February 10, 2011 03:00 PM

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Laila Ali thought she knew what to expect when she was expecting; after all, this isn’t the first time the former boxer and Dancing with the Stars contestant has gone through a pregnancy. But it turns out, life is full of surprises.

This pregnancy I’m a little surprised — I’m having cravings,” she told PEOPLE at the Red Dress Collection show at Lincoln Center, where she walked the runway in a gown from A Pea in the Pod.

“The first pregnancy I didn’t — now I crave sweets, sweets, sweets!” says Ali, 33, who’s expecting a girl she plans to name Sydney in early April.

“I’ve got to watch it because I’ve got two more months to go; I already put on 30 pounds.”

But despite Ali’s sugar cravings, everything else about the pregnancy is just all part of life.

“I don’t get shocked easily but when you’re pregnant, your body changes and you just have to accept it,” she notes. “It’s such a short period of time that it comes and goes quickly and then you can get back to yourself.”

And in order to stay at optimal health during her pregnancy, Ali makes sure to continue her routine, which includes an a.m. workout and cooking at home.

“I make sure I get up and work out in the morning, otherwise I won’t,” she explains. “I cook probably five days a week for myself and my family because I know what’s going in the food. I try to use organic ingredients.”

And in addition to staying fit during pregnancy, Ali said one of the other most important aspects is taking time for herself to regroup and relax.

“Women are the backbones of the family,” she said. “Life just happens that way and I think it’s really important for us to take time for ourselves. If you’re not happy and you’re not taking care of yourself, everything else falls apart.”

— Kimberly Peiffer

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