'Our bodies are a gift': Sandra Lee on her intentional weight gain

How finding beauty in every situation keeps Sandra Lee positive about her body.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Meghan Holohan

Like others, Sandra Lee loses her appetite when she's stressed. The celebrity cook certainly faced her share of strain after being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing a double mastectomy in 2015, and she lost weight because of it. But she did what others might hesitate to do — she gained some back.

"I gained weight on purpose," Lee told TODAY via email. "I actually worked at it with my doctor as I was borderline underweight. I was so stressed after the double mastectomy that I was underweight."

And, she enjoys how she looks and feels now that's gained 10 pounds.

"I love having a little weight on me and working out definitely made me gain weight as muscle weighs more than fat," she said.

The 53-year-old former Food Network star was recently named one of People's "Most Beautiful" at any age. Her views on body positivity and finding the joy in daily life speak to a deeper type of beauty.

“What I love about the beauty issue is that it talks about beauty of every kind and that is what we need at times like these,” she told TODAY. “My well-being is definitely focused on the little moments in everyday life.”

Practicing body positivity is just one way she maintains her agelessness.

"Loving your body and yourself is super important. Our bodies are a gift and our lives are a gift and they’re both to be cherished every single day," she said. "If you are not happy and healthy, nothing in your life will be as happy or healthy as it can be."

Her ability to appreciate the beauty in small moments has helped her during quarantine. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee is spending more time than ever developing recipes for her social media accounts and the TODAY Show original food series, “Top Shelf,” where she creates meals with pantry items.

“I am spending my days hunkering down at home, creating new recipes, creating new board games and that is a very joyful way to spend our new normal days,” she said. “If you look around and find the beautiful moments it will make every day easier and better.”

While many know Lee for her drink recipes from her Food Network, Cooking Channel and HGTV shows, imbibing is definitely not part of her daily routine.

“I only do 'cocktail time' on Friday and Saturday,” she said.

Instead, Lee focuses on smart eating habits, enjoying a breakfast smoothie packed with acacia, mint, spinach and fruit, and an early dinner with some sort of “fabulous protein,” a pan sauce and vegetable. Later, she enjoys popcorn and peach sparkling water as she binges TV. She makes sure to drink plenty of water and get lots of sleep.

"It’s incredibly important to drink lots of water and allow your body to rest," she said. "This is crucial to well-being."

While sticking to her healthy habits helps Lee, she hopes others take a positive approach to their own bodies — even if they're eating more or have gained weight during quarantine.

"Enjoy it," she said. "You can get the weight off soon enough — life is about being happy every single day and if eating a little more or even a little naughty makes you happy, then do it!"

Staying upbeat definitely plays a role in Lee's strong emotional health, too.

“There is a way to look at the world. You can do it with a glass half empty or a glass half full. I choose to look at it half full,” she said. “This philosophy contributes to stable mind and body health."