Gwyneth Paltrow Is Working to 'Accept' Her Body as She Ages: 'It's All Going South from Here!'

"I want to show up for myself in a more loving way," Gwyneth Paltrow tells PEOPLE about learning to embrace getting older

She may have posted a glamorous nude photo in celebration of her 48th birthday in 2020, but Gwyneth Paltrow says she still struggles with her body image.

"Unfortunately, we're always looking at ourselves with a critical eye," the Goop founder, 49, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I would love to get to a place where I don't do that anymore. I want to show up for myself in a more loving way, because it's all going south from here! There's nothing we can do about it."

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Sebastian Kim/August

For Paltrow, who is mom to Apple, 17 and Moses, 15 with her ex Chris Martin, changes in her body became most apparent after she had her first child.

"I was just coming out of my 20s when you're in that sexy, young girl phase," the actress says, "And then you're like, 'Well, how do I reconcile who I am now with that?' For me, it was really about giving myself time to be a mother, and letting my body dictate where it was going."

gwyneth paltrow

Part of Paltrow's journey to "accept" her changing body came from managing unrealistic expectations, a topic that is explored on her new Netflix series, Sex, Love & goop (premiering Oct. 21), which features five couples navigating everything from sexual intimacy to past traumas.

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Gwyneth Paltrow with kids Apple and Moses. gwyneth paltrow/instagram

"We have all these expectations," says Paltrow, who wed producer Brad Falchuk in 2018. "Some women feel when they have kids that they don't feel sexual because their body isn't back yet. But it's like, 'Who said our bodies have to look a certain way?' It's hard as you age and change. But it's about bringing a wider spectrum of acceptance."

For more from Gwyneth Paltrow, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Paltrow's own acceptance journey is shifting these days. "For me, as I go through the aging process and really start it, I realize it's less about, 'Oh, I have this wrinkle, am I going to fix it or not?' and more, 'Do I feel vibrant?'"

For more on Gwyneth Paltrow's PEOPLE cover story and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

Continues the Oscar winner: "I am focusing more on the fundamentals of wellness, like meditation, hydration, nutrient-dense foods and not having tons of alcohol, which I had way too much of during the pandemic!"

Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Falchuk
Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Falchuk. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty

And ultimately, "I would never want to go back to my 20s, or even my 30s for that matter," says Paltrow. "I know myself, I like myself and I am so grateful for the wisdom that comes with age."

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Gwyneth Paltrow on or on the PeopleTV app.

Sex, Love & goop follows the story of real-life couples who explore different ways to enhance their sex lives. Along with Paltrow (who is an executive producer of the series), health experts guide the five couples through unique techniques that help make the most of their sexual relationships.

Sex, Love & goop premieres on Netflix Oct. 21.

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