Gwyneth Paltrow‘s smile only widened when her husband, Chris Martin, brought their kids, Apple, 8, and Moses, 7, to say hi to Mom after a full- day photo shoot in L.A. “My priority is their settledness and routine,” says Paltrow, whose other duties currently include promoting her new cookbook, It’s All Good, her new film, Iron Man 3, and her partnership with trainer Tracy Anderson. Curled up on a sofa, Paltrow takes a breather to share her beauty secrets and admits it’s all a balancing act. Like most moms, she says, “I’m just doing the best that I can.”
What went through your head when you first heard that you were named World’s Most Beautiful Woman?
Honestly, I can’t believe it. I kept thinking, “This can’t be true.” I’ve never been more surprised or flattered.
You look better than you ever have. Do you feel better too?
I’m more in proportion now than I was when I was 20, so I feel better in a bathing suit now than I did before I had kids. But I think one of the most beautiful things about growing up is this self-acceptance that starts to happen.
Well, it’s easy to see why women could be intimidated by you now.
You know, it’s funny. I mean we all have our own self-esteem issues. I have to work out Monday through Friday for almost two hours every day, and it’s a nightmare. Sometimes I cry, like, “I can’t do this anymore! I’m so sick of it!”
So how do you keep going?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that discipline is difficult. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to just chill out and watch TV. It sucks to work out. It’s so hard. But it’s part of my job, so I make it a part of my work day.
What’s a normal day like for you?
We get up at 7 a.m. and have breakfast. I take the kids to school, work, work out, then pick them up. Both of them have something nearly every day after school. Apple’s on the gym squad, she does ballet, hip-hop, guitar. And my son does kick-boxing, hip-hop, drums and guitar.
That must make your husband happy.
It does. And Mosey is such a good drummer! Then we get into dinner and homework time, bath time, and they’re usually in bed by 8:00. By 9:30, I’m like exhausted. [Laughs]
How do you unwind?
I take a bath every single night. It’s how I end my day. And I usually just wash my face with a hot washcloth. The kids and I take baths together, and thank God they’re not saying like, “We’re too old. You’re weird,” because I love it. We have the best time. But I do like to have my own bath at least twice a week just to relax and exfoliate.
What’s your best tip for looking great?
Sleep! Sleep and exercise.
Your new cookbook stresses a pretty strict diet. What do you typically eat throughout the day?
Coffee with cream, which I cannot give up no matter what. Then for breakfast, I make a smoothie with a lot of protein and good fats in it. I graze a lot during the day; I’ll have a handful of nuts or an avocado. For lunch, I’ll have something light like a salad with grilled chicken. And then for dinner, I eat whatever I want.
Pretty much. It’s why I exercise for two hours every day! Because I want to enjoy my life and I love pasta. Like last night, I came home and had a fresh baguette and cheese. And a martini. I don’t believe in depriving yourself.
Do you ever pay attention to what’s written on the Internet about you?
Nope. I know what my intention is. People’s opinions of me who don’t know me and have never met me, that’s none of my business. That’s a projection of theirs, and it has nothing to do with me.
How do you keep it from filtering to your kids?
Sometimes it does. Apple was at a friend’s house and she Googled me. She was like, “Mom, there are so many pictures of you and of me on the Internet.” So I explained to her that if someone writes mean things, it’s because they’re hurting, and we have to imagine that they’re saying those things about themselves. And she was like, “Oh yeah, I get that.”
So what’s the biggest misconception you’ve heard about yourself?
Oh, there have been weird things along the way. One time there was a rumor that I ate in front of the mirror naked! It’s all so silly.
Does Chris prefer you more natural or glam?
I’ve never asked him that question. Sometimes if I’ve gotten fully dressed up and I’m wearing heels, he’ll be like, “Oh, wow! You’re Gwyneth Paltrow!” [Laughs] Because he’s used to seeing me in baggy shorts and frizzy hair.
As a wife, what would you say is the key to making a marriage work?
For me, I think I take my responsibility as a wife and a mother very seriously in terms of providing a nurturing environment where people can be looked after and taken care of. And I also totally accept him and what he does, so I’m not the type of wife who is like, “Where are you?” I never make him feel hemmed in or like he’s in trouble. And on a personal level, as friends, we really get along. We really laugh, and we’re super into our kids. There’s a good foundation. I mean we’ve gone through terrible times where it’s been really, really hard, but I’ve sort of come through those times with a much deeper understanding of myself.
And you’re still married …
And we’re still married. We worked through it. I think it’s easier to get divorced. But I think the more you can keep at it, the more you end up seeing the value in it. But man, sometimes it is not easy.
You miscarried a baby. How did that affect you as a mom?
It was awful. It happened really late, and I wasn’t expecting it at all. For a long time I just couldn’t understand that it had happened and why. I was like, “But I can’t not be pregnant. I’m already past the first trimester, and I have three car seats in my head.” To this day I feel like I’m missing that kid. But it wasn’t meant to be, and you have to trust in the universe. More than anything I just realized, Oh my God, I’m so lucky to have two healthy kids.
You could try again. Is the window closed or still cracked?
It’s still cracked. We all think, “Ugh, I don’t want to go back to diapers!” But my best friend’s mom once said, “Don’t do your planning around the pain in the ass of infancy, because it’s so finite. Plan it around how many people you want at Thanksgiving.” So then I think, maybe. But I don’t know.
Do you ever feel guilt as a working mom?
I feel guilty all the time! But they are my priority. I only do one movie a year now, and I look for something that’s not going to take me away. And it’s really more like I’ll miss them too much.
What’s been your biggest “aha” moment?
When I met my daughter. I looked into her eyes, and I was like, “What was I doing until this moment?” It changed my life forever. It changed the way I saw myself, the way I saw my own mother, it changed the way that I wanted to live for the rest of my life. Everything.
When did you last experience bliss?
Last night, when I was lying with my son because he likes me to lie down with him until he goes to sleep. He’s so cuddly right now, and he put his head on me and put his leg over my body, and I’m like, I’m in heaven. Heaven.
For Gwyneth’s recipe for Chicken Burgers, Thai Style, go to people.com