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Jeannie Mai, 41, is truly the hostess with the mostest. One of the straight-shooting ladies on The Real, host of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, and an Emmy nominee a few times over, Jeannie's definitely made her mark on the small screen. Her latest venture: Jeannie will be salsa-ing and waltzing her way through season 29 of Dancing with the Stars.
Also a former celebrity makeup artist and stylist, Jeannie has truly done (and been through) it all—and that includes her own health transformation.
Until about two years ago, Jeannie followed a strict no-carb, no creamy dressings, no eating after 8 p.m. diet to maintain her weight. That all changed when she saw a photo of herself after going through a divorce and felt that her frail outer appearance didn't match her strong inner spirit.
"I realized that I was malnourishing myself and depriving my body of its natural weight and essential needs," Jeannie tells Women's Health. "I was underweight. I had some body dysmorphia and I also had anorexic tendencies. I really controlled my eating. I didn't let myself go over 600 calories a day. It was pretty bad, and I didn't realize that until I had this awakening after my divorce."
On the left is the first time I tried on this dress, at a weight I've kept for 12 years, 103 lbs. Staying 103 came from my self control to lose "chubby" teenage weight and a stressful idea that my body was built to look best "thin". As I'm nearing my 40s, I realize that I've been thru so much shit mentally and emotionally, why the hell should my body be forced to suffer (from my over controlling ways) too? So 3 months ago I started a new eating plan and training program and gained 17 lbs. I don't have a weight goal..just a promise to be as physically Strong as I am mentally Indestructable 🙌🏼 So far I'm 3 months of eating more, (clean protein and saying Yes to carbs!!), lifting heavy weights (best therapy ever!!) and truly loving all of Me. Not sure where I'm headed but I know I'm gonna look the best I've ever looked because Im spending quality time on ME. Here's to Mai first #transformationTuesday. What tips you want me to share in my journey? Cuz I'm def learning now that a figure with curves offers interesting angles 🖤 #summerbodyhereIcome #leanmuscle #StrongisthenewSexy
A post shared by Jeannie Mai (@thejeanniemai) on May 1, 2018 at 10:16pm PDT
Now, Jeannie says she's living her fullest life, which includes enjoying delicious meals and putting pounds on her strong bod. "I just feed it what I crave, and at the same time what it needs, mixed with healthy, regular workouts," she says. "What that has led to is a 20-pound weight gain and a much healthier mindset of letting my body just naturally do things."
For Jeannie, this usually plays out as six mini meals per day, which fuel her regular strength training. "Every couple hours I'll be munching on something; that's how much work it is to gain weight to to keep up the building of muscle," she says.
Here's what a typical day of happier, healthier eating looks like for Dancing with the Stars contestantJeannie Mai.
Jeannie's mornings are busy, so she needs quick, nutritious fuel to get her going. "In the morning, because I shoot The Real, I don't have a lot of time to prep and I'm usually going through tons of notes and directions with the producers," she says. "So, I grab something quick like a whole avocado with turmeric and honey. Sometimes I'll put royal jelly in it, as well. I mix up the sweet concoction, put it in the middle of my avocado, and eat it."
Jeannie says this leaves her feeling super satisfied and even helps gets her natural glow on. "It's so good for your skin," she says. "I noticed a sheen on my skin."
Jeannie's early call times mean she often needs an extra snack before lunch. "I usually like to have this collection of dips in the fridge made with either cottage cheese or pureed veggies or guacamole," she says. "I'm a big fan of healthy fats and creamy dips. I put seasoning and herbs, maybe some shredded crab or shrimp, or just chopped up cucumbers in them."
She likes to scoop up her dips with crackers, pita bread, or lettuce wraps.
Ramen, Jeannie's childhood fave, has become her go-to midday meal in recent months. "I love ramen noodles," she says. "I soup up my ramen just by using the noodles with some chicken bouillon. Then I'll season it however I want." Usually, she includes pickle juice for salty flavor, rosemary and basil for an herbal vibe, or chili garlic for an Asian flair.
"Then, I'll put vegetables in it," she says. "It's actually the best way to cook the leftover stuff you have in the fridge. You don't even have to put the ramen into a bowl. I eat it right out of the pot; it drives my fiancé crazy."
Still, though, Jeannie follows her cravings. "For me, food has to be a lot of what I crave," she says. "If I crave a burger, I have a burger. If I crave a bag of Cheetos, I have some Cheetos. But, I make sure that the mainstay is plenty of vegetables and plenty of fruits."
Dips aren't Jeannie's only snacks throughout the day. She also has a crunchy recipe that's become a go-to. "I love nori seaweed," she tells WH. "I usually make little wraps with lunchmeat, which is nitrate-free and organic, or scrambled eggs with sausage. I just love the crunch. Sometimes I put a layer of rice on it so it's like a sushi version of whatever filling I put into it."
She's also famous for her cucumber salad. "My cucumber salad kicks ass," she says. "The great thing about it is, there's no time in the day where you don't feel like a crunchy, sour, dill-y refreshing treat, and cucumber salads can go alongside anything."
Jeannie also likes a good sippable snack. "I do a lot of shakes because you can hide healthy greens, like spinach, into one and you won't taste them," she says. "I put so many vitamins into a shake and it doesn't taste bad."
One of her favorites: a strawberry mint shake made with fresh strawberries, two scoops of almond milk ice cream, mint, some lemon, a shot of pineapple juice, and her cocktail of vitamins. "It's delicious like a daiquiri and super fluffy," she says. Yum.
Dinners for Jeannie are all about hearty, flavorful proteins. "I usually have pre-marinated meats in the fridge," she tells WH. "Whether it's oxtail or chicken thighs and drumsticks, I marinate it and freeze it in Tupperware or plastic bags." This makes it easy to bake her proteins together with veggies in one pan.
"I'll usually pile my dish with a lot of vegetables, like zucchini, carrots, potatoes, and Japanese eggplant," she says. Olive oil, sesame oil or sesame seeds, lots of herbs, and Himalayan salt, give the veggies loads of flavor.
Jeannie also likes to make eggplant lasagna, which she and her fiancé (who eats a ketogenic diet) can enjoy together. She uses an eggplant base instead of noodles and layers in vegan faux-meat crumbles layered with her mom's special ragu sauce recipe.
For Jeannie, that sixth "snack" of the day is likely of the dessert variety. "I really love chocolate chip cookies and chips," she says. "I'm also a big sucker for hot fries and Cheetos." Otherwise, she gets a sweet kick from pre-cut fruit.
Jeannie's dessert philosophy: Enjoy your faves, but keep the portions reasonable. "I think it's always important to pour some into a bowl so you don't find yourself eating the whole bag; it's still important to use portion control," she says.
A post shared by Jeannie Mai (@thejeanniemai) on Dec 1, 2018 at 6:35pm PST
"One thing that I can't go back to is anything that's made out of artificial coloring or sugar," she says. "I feel better about myself because the artificial coloring, I used to not care but now I really am a snob about that."
Also nixed lately is alcohol. Jeannie's been sticking to non-alcoholic bevvies. "I'm not drinking alcohol right now, but when I do, it'll be a Japanese whiskey. That throws me back and just has a beautiful aroma to it." Tea, anyone?
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