“I’ve been on a diet off and on for the past, I would say, like 30 years — I've just been one of those people.”

By Kylie Gilbert
Jan 15, 2021 @ 4:00 pm
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Mindy Kaling
Credit: Getty Images/InStyle

The pandemic has made it easier for all of us to lay low — and no one knows that better than Mindy Kaling, a self-described "pretty private person" who kept her entire pregnancy and birth of her son, Spencer, in September a secret.

Without any projects to shoot or red carpet events on the horizon, quarantine allowed the writer, actress, and producer to have a more laid-back, 'normal' pregnancy — a complete departure from her experience with her daughter, Katherine, in 2017, she says. "Last time, when I had my daughter, I was getting ready to shoot a movie, I think two or three months after. So I went into that with this insane focus of like, Oh my God, I don't want to put on too much weight. And actually, I think it kind of took away from some of the joy of being pregnant," Kaling tells Instyle.

After giving birth, she quickly got back into working out and dieting. "I remember coming back from the hospital and I was like, I'm only going to eat salmon and spinach every single day for two and a half months. And I kind of did it!"

This time around though, she could slow down and just enjoy the process. "There was no movie for me to be in, there was no movie for anyone to be in, we all had to be home, so my focus after immediately giving birth could just be about my son and me recovering and getting to know who he was, instead of me focused on like, scrutinizing my body and all of its imperfections," Kaling says.

Which is why she almost said no to a backyard photo shoot for the cover of Vogue India six weeks after giving birth. "I had literally just had a baby and I was thinking, I don't even have the benefit of being in a beautiful studio where they can, you know, maybe with lights make me look a little bit, I don't know, younger, thinner, or whatever else! So I was stressed about that, but ultimately having me be in the comfort of my own house made me feel more relaxed," she explains. "I think that I just didn't realize that so much of you looking appealing and beautiful is feeling truly just comfortable in your environment and in your own skin."

So, where does that leave her now, with resolution season fully underway? "I feel like I've been on a diet off and on for the past, I would say, like 30 years — I'm aging myself, but I've just been one of those people. I think one of the nice things about this particular year is that I've decided that my resolution is not to lose weight. My resolution is just to live well and enjoy my current situation, which is stuck at home with two children while also having two jobs and being a single mom," she says.

"That said, now that it's been about four months [since giving birth], I am trying to transition my holiday eating into something a little bit more, you know, veggie-oriented and nutritious. So, it's been nice to partner with Campbell's Well Yes! because it's a really delicious, nourishing way to eat without me having to feel guilty about not cooking. It makes it so easy for me to be like, okay, I'm making good decisions about my health with this, and my daughter loves it too," she says. "It's been, counterintuitively, a great thing for me to take the pressure off my new year's resolutions."

She's also, somewhat reluctantly, gotten on the at-home workout train — in the name of self-care, rather than weight-loss. "I was that woman who twice or three times a week, I was going to my spin class. It was obviously for [physical] health reasons, but it was also for mental health reasons. I really think that carving that time out for myself, being able to be by myself and just be focused on exercise and the endorphins that I got really did help my mental health, so I was worried about what the transition would be like when we were all at home," she says. "Now that I don't have that group atmosphere, I've had to be a little bit more regimented about running and yes, doing things like the Peloton or finding a workout app and doing some kind of an exercise on my treadmill at home. And it's not as fun! I still get the endorphins, but I do love group exercise classes and I do miss them."

Time by herself to work out may be harder to come by these days, but Kaling tries to fulfill her 2021 resolution to 'live well' by taking a break from work during the day for 'little rituals' like going for a walk around the neighborhood with her kids ("I never knew my neighbors before the pandemic! Now we text all the time.") or getting in exercise in "unusual ways," she says. "We'll go out in the backyard and my daughter will like, teach me how to do a somersault or something like that."