Balance: Healthy Hollywood Living

Rachael Ray: ‘I Didn’t Start Meaningful Exercise Until I Was 40′

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Rachael Ray talks to omg! about food, family, and fitness. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Rachael Ray talks to omg! about food, family, and fitness. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

It was those famous "30 Minute Meals" — always focused on fresh ingredients — that helped Rachael Ray become a household name. But despite the celebrity chef's penchant for veggies, her "everything in moderation" mantra (which includes burgers and mac and cheese too), and her push to use good-for-your-heart E.V.O.O. (her now-famous abbreviation for extra virgin olive oil), Ray admits one big piece of a healthy lifestyle was missing for her for a very long time.

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"I didn't start meaningful exercise until I was 40 and I feel really guilty about that now that I'm a few years into running six days a week. I really feel like I missed out a lot in my adult years," the now-43-year-old tells omg! from Yahoo!. "I wish I had those other 25 years back between when you're forced to go to gym class and where I'm at now. There were a lot of years where I thought that just working really hard was the equivalent of having exercise every day in your life, and it really isn't."

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Ray — who also hits the gym every morning with her husband of six years, Jon Cusimano — insists that it's not just exercise's physical benefits that have turned her into a workout junkie. "It really makes me feel mentally so much more on point, so much more even. I don't lose my temper. I don't get lost in the middle of the day," she shares. "I just have a much cleaner, clearer vision every day and I can get so much more accomplished mentally by moving physically every day."

To be sure, Ray is accomplishing a lot. In a little over a decade she's gone from an occasional guest on the Albany local news to media mogul, with a multiple series on the "Food Network," a syndicated talk show, a monthly magazine, a line of cookware, a series of books, and even her own brand of dog food.

She's also busy on the non-profit front. Five years ago Ray launched a charity called Yum-o!, focused on eradicating child hunger, lowering type-2 diabetes and obesity rates in America, and providing scholarships to kids interested in going into the culinary field. In addition, she recently teamed with Ziploc to promote the Great American FreshOver project, meant to bridge the gap between how often American families should be preparing healthy meals filled with fresh, wholesome ingredients and how often they actually are, all through a Facebook page.

"The differential is so large they wanted to [create] a platform for families to go get information, incentives, and great tips and tricks to lower that differential when it comes to feeding their families a more healthful diet that includes more fruits and vegetables," Ray explains.

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Ray and husband John Cusimano (Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

While her schedule is dizzying, the 5'3" dynamo learned by example from her mother and grandfather to work hard at work, but not to bring it home. These days, in a world of 24-hour cell phones, texts, and email, it's a lesson Ray lives by. "They were both people that worked, you know, 80 to 100 hours a week and happy to do it, but every minute they were home, they were doing something with the family," she says. "The bigger goal for my mom was that we share time together and I think my husband and I live that way today."

Indeed Ray and her attorney/rocker hubby don't need to pencil in dates. Instead they focus on late-night cooking at home most evenings.

"As long as I get home before 9 o'clock, we make dinner together, and that's our treat. Every night is our date night that we cook at home because we have that time together, we can have a glass of wine, listen to music or put our favorite show on while we're chopping and making dinner, then we sit down and we share a meal together," says Ray. "That really makes me feel like I got my time out of my day."

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Later this year, she'll celebrate her 44th birthday and mark seven years of marriage. Career-wise, Ray is about as successful as it gets, and if you hear her speak for all of 30 seconds, she seems like one of the happiest people on the planet. So why are people always asking her when she's going to have children?

"Forty seems to be that magic number where that question starts to come up all the time. It's an obvious one, especially for a woman to ask another woman," she explains. "It's never really gotten on my nerves."

For those waiting for Ray for bring her very own little sous chef into the world, well, keep waiting. "I didn't get married until I was 37. I work five jobs. I feel like a marginally good mother to my dog, you know?"

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The 43-year-old goofs around at a food festival. (John Parra/WireImage)

And, she says, the children's initiatives she focuses on via Yum-o! give her a sense of fulfillment that she's helping the next generation. "I get to be around lots of kids and feel like I am doing my part in giving back. But at the end of the day I didn't feel like [being a parent] was a good choice for me. I just didn't think I could handle, quite frankly, the stress I would put on myself that I couldn't be around enough," Ray explains.

"And it really never came up with John either. It was never high on his list. We were always so busy and so happy with the day-to-day lives that we've had now for about a decade together. I never felt that pressure at home."

If there's a fellow TV chef out there who's the antithesis to Ray and her sunshiney persona, it's none other than the chain-smoking, foul-mouthed Anthony Bourdain, who's let it be known that he's unimpressed with the bubbly brunette's cooking style (for recommending short-cut ingredients like pre-chopped onions, for example) and has lambasted her for encouraging viewers to "aspire to nothing." While she isn't Bourdain's only target — he's most recently made headlines for going after Paula Deen — in true Rachael Ray style, she doesn't seem bothered by his insults. Not even a little.

"I absolutely love Tony Bourdain. I always have, I always will. I'm on and off the love/hate list. I don't know, I don't care, I've always been a huge fan. I read his fiction and non-fiction. I think he is cool as hell," Ray insists. "Just because somebody says something that disagrees with what you teach or what you do out in the world, it really, to me, would be petty if I let that change my opinion of him or his work. I constantly beg him to come on the show and I have fingers crossed that one day he will."

Hear that, Tony? It's called the high road.

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