Maria Menounos had big dreams — and now she has an even bigger reality.
If you’re going to catch Maria Menounos, you’re going to have to move quickly. At 35, the journalist, TV host, actress, model, singer, dancer and best-selling author hustles faster than a speeding bullet. Last spring, cable network Oxygen went in hot pursuit of the virtual Renaissance woman on the reality program Chasing Maria Menounos. And last month, Menounos published her second book, The EveryGirl’s Guide to Diet and Fitness: How I Lost 40 Lbs. and Kept It Off — And How You Can Too! (Zinc Ink, $22). Here, Menounos talks to American Way about dreams becoming reality and offers some helpful health hints from the new book.
American Way: The reality show on Oxygen was called Chasing Maria Menounos. So where is Maria going?
Maria Menounos: You’ve got to walk fast to keep up with me, that’s for sure. There is a lot of chasing in my life. But where am I going? I feel like I’m still trying to do everything that I’m doing now, but I want to settle in and have my own show at some point. That’s always been a dream of mine. Talk shows need a revival; they’ve really kind of died. There are some that are doing well, but none that are succeeding on the level I would want. I’m looking for the right recipe for that.
AW: It has to be challenging having cameras all over your personal life.
MM: It was very, very, very hard to say yes to doing the show, because I was really putting it all out there. I was terrified. But that’s one of the reasons I said yes. Only good has come in my life from being terrified. I live to be scared and to challenge myself. When I’m terrified, it usually ends up being great.
AW: Many people will be surprised to learn in your book that you were once 40 pounds overweight. How did the weight gain happen?
MM: I was 20 when I hit my peak of weight gain. Living at college and being away from my mother’s healthy Mediterranean cooking, I didn’t just gain the freshman 15, I gained the freshman 40! For the first time in my life, I was exposed to all-you-can-eat buffets at the college cafe, a dorm room filled with Pop-Tarts and nightly pizza delivery — all of which I indulged heavily in. I gained weight, lost energy and grew extremely discouraged. I attempted one diet after another to lose it, but I never had the willpower to stay on a diet for more than three days. It was when I took a long-term approach that I was able to finally succeed.
MM: Lack of willpower — not being able to stick to a diet — was truly my biggest obstacle. The long-term approach — cutting back only slightly — helped cure this. I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing. In addition, I never said to anyone, or even myself, that I was on an official diet — because I wasn’t. I was simply cutting back slightly and gradually starting to make healthier eating choices. When you go on a diet, it’s a temporary eating plan. As a result, I believe, whatever results are achieved are also temporary, as most people gain the weight back. Instead, I was making slight changes to adapt to my general eating habits. This put far less pressure on me too.
AW: What would you like readers to take from reading your book?
MM: That if you are patient and willing to take a long-term approach, you can lose the weight and keep it off [even if you don’t have] lots of time in your schedule or a lot of money for expensive diets and high-end trainers or even a ton of willpower. I was a full-time student with two jobs who could barely afford books. I couldn’t stay on a diet for the life of me. Yet I found a way to lose 40 pounds and keep it off, and with the book, so can you. I also hope people learn to focus on good health as much if not more than weight loss. Being mobile, healthy and productive in later years is what truly matters.
AW: You’ve achieved so many milestones in such a young career. What was your big dream when you were a little girl?
MM: My parents and I used to clean nightclubs all over Boston when I was a teenager, and I would always dream big while I was scrubbing floors and picking up empty bottles. From the time I was 13, I officially was saying it out loud: “Someday, Dad, I’m moving to Hollywood.” And he’d be, “No, you’re not.” You never know how you’re going to get here. I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any Hollywood lineage. I just knew I wanted to act, sing, host … news, sports, a little bit of everything. I’m a big believer in having big dreams.