Ross Mathews Digs Deep Into His Weight-Loss Journey - Exclusive Interview

If you watch nearly any sort of television, then you'll surely recognize Ross Mathews. The celebrity interviewer climbed the entertainment ranks as an intern for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," making his way into becoming one of the most well-known faces in Hollywood. Mathews is a host on "The Drew Barrymore Show" and "RuPaul's Secret Celebrity Drag Race," and he even was a runner-up on "Celebrity Big Brother" (what doesn't this man do?).

In addition to his lengthy list of accomplishments, the television personality lost an impressive 60 pounds since the start of the pandemic. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Meal, Mathews opened up about his weight-loss journey and the inspiration behind his popular Instagram recipe videos, "Rossipes." The WeightWatchers member and ambassador revealed how he is able to maintain nutritious eating habits today and gave us some tips on how to keep up those New Year's resolutions of eating and fitness goals as we head into 2023 (hint: January 1 is only one day out of the year!).

Mathews shares his holiday plans

I wanted to start out by talking about the holidays. What are your plans so far? Are you hosting? What's going on?

I'll be in Palm Springs where it's paradise. It's 75 [degrees] on Christmas Day. It's not exactly like the storybook, but it's my home. I'll be in my home with my dogs, with my husband, and I'll be having a bunch of friends. My brother will be there as well, but I want it to be casual. We did Thanksgiving there too, and the only thing mandatory was that everyone was in pajamas.

That's definitely a good tradition to have. I don't think I've ever worn real clothes except for Christmas Eve.

Yeah. I like it to be casual. It's been a tough few years. Everyone has gone through it. We're here now, so I want to have a good casual time with loved ones. It sounds so cheese fest, but I totally mean it.

Absolutely. What's on the menu for your guests? What do you plan on doing?

Well, I do cook. I love to cook. I cook every day. I call everything I make "Rossipes." I try to crack the code. I work with WeightWatchers. I've lost 60 pounds and spent a couple years holding strong, maintaining. What I've learned is that nothing's off the menu. We'll never have that "do not allow carbs in this house" idea. It's not like that.

It's about moderation, having a little bit of this, a little bit of that. What I like to do is try to crack the code on these holiday recipes I love so I can have more of them. That's why the most recent one I put out was a spin on my nana's famous potatoes. Instead of potatoes, I used cauliflower, and I used some ingredients with lower points. Catch up on a point here or there, and it all adds up. We can go throughout the holidays without missing our favorite traditional flavors. Nothing's off limits.

Mathews' go-to dessert is so simple

I've seen on social media, "It's all about restricting carbs, cutting this out, cutting that out," but it's really about adding and balancing and the moderation, like you said.

Yes. I went into the holidays, we talked with WeightWatchers, and I had the game plan. It was called "half a scoopa," so my plate was half proteins and greens, and on the other half was a scoop of this, a scoop of that, a scoop of this. I ate everything on Thanksgiving, and I actually lost a pound.

That's amazing.

We went for a walk after dinner too, a nice long walk.

That helps with digestion and everything too, so it makes you feel better afterward anyway.

Totally. A game plan is good, especially if you have another family member where you can be like, "Hey, you and me, I've got this. We're going to do it like this," to keep you as accountable as you can and keep yourself accountable. A game plan helps, and also cutting yourself some slack.

You created "Rossipes." You mentioned potatoes before — cauliflower, actually. Are there any holiday dessert recipes that fit into your healthy eating habits that you're planning on doing as well?

I don't have the biggest sweet tooth. I'd rather have a bag of chips than a piece of pie. But what I always do when we're going to have desserts is I make sure that there's the traditional stuff for the people who want to do that. But I go simple — it's like berries, which is zero points on WeightWatchers, and then I put some low-fat or non-fat or even sugar-free whipped cream or cool whip. I think the sugar-free cool whip is zero; if not, it's like one point. I'm getting that sweetness, that creaminess, all of that, but I'm not eating a whole pie.

Mathews loves charcuterie and soups like the rest of us

What are three ingredients you always have to have in the kitchen while hosting?

Oh my gosh. Well, I'm a snacker by nature. I have been my entire life — I won't give it up. In fact, when I started WeightWatchers, I was like, "We got to figure out a plan where I can still have snacks at night. I still gotta be me." What I like to do when people come over is I have a big island in the kitchen, or I put it on the dining room table. You always have to have a meat and cheese tray, charcuterie. I always make a veggie fruit tray.

Then I love to serve cocktails. [For] my Rossipes, we'll have the wine and the vodka sodas, martinis, but I like to do themed things like a Ross-tini. It's pinot grigio on ice, because I'm a little trashy if I'm not ashamed of it.

That's funny. I'm Italian — I think my parents would scoff at that, ice and wine.

Oh, totally. I judge myself. But what are you going to do?

Wine is wine! What would you say is your general go-to dinner recipe and why?

