Mindy Kaling Isn't Going to "Beat Herself Up" Over Her Changing Body

The actress, writer, and producer opens up about learning to embrace her body and ditching the restrictive habits of her past.

In the past, leading up to the Oscars or the Met Gala, Mindy Kaling could easily be described as the antithesis of her bear claw-obsessed character on The Mindy Project. "It'd be like, 'Oh my gosh, the six weeks beforehand I have to stop eating,' or I'd only eat a tiny piece of steak and some asparagus, and that's what I'd eat all day," she tells Shape.

But in the years since, during which she gave birth to two children, Kaling says she has put an end to those restrictive habits,and, ever-so-slowly, has come to embrace her body. "I would love to be the size I was when I was 32 or something, but I just refuse to beat myself up about it," says the actress, now 41. "I love to eat at restaurants, I love to eat home cooking, and I don't like restricting my diet. And [now] I'm like, as long as I'm getting enough nutrients and feeling like my heart and my lungs are really getting exercise, I don't really beat myself up about that."

Kaling's go-to method to get her heart pumping: Jogging three to four miles a couple of times a week, usually with a 10- or 11-minute mile time, she says. "If I didn't have exercise through the pandemic, I think I would have gone crazy," adds Kaling. "My eating wasn't always great, but my exercise was very consistent." To stay hydrated along her route, she downs two to three bottles of Propel's Immune Support drink (Buy It, $16, amazon.com), which contains vitamin c, zinc, and the electrolytes sodium and potassium. "It actually totally transformed my workout," she says of the brand, which she's currently working with. "Now I'm like, 'Oh, this is what it's like to exercise when I have replenished electrolytes. This is such a better workout.'"

Maintaining consistency in her fitness routine isn't always so easy. Since having children, Kaling says she's had to swap her leisurely workouts at noon for those that require her to wake up at the crack of dawn. "It's kind of a big lifestyle change, and three-quarters of the time I'm fine with it, but one-quarter of the time, I just resist," she says. "I'm like, 'No, I will not get up when it's dark out and exercise. I'm not going to do it.' And I let myself have those times, but luckily, my sense of propriety makes it so that most of the time I do get up."

Despite the impressive mileage she logs every week and the serious dedication the routine requires, Kaling says it's still tough to consider herself a legit athlete. "Fitness has always been part of my life, but I've always been sheepish about claiming that because I'm not this stick, you know?" she says. "I feel like in conversations about fitness and exercise, if you're going to be talking about someone who's healthy and fit, you have to be a hard body with, like, a six-pack. But that's not really how it works, and I have learned to embrace [my body] in the past six months [since having a baby]."

Between running a production company, writing scripts for her hit Netflix show Never Have I Ever and an upcoming HBO Max series, and raising a family — during a pandemic, no less — Kaling says she's also somehow learned how to juggle it all. Still, she admits her responsibilities aren't always perfectly balanced. "One thing is always suffering a little bit," says Kaling. "There's my professional life, and there's my home life, and it's about jumping in at the last second before they're about to, like, fall off a cliff. "

For example, when her daughter starts calling their nanny "mommy," she'll hop in to give her a bath and read her books in bed, she explains. And when she recognizes that she's been putting a professional project on the back burner, she'll reprioritize in order to write up a stellar script, says Kaling. "I learned the breaking points for all the things that are most important in my life, and I know when to jump in."

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