Mindy Kaling Says it 'Took a Long Time' to Let Go of Losing Weight for 'Vanity Reasons'

The actress and comedian speaks to PEOPLE about changing her mindset about working out and “owning” her love for fitness

Working out has been a complicated subject for Mindy Kaling, but she has a good grasp on it now.

Speaking with PEOPLE, the 42-year-old Mindy Project alum opened up about her recent weight loss journey and how she was able to find success not only through her fitness routine, but through her mentality.

"I've tried really hard to let go of this idea of losing weight for vanity reasons and really trying to think of how I can be healthy," Kaling, a Propel Fitness Water partner, tells PEOPLE. "And for me, healthy is working out, moving my body a lot, keeping hydrated, and then not having negative connotations around working out and making me feel like if I don't do this, then I won't be something else."

Mindy Kaling for Propel Fitness Water
Propel Fitness Water

"And that's taken a long time to kind of shed those old ideas of working out," she adds.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Mindy Kaling for Propel Fitness Water
Propel Fitness Water

Fitness has been a big part of Kaling's life since her early 20s, but she no longer sees working out as a form of self-inflicted torment.

"When I was younger, I had a very specific idea of how working out needed to be. It was like 45 minutes on the treadmill, seven minute mile, it needed to be punishing, I needed to hate it."

Today, the actress calls herself "a complete hobbyist" when it comes to working out, being active by jogging, walking, yoga, pilates, strength training, tai chi and more.

"I don't have to be like the expert at the thing to really enjoy it and to get a great workout," Kaling explains. "Surprising the body with lots of different things I think is really good, particularly for my body … I've really been mixing it up and knowing that if a workout doesn't necessarily make me soak my clothes with sweat, that it still was a good workout… It does not have to be punishing."

"And I'm 42 now, right? So I have to do stuff like that for me, in order to be able to be active with my little kids," she adds, referring to her daughter Katherine "Kit" Swati, 4, and son Spencer Avu, 19 months.

The shift from workouts being miserable to enjoyable is why The Office star partnered with Propel for the company's "JOWO — Joy of Working Out" campaign and summer fitness tour, which celebrates the positivity in being active.

"The endorphins that I get from working out centers me," Kaling says. "I'm kind of an anxious person and it makes me feel centered and makes me more focused. And I have some of my best creative ideas when I'm working out."

"It's made me feel so confident," she adds. "It's made me feel so great and own the fact that I love working out."

The comedian says that working out wasn't a norm in her household growing up.

"I never felt that kind of confidence to be like, 'Yeah, actually, I do work out four to five times a week. Can you believe it?' I always felt like I had to be sheepish about it," she tells PEOPLE.

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.

Mindy Kaling for Propel Fitness Water
Propel Fitness Water

"And it's too bad because I think there's a lot of women like me, who love movement, love how it makes them feel, but don't necessarily feel confident enough in the way that they look that they feel like owning it," Kaling says. "And that's been a big difference in my life in the past couple of years is that now I'm like, no, I will own it."

What's helped her fitness and weight loss journey, in part, is seeing the confidence and body positivity from the younger actresses Kaling has worked with in the past few years. The actress says she "needs" to incorporate that positive mindset for herself and hopes to pass the same down to her children.

"What's really nice — and I feel so lucky — is I think I have this opportunity to set an example [for my kids] that it is normal to work out," she says. "It's normal to love movement and think about self care."

"And I love that my daughter — I'll put out a yoga mat and be stretching or doing yoga poses and then put one out for her and she'll do them with me. I really love that I can be that example for her and model that for her. It's great," Kaling says. "I can't wait until she's old enough that she can be like my workout buddy, and just really like normalize fitness in our house."

Related Articles