Buddy Valastro has turned cake baking into big business. Thanks to the continued success of his TLC series Cake Boss, which premiered in 2009 and just wrapped its 14th season (Valastro is both the star and the executive producer), the 41-year-old now owns 22 locations of his flagship Carlo’s Bakery and three outposts of his Italian restaurant Buddy V’s, oversees a bakeware collection and a line of ready-to-eat foods, and has written four bestselling books.
But being a Cake Boss comes with occupational hazards as well—the caloric kind. So in early April, Valastro decided to take action. After revealing his recent weight loss on Instagram earlier this month, the television star opened up to PEOPLE about what motivated him in the latest issue, on newsstands Friday.
“I just woke up one morning and looked at myself and was like, ‘Come on, you’ve gotta stop eating,’ ” he says. “It wasn’t like a health scare or anything like that it really was really just, I wasn’t moving the same and was feeling kind of sluggish.”
Using a program called Optavia, which was recommended to him by his brothers-in-law and calls for six small meals per day, he’s lost 35 lbs., and he has 15 more to go to reach his goal weight. “There’s a million ways to lose weight,” he says. “This worked for me — you just have to find what works for you and try to stick to it.”
For more on Valastro, including a look inside his New Jersey home, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.
For the lifelong baker, the diet marked a major change. “My problem was that I was doing the opposite of what I was supposed to do. I never ate breakfast. I would have a cup of coffee, and by lunch I was starving and scarf down two slices of pizza,” he says.
Adds Valastro: “I’m not doing it because I’m trying to look good, I’m doing it to feel better. I feel so much better now. But when you do lose weight, you feel good, you do look better, and you know, your clothes fit.”
As for how he sticks to it despite his occupation? “It’s hard being a baker because I still have to taste stuff,” he says, “but now I’ll just have one lick.”
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And though he’s regularly in front of the cameras, Valastro says he never feels pressure from being in the public eye. “I’m not the sensitive type—people could call me fat, they could call me skinny. I don’t really care. I did it for me,” he says. “Even at my heaviest I was always comfortable with myself.”