updated 02/27/2010 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 02/27/2010 AT 10:15 AM ET
No wonder Rachael Ray looks so fantastic and fit. The syndicated TV host is several sizes smaller and brimming with energy.
“I started running 3½ miles every morning after throat surgery to remove a cyst last year,” Ray, sipping on a beer, tells PEOPLE at the Amstel Light Burger Bash she hosted Thursday during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival at the Ritz-Carlton. “The gym used to be my adversary. But that has all changed. Now, I look forward to it every morning.”
Never one to rise early, Ray, 41, looking hot in jeans and sexy sandals, is ready to rip at 5:50 a.m., and even earlier if she has a TV appearance before her own New York-based talk show.
She spends about 30 minutes running, then heads for the gym for 45-60 more minutes of elliptical training before choosing from a circuit of machines.
“I look forward to this workout every morning but Sunday,” says Ray, who is using the David Barton gym while in South Beach with her lawyer-musician husband John Cusimano. “I listen to my iPod and discovered I think much clearer now.”
Ray also noticed that her body has changed and she wears clothes several sizes smaller. “Since I never get on a scale, I have no idea how much weight I ve lost!” she says with a laugh.
Busy seven days a week, Ray says her show and magazine are healthy and thriving because she offers suggestions that “normal people” can relate to in a challenging economy. And she is maternally satisfied with her dog Isaboo. Having children is not in the cards.
“There are no kids on the horizon for John and me,” she tells PEOPLE. “I do 280 episodes of TV a year, write 15 recipes for the magazine [Every Day with Rachael Ray], and publish an annual book. With all of that, we try to get one weekend a month with Isaboo at our home in the Adirondacks to relax and recharge. It would be selfish of me to bring children into the world.”
Instead, Ray is active in her 3-year-old charity Yum-o, an organization that empowers kids and their families to engage healthy relationships with food and cooking.
“Between my charity and my staff members kids and dogs, who come to work with them, I get all the fulfillment I need!”