I love making soups and chilies because I get adventurous and creative, and I feel like if people are adventurous in the kitchen, it makes it a lot more fun. The thing about soups is that you can never go wrong. If you make it a little too salty or spicy, you just add more broth. It needs a little heat. You can add it. You can taste as you go. 

I love that because by the time dinner's rolled around, I'm full already. I've been tasting it all day as I've been cooking it. I also know that there's no rules. The way I cook is that I don't do well with directions. It's got to look right, taste right. You got to trust your gut, literally.

In baking, you have to be more precise, but in cooking, you can throw things in and it'll turn out fine.

You can fix it and change it as you go. When I make these Rossipes that we post with WeightWatchers, for the most part, I usually am making them in real-time with the audience. Sometimes, I've made them before and I tweak them. But there's no right or wrong in the kitchen.

Mathews doesn't compromise flavor

Say a beginner is starting WeightWatchers or looking at your Rossipes. What would your tips be for them?

Well, flavor is mandatory. We're not going to give up flavor or we're not going to maintain, bottom line. That's why diets don't work. That word "diet," I don't do it, because I have done diets in the past. That just means a blip in time — it's not sustainable for me. Flavor is mandatory, texture is mandatory, and we can't have these strict rules where they say, "This is unacceptable to eat. These foods are off limits." 

That's why I love WeightWatchers, because it allows you to not have to break up with anything. I remember one diet, I said, "Okay, I've broken up with pizza, I've broken up with bread, I've broken up with chips." Well, we got back together, because that's what happens if you miss your ex. The truth is, you don't have to break up with any kind of food. You have to make peace with it and understand that you can have anything in moderation as long as you hold yourself accountable, keep track of everything, and you don't have to say goodbye to what you love.

When you talked to Today, you also mentioned that you didn't do a real diet. What steps did you take toward a healthier life that enabled the weight loss but didn't necessarily include fad diets?

I can speak for myself, and a health journey, a weight-loss journey, is even more mental than it is physical because there's a lot of accountability, self-worth, self-control, and also understanding food. "Why is that? Why can't I have limitless this or that?" That's why I love it. I wish I was holding my phone because the WeightWatchers app is accountability and a nutritionist right there in your pocket. It's giving me the answers that you need.

Eating habits and self-worth

I had lost weight on diets before, but it didn't teach me anything. What I found — and why I've been able to maintain and I feel so strong in this maintenance, which is the key — is that because I feel armed with the tools and the knowledge, now for the first time, I get it as a grown-up. Growing up, there wasn't an education of food. We were poor growing up. We didn't have money; we ate what was on the table. 

I never thought about why this was good for me or why I couldn't have limitless [amounts of something]. I found that once you get it and you understand, it's a game changer, because it's about here [indicates head] ... Sure, it manifests on my body, but the change happens in your brain, in your head, and in your soul. That's the difference.

It's more of a lifestyle change versus doing all of those short things because, like you said, that's not sustainable in any way.

Totally. There's stuff wrapped up in it. When I said self-worth — a lot of us don't think we deserve to take the time to learn about it or that we are beyond it, so we're too old to have to reset our brain. There's a lot of that tied up in it.

It's way more than just putting the chips down. It's way more than that. It's emotional; it's psychological. It's important, though, to get a handle on it, because in my journey alone, there's medication I'm not on anymore because I don't need to be. I'm talking about cholesterol [and] things like that, because I've been able to figure it out with the help of WeightWatchers.

That's wonderful. Congratulations on that.

Thank you. It's amazing. It's food — food did that. My choices, one after the other adding up, did that.

Mathews' health goals for 2023

I've seen a lot on the internet that basically links exercise and food, and if you eat badly, you have to walk it off or exercise. It's such a bad mindset. It's important to understand exactly what you're saying and understand how food is more of a vehicle for your body versus your enemy.

Totally. These diets we talk about in the past, I remember one specifically where I [was like], "I'm not going to eat a carb," and I didn't eat a carb for six months. Then I hit this goal in my head — and what I did to reward myself was I ordered an entire large pizza and ate it. What is that teaching me? That didn't teach me anything, and then it was the floodgate open. But if I had lost that weight having a piece of pizza here [and] there, I wouldn't have given up and used the food as reward. You get it. We all do it.

With fast food so accessible, it's easy to binge eat. But with New Year's around the corner, what are your food and health goals for 2023? How are you planning on maintaining all of this?

Well, that's the word. Maintaining is key for me. I'm really happy where I am in my weight, and I've been able to maintain this weight within the same, I call it a "neighborhood of a few pounds," for over a couple years. I want to continue to use the tools that I've learned with WeightWatchers and maintain. I want to be in the same neighborhood in terms of my weight a year from now and then another year.

Then I have little goals. I want to get all my steps in. I want to make sure that that shirt in the closet, my goal shirt, fits in a couple months. Those are what we call non-scale victories.

