September 24, 2012 12:00 PM

“I recommend the steak quesadillas and the onion rings. So, all health food!” Megyn Kelly says with a laugh, sitting down to lunch at Del Frisco’s in midtown Manhattan. “Some things are worth the fat and calories, although I have to watch it like a hawk.” Especially because the Fox News anchor’s hectic schedule-jam-packed with work and raising two kids (Yates, 3, and Yardley, 17 months) with entrepreneur husband Doug Brunt-is providing to be her sole source of exercise these days. “I used to be able to work out,” she says, “but these days there is literally no time.”

She won’t be finding any free moments soon. This fall Kelly, 41, is coanchoring all of Fox News’s major election coverage (more than 9 million viewers tuned in last month as she and Bret Baier presided over the Republican National Convention broadcast), a move that cements her status as the network’s rising star and “the brains of the Fox News operation,” as The New Yorker recently declared. “It’s a crowning achievement, and she’s proven herself well up to it,” says Fox News executive vice president Michael Clemente of Kelly. “She is bright and knows how to ask the right questions in a polite but aggressive way…. There’s nothing to hold her back.”

Those same qualities helped Kelly navigate a risky career change. The Syracuse native started as a litigator, before trying a move in front of the camera at 30. “By the end I just hated it,” she says of practicing law. “I loved arguing in front of a jury, but there’s so much paper pushing. I realized I had done nothing fun in my 20s, just toiled away. I resolved I wouldn’t spend my 30s the same way.” With no formal journalism training, she landed her first job in Washington, D.C., at an ABC affiliate after offering to work for free. “I figured I argued for a living, so if I couldn’t convince them to let me work for no money, I didn’t deserve the job,” she recalls. “But my first producer would tell you I threatened to put a stiletto in his eye if he didn’t hire me.”

After moving to Fox News, covering the Supreme Court in 2004, she faced a rocky transition. “I felt like I needed to be in total control and project total confidence,” she says, “but that alienated people.” After her bosses told her to lighten up the following year, “I decided to let my flaws out there a bit,” she says. “I have the humor of a 9-year-old boy, and sometimes I’ve had laughing fits on-air. Now I realize I am nowhere near perfect, and that is okay.” In 2006 she landed the anchor chair.

Yet she remains her harshest critic, especially now that she has a family. “She’s got the whole superwoman thing down, but she feels that guilt that a lot of working mothers have,” says husband Brunt, 41, whom she wed in 2008. “If she ever misses something funny that the kids say or do, she really beats herself up.” While Kelly says she would never quit her job, “I always feel like I want more time with my kids,” she admits. “But I reject the notion that you can’t have it all. I think you can: just not necessarily in abundance.”

Which means taking multitasking to the next level. Kelly wakes up at 6 a.m. with her kids and reads the morning news during playtime, squeezes in date nights after her weekly appearances on The O’Reilly Factor and takes her family along on business trips, like the Iowa caucus. “I get to spend extra time with them that way,” she says. “I’m not doing it to try to prove a point. I’m doing it because I’m committed to the job, but my family still comes first.”

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