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'I didn't do a real diet': Ross Mathews on 50-pound weight loss

The 41-year-old bubbly television personality is opening up about his recent weight loss in quarantine and what inspired him to make some changes.
/ Source: TODAY

For Ross Mathews, 2020 is a year of huge losses but also life-changing gains.

The hilarious television personality first rose to fame as “Ross the Intern” on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” back in 2001. Since then, he has authored two books, appeared on “Celebrity Big Brother," “Chelsea Lately,” “Live from E!,” and currently serves as a judge on the hit VH1 reality show “RuPaul's Drag Race.”

Ross Mathews at an event in Hollywood, California in early Jan. 2020.Chelsea Guglielmino / Getty Images

But the 41-year-old media personality recently made headlines for a different reason: He lost 50 pounds during quarantine.

“I feel like everyone during this COVID thing has been focused on what we've been losing,” Mathews told TODAY Health via Zoom from New York City. “You know, I've lost time from my family. I've lost time from my job. I've lost this and everyone feels like they've lost a year. And I just thought: How can I gain something during this time?”

In addition to learning to cope during the COVID-19 epidemic, another tragic event happened for Mathews. In May, he lost his mother, Gaye, to breast cancer. She was 69 years old.

“My mom and I were so close, just beyond close and all my life, I've lost weight and gained weight, done unhealthy things to my body,” he shared. “And I decided, you know, this is the one thing I can control and what I can gain in this time when we're losing so much because I can gain my health. Because I think if you lose a parent and you don't pay attention … You're missing out on a gift. And so I paid attention to what it means to have your health.”

What were some of the unhealthy things he did to his body? Late-night snacking and unlimited pizza, of course.

“Snacking at night is my downfall,” he explained. “I'll be pretty good during the day, and then it's like, a bag of Doritos at night, because I'm sorry, but when you're watching ‘90 Day Fiancé,’ you gotta eat something! And then the other one is pizza for me. After mom died, I really found comfort in what I called ‘grief pizza,’ which is like unlimited pizza.”

“So for me, it was about changing behavior. It was about cutting out snacking. Or if I did, I would snack on like, a pickle or something. I was looking for the crunch. It was about replacing some things and really just knowing that if nothing changed, nothing changed. That if I didn't make some changes, I would be stuck in the same unhealthy place that I was.”

Mathews said instead of focusing on a fad diet, he really pushed himself to learn more about food and become involved in the process of educating himself on healthier eating.

Mathews has struggled with maintaining his weight loss in the past. This time it's different, he says.Tibrina Hobson / Getty Images

“I didn't do a real diet,” he revealed. “Really... I just started learning about food, talking to people, dabbling in this and that and then I start making my Ross-cipes. I've done it just eating as healthy and health-fully as I can, while not feeling like I'm giving up anything.”

But the other life-changing thing Mathews points to that has really helped on this journey: walking non-stop. “I just moved to New York City so I'm walking tons, which helps," he said. "There’s nothing scarier than the gym. I'd rather watch those awful Halloween movies over and over again. Yeah, the gym is not for me.”

"If you don't pay attention, you're missing out on a gift."

ROSS MATHEWS

He also turned to therapy.

“I promise you I will mess up along the way, but the thing that is different this time is that I had talked to a therapist throughout this process,” he shared. “I really wanted to understand why I could lose it but not maintain it because losing is not the problem, gaining it is is not the problem… maintaining is the problem. I think you have to get down to the root of that and all weight-related issues are not really about the food, I don't think. I think it's about why you're overeating? What you're pushing down by shoving food in?”

"It's all about now that we've seen what we have to lose, we know what we have to live for. And that's why I am working so hard for my health.”

Because of this commitment to his health in 2020, Mathews has also teamed up with Nicorette to urge people to quit smoking. “That's why I'm working so hard to get people to quit smoking with Nicorette,” he shared. “That's why I want to do this campaign. Let's get healthy. Life is so short. Let's go.”

The initiative, #StartStoppingShoutOut, is also a nationwide sweepstakes that is inviting loved ones to nominate smokers they want to help quit for the chance to win a personalized shout-out from Mathews, actor Rumer Willis or race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Mathews was a smoker when he was in college, but like the recent passing of his mom, the death of his father when he was younger inspired him to quit.

“I have been lucky enough to hold both of my parents as they died and you think that would be sort of a terrible thing,” he said. “It was not easy in many ways, but it is a gift. Because they were there for you when you were born, and to be there for them as they leave is a beautiful thing. Also, what you realize is somebody laying there, taking their last breath is at the end of the day, it's just you and your body. That was powerful for me. I was really young when my dad died. So I kind of got it, so I quit smoking.”

“When my mom died, for me, it really hit home in terms of... I was much older, almost twice as old and there's a clock now ticking. Every decision I make now about my body will determine how long I get between now and that moment when it's just me and my body, taking my last breath. So I'm gonna do everything in my power to keep my longevity here on this planet as long as possible.”

Mathews looks to the future with not only optimism, but also his lovable and bubbly brand of humor that is always there no matter how complicated the conversation may be.

“I also really insist, you know, this corona is going to end... it will end and we're all going to sort of emerge," he said. "I know a lot of people are going to emerge, having put on a ton of weight, wearing sweat pants where the elastic is worn out because they've been wearing them for a year, right?"

"Don't waste any more time to get what you want or to be who you want to be. Get going."

ROSS MATHEWS

“I refuse to do that. I want to come out of this in a better position than when I entered it. The reason? Because I can. I have a choice. I have the power to choose that. Not to be totally a cheese-fest, but I think any other choice that I made would be disrespectful to what my mother's death taught me.”

On what he hopes people take away from his weight-loss journey is for people to “pay attention.”

"Don't waste any more time to get what you want or to be who you want to be. Get going."