TV host Maria Menounos is hailed for sizzling bikini body, but was once 40 pounds heavier.
Menounos felt deprived as a child growing up in a health-conscious family that didn't allow any sweets or other junk foods. Maria's father had type 1 diabetes, so her parents made her follow a strict sugar-free diet.
"There were no chips, ice cream, or sugary cereals anywhere at home," Maria told Ladies Home Journal. "I didn't even know what bagels or waffles were until late in high school. For dinner we ate a variety of dishes made with lentils, vegetables, and beans from the garden. Our dessert? Fruit."
As a result, Menounos went overboard with binge-eating when she went to college, and promptly gained 40 pounds indulging in huge portions of candy, chips and pizza.
"I didn't gain the Freshman 15 — I gained the Freshman 40. I could keep candy and chips in my room and eat all the late-night pizza I could afford. I grew to a size 14 and kept growing. I felt sick and lethargic. I wanted to nap all the time."
Tired of being overweight and exhausted, Maria finally decided to overhaul her diet and start working out during her early 20s. Within a year, she lost 40 pounds and slimmed down from a size 14 to a 4.
Menounos was so encouraged by her dramatic weight loss that she has maintained an active, health-conscious lifestyle ever since. Maria, who's Greek, follows a Mediterranean diet, which has consistently been rated one of the top diets for its weight-loss and heart-health benefits.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes healthy fats such as olive oil and avocados, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. The diet is based on the traditional eating plans of Italian, Greek, Spanish, and other Mediterranean cultures.
Maria's daily diet features Greek yogurt with blueberries for breakfast; a Mediterranean salad with olives, chicken and feta cheese for lunch; and vegetarian chicken teriyaki with peas and cauliflower for dinner.
For exercise, Menounos tries to walk 10,000 steps (about five miles) every day. The 5-foot-8 brunette beauty also runs, takes spinning classes, plays basketball, and does Pilates and Krav Maga workouts.
Maria is against extreme diets, and underscored the importance of emphasizing health over vanity. "My goal was to stop overeating, make healthier choices, and lose weight slowly over the course of one year," she says. "Trying to rush or do crazy crash diets does not give you sustainable results."
Menounos shared her weight loss, diet and workout secrets in her new book, The EveryGirl's Guide to Diet and Fitness.