Shannon Beador
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October 04, 2018 09:00 AM

It’s been a year since Shannon Beador announced her separation from ex-husband David Beador, and the Real Housewives of Orange County star is feeling stronger than ever.

The mother of three, 54, has stayed busy since ending their relationship of nearly 20 years — balancing time with daughters Sophie, 15, and  twins Adeline and Stella, 13, with the launch her wildly successful food line, Real for Real Cuisine.

She’s also slimmed down, dropping nearly 30 lbs. of her 40-lb. weight gain through diet and exercise.

“It’s crazy to think what you can accomplish in a year,” Shannon tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I’ve learned a lot. To say in one year, I’m going to lose nearly all my weight, launch a business that so far is doing well, move on from a marriage, and strengthen friendships and established new ones? That’s a tall order! But I’ve gotten here one step at a time.”

Shannon Beador
John Tsiavis/Bravo

Shannon has done a lot more than that, of course. Broken after the end of her tumultuous marriage, she took the time over the past year to build herself up again.

“I’ve gotten stronger, deep down,” Shannon says. “Part of what I did after I separated with David — while staying home, not going out, and not doing much of anything — was I tried to self-reflect and figure out the changes I wanted to make in myself. What kind of person do I want to be?”

“I wasn’t any rose to come home to at the end of my marriage,” she continues. “I was really reactive. And I needed to learn to take a step back, take in any potential criticism I might perceive about being negative, and really examine that.”

Shannon Beaodr and Scot Matteson
Shannon Storms Beador/Instagram

There’s been some casual dating, too, most recently with businessman Scot Matteson — though Shannon has mostly stayed away from committing herself to a relationship.

David, meanwhile, has entered into a serious relationship with girlfriend Lesley Cook, with whom he moved in on Tuesday, according to Shannon.

“I have no control over David’s life anymore, he can do whatever he wants to do. But for me, I think that it’s important to not jump into a relationship right away,” says Shannon, who reinforced during a trip to Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen on Monday that she would never get back together with David. “I think it’s important for me to stand on my own for a little bit and check out my options. It’s like, if I immediately go with one person, I’m cutting myself off from meeting so many people. I don’t want to do that right now.”

Shannon and David Beador
Jerod Harris/WireImage

That was part of the problem Shannon had with David. Looking back, she admits she never took the time to get to know him the way she should have.

“I got married when I was 35,” Shannon recalled. “It was later for me and I think I was a little bit, ‘I got to hurry up here if I want to have kids so we’re going to make this one work.’ And then we got pregnant on our honeymoon, which was a blessing but we never had that, ‘We’re just married and it’s me and you time.’ “

“We never did, but I was thinking that we’d evolve into something,” she added. “I want a partner. I want to be part of a team. I want to support my partner and I want him to support me. I want to encourage him, and be positive, and have fun. I didn’t have that in my marriage.”

With all that behind her, Shannon’s putting her energy toward the future.

That includes Real for Real Cuisine’s new line of lobster cakes that just launched. Only 140 calories each, the decadent dinner is made with large chunks of lobster, whole wheat breadcrumbs, dijon mustard, onions, garlic, lemon juice and a variety of seasoning.

“Other lobster cakes can have up to 4 times as much fat and up to double or more calories,” she said. “I could order this one! It’s clean label. You can look at the label and understand what’s exactly in it. I’m striving to keeping it clean. I was obsessed as a mother to have my kids grow up in the healthiest environment possible, especially what they put into their bodies when I cooked at home. As I’m older and I’m busier and working, and the kids are busier, I really don’t have time to do what I used to do. So a product like this helps me make sure at , at least when they’re under my roof, they’re eating as healthy as possible.”

RELATED VIDEO: Shannon Beador on Co-Parenting With Ex-Husband: ‘I Want David to Be a Part of My Children’s Lives’

And as tough as the past year has been, Shannon says she ultimately feels lucky.

“There are so many people out there who go through so much worse times than me. I’ve got it good,” she said. “Fans will say to me from time to time that I inspire them but I don’t look at it that way. I’m willing and open to letting people in, and showing people all the difficulty that I’m going through — which isn’t easy, because people judge and criticize. But there are people going through way worse things. I’m inspired by so many other women that are standing on their own. It’s hard out there. And they encourage me.”

The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Mondays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.

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