eating for a week. I looked at it and I said, "Oh, carbs are my problem. I’m going to cut back slowly." Then in five months I lost 20 pounds. And then from there I was very motivated, so I started working out and doing more.
Are you still tempted to eat like you used to?
For sure. And those are times when you just do it. The other night I wanted potato skins and so my boyfriend went and got potato skins and a soup and a salad. I never even got to the soup and the salad — I ate all of the potato skins myself. Whatever.