It's not all about what that number says. We can't live or die by what the scale tells us the morning we weigh in. There are those non-scale victories that are even more important. I had to catch a train — I ran and I ran all the way up the stairs. I got on the train and I was not out of breath the other day. I remember thinking, as I sat down ... If you could have told me two years ago that I would've run that whole way and sat down and been like, "What's up? Hi," and held a conversation, I wouldn't have believed it.

Don't put so much pressure on January 1

Many people tend to set food and exercise goals for the new year, but then fall off those goals after a few weeks. Do you have any tips for people looking to maintain new lifestyle goals? What would your number one tip be for them?

January 1 is just one day of 365. If you fall down, pick it up again on January 7, pick it up again on March 3. Whatever to the whole pressure of that New Year's resolution where it's like, "Okay, I'm going to go seven days a week to the gym," and by January 6, you don't see a gym again for another year. I always say stay in the fight. This is a battle that we'll be in for the rest of our lives. If you lose the battle that day, you can still win the war and get back to it right the next day. Do your best.

This is going to sound cliché, but change only starts when you let it.

Absolutely. Something that was crucial for me is ... I read somewhere, "Nothing changes if nothing changes." I think about that all the time. If you don't change a behavior or even as simple as the way you talk to yourself ... Talk to yourself as you would treat somebody else — we're so mean to ourselves. The things I say to myself, I would never say to another human being, so treat yourself the way you would want to be treated, take care of yourself, and stay in the fight.

Ina Garten inspires Mathews' cooking videos

I'm going to switch gears to your television work. With all of your podcasts and your experience on "The Drew Barrymore Show" and your celebrity interviews, is there one famous food personality that you particularly enjoyed talking to or have learned from?

Drew and I are in our third season on "The Drew Barrymore Show," and this entire time, we've been talking about how much we love the Barefoot Contessa. I'd never met her; we've been dorking out [about] her forever. Last month, she came and did an entire hour with us, and Drew and I were in absolute heaven. I love The Barefoot Contessa. I love that she cooks for Jeffrey, her husband. I cook for my husband, Wellington. Every video that I make with WeightWatchers, I try to have Wellington there in the end, to taste it.

That's inspired by Ina and Jeffrey. I love that they do that, because it's what we all do in real life. A lot of these cooking shows we watch, I'm like, "Well, who ate that? Did the crew eat that?" It's a big pot of food, and then you say goodbye. I love to know that she's really making that for her husband. She was here. She was better than we ever could have dreamed.

Oh, she's adorable.

I have her book — she signed it for me. It's right here next to me. She's wonderful. She reminds me of my mom. My mom had that same bob, and my mom's love language was food, same as me, same as Ina, and my mom loved Ina Garten. It almost felt like for a minute I could feel my mom being there.

What did she cook for you guys on the show? What did she do?

Oh, geez, I have to remember what she made ... I wasn't in the food segment. She made the perfect scrambled egg for Drew and Zosia Mamet.

Mathews would want Julia Child to cook him dinner

Who is the one chef you'd want to cook you dinner?

Honestly, it'd be Julia Child. I love the movie. I've seen documentaries on her. There's a show on HBO that they renewed for a second season called "Julia." What I love about her is she has the same philosophy that I have in the kitchen, which is to embrace the mistakes. So many people are intimidated to get in there and cook because they think they don't know how to do it, or they're going to do it wrong, or whatever. 

You figure it out; you're going to get messy. You're going to figure it out, and you know what you might just do? You might make something nobody's ever made before, and you may do it better than anybody's ever done it before. As a cook, I'm always chasing that perfect revelatory dish. Julia had such respect for classic traditional French cooking, but she was also such a rebel in the kitchen.

She's so iconic. I love her ... I was looking at "Mastering the Art of French cooking," so I've been trying to get more into it.

Totally. It's intimidating to get into that kind of cooking, but what are you going to do? Mess up? Start again.

Exactly. Do you have any other upcoming projects you would like to share? Do you have anything else going on?

"RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 15 starts January 6 on MTV. We just moved to MTV. "The Drew Barrymore Show" ... We're in the midst of our third season, it's the fastest-growing show in daytime [TV]. Ratings are up like 60% from last year. We've really hit our stride. Drew's the best to work with. I get to co-host "Drew's News" with her, and then there's my brand-new podcast, "Hello Ross." We've had the most amazing people stopping by, from Guy Fieri, who is one of my friends — I love him so much. I competed, we won; my husband and I won "Guy's Grocery Games." 

We won "Guy's Ultimate Game Night" as well on the Food Network. Guy Fieri's on [the podcast], Chelsea Handler's on, Teresa Caputo — the Long Island Medium — is on. We're also going to be talking to Richard Fierro, the man who stopped the shooting at the Club Q Colorado Springs shooting. "Hello Ross" is all about fascinating people stopping by to say hello and have a fascinating conversation.

You can join WeightWatchers on the website or head to Ross Mathews' Instagram page to keep up with his latest projects.

This interview has been edited for clarity.