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How Maria Menounos Lost 40 Pounds—and Kept It Off

If you had to name a celeb who's in absolutely amazing shape, we're guessing that Maria Menounos would be among the first people who come to mind. The Extra host has crazy-toned abs—but she didn't always have such an incredible body. In her new book, The EveryGirl's Guide to Diet and Fitness: How I Lost 40 lbs and Kept It Off-And How You Can Too!, Maria shares how she's struggled with her weight in the past.

Women's Health got a chance to catch up with Maria at her book signing at the W Hotel in New York City, where she did a one-on-one meet and greet with fans (her boyfriend, Kevin Undergaro, even made an appearance!). Find out what she had to say about losing the weight, keeping it off, and finding her way to a healthier lifestyle. 

WH: What can people expect from your new book?
Maria: For the woman who wants to lose weight, I obviously chronicle my 40-pound weight loss journey—exactly how I did it. So if that's what you want to do, you can follow exactly that, down to the whole one-sheet that the trainer I hired for one workout session gave me for the workout plan that I used. And my old food journals, everything. But there's also a phase II of what I've learned since, which is great for people who may have lost weight, but there are other things that you can do health-wise. The book is so full of so much information that I wanted to give everybody everything. So you may grab on to one thing—like the 40-pound weight loss—or you may gravitate toward something else. You never know what's going to inspire someone, so I tried to put everything that I could that I believe in into it.

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When did your weight-loss journey start?
Right before I left college. It was my junior year, I was a size 14, and the jeans were getting tight—and I was not going to buy a size 16. I was really tired and depressed, and I didn't know why. So I decided to make a change and really focused on it. It took a year almost.

Well obviously it worked because you look amazing! But how have you been able to keep it off?
If you take the time to make small changes that are not drastic—you're not changing your diet at all. In the beginning, you're just cutting back a little. So you're still eating anything you want, just a little bit less. And when that gets easy, you do a little bit more and a little bit more, and that accumulates. 

For me, when I did that, I lost 20 pounds in five months. I never told anyone I was on a diet, and I never told myself I was on a diet—biggest tip ever. Because that sets you up for failure. And then you're like, "Ah, screw it, I'm just going to have this dessert." And then you're unhappy again. I lost the 20 pounds, and that was all the motivation I needed to go on the second phase, which was like, "Now I'm going to work out, now I'm really switching out foods for healthier options"—and you won't do that until you're motivated. 

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For me, it was more about being healthier than it was about being skinnier—but I got the same results. So if you think about it as your health—like I talk about, think of this as your 50-year plan. I don't want to be 40 or 50 at the doctor's office having to hear bad things. And a lot of it is controllable—some of it isn't, but a lot of it is. So had I not lost the weight then, I got blood work back last week, I'd be diabetic now. 

It doesn't matter how young we are. We're all like, "Oh, we're young! We can do whatever we want!" OK, cool, but I want you to know that you're going to eventually have to face the facts at some point. So why get to that place? Why not start making better choices now? 

I'm not telling you not to eat that stuff ever. I still have nachos, and I'm never going to be that person, I don't think—although we continually evolve and continually get better—but as of now, I find it really hard to see myself saying, "I don't eat processed flour, white this, and sugar that." Maybe I'll get there someday? But right now, I still want to eat that stuff—just in moderation and in smaller amounts. I want to put as much pure fuel into my body so that it works at its best.

MORE: 7 Foods That Can Help You Lose Weight 

Note: This interview was edited a bit for space and clarity.

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