"Do you want something to drink? A snack?" asks Bethenny Frankel, foraging through the food stash in her cheerful girl cave of a dressing room. "I'm going to wrap up these cake pops for Bryn." It's clear that even after taping back-to-back shows, the star (and mom of 3-year-old Bryn) isn't one to sink into the sofa and let others deal with the details. That work ethic and regular-girl vibe have served the New York City-based Skinnygirl founder famously well. Now, with her Ellen DeGeneres-produced daytime show in its first official season (after a successful test run), the 43-year-old is taking her girlfriend talk to a whole new level. The show is loose and candid; she puts herself in the hot seat as much as she does her guests. (In recent episodes, she took divorce advice from Martha Stewart and Kate Gosselin.) But though Bethenny has been going through a very public split from Bryn's father, Jason Hoppy, she seems at peaceÂand she looks fit in black leggings and a Mickey Mouse tiny T. While powering through a bag of Popchips, she chats with Health about her kind of balancing, why she still hates diets and what makes her happy now.
What do you like about doing a talk show compared with the TV you've done in the past?
Bethenny: You're at full tilt the whole time and really connecting to women. I want to give them something on each show they can take away and use in their own life. It's about women helping women.
What's most challenging?
Bethenny: It's intense. I do two shows a day. It's 150 people working on the show. You're responsible for people's jobs. I'm thinking about every single thingÂfrom what the flowers look like in a guest's dressing room to is the celebrity happy to is the audience having fun. Are the stations liking it or is it too edgy? It's a very difficult thing to do.
It sounds like a 24/7 role. Do you get any free time?
Bethenny: I've created my schedule so I have time off to be with my daughter, to take her to the playground. That's why I work so hard when I work. It's very work hard, play hard. I do everything crammed together, the two shows (taped on the same day) two days a week so I can have free time with her. But by the same token, I have a 3-year-old. On the days when I'm with her, it's all her. So I don't really have much free time to myself.
Your new book, Skinnygirl Solutions, gives total-life advice to women. What's the best advice you ever got?
Bethenny: Ellen's given me really good advice with the show: "If you're not interested in it, they're not going to be interested in it." It's your show. And one of the executive producers said to me last yearÂthat's been the best piece of adviceÂ"If it comes to your mind, say it." You're talking to someone and thinking, I want to know about that. Ask it. Because if you want to know, the viewers want to know.
You aren't one for softball interviews. Because of that, are there people who won't do your show?
Bethenny: No, because it's a no-judgment zone. I don't want to hurt themÂI want to help them. I know that if guests come here and do fluff, they're going to feel dissatisfied. So I'm like, "Let's do this. I'm not going to gang up on you." I actually have a different perspective on a lot of things, and I often understand where people are coming from, especially women. There was a woman on today who publicly shamed the guy who broke up with her by text. And I could kind of understand where she is coming from.
Who are you dying to get on the show?
Bethenny: Mark Zuckerberg. I'm interested in him. There's a different side to him. And if I'm interested in him, they'll be interested in him.
Much of your career has been focused on healthy eating and helping women not be obsessive about food. Did you learn that growing up? Or is it more a reaction to what you saw?
Bethenny: I grew up eating quality food but in a very obsessive household about being thin and eating disorders. Food was an obsession in my houseÂout to restaurants every nightÂbut then so was dieting. When I was in my 30s, I just unlocked the safe. I figured out how dieting doesn't work. I'd been on every diet and it took me all those years to realize: Diets are hopeless. They are hope, and then they break your spirit. So (my book) Naturally Thin will still be the greatest work accomplishment of my life. I mean, there was a woman who came on the show today who lost 100 pounds with Naturally Thin. It's learning how to allow and to indulge. That works.
You recently tweeted that the show is like school and you pack a lunch. What's in your brown bag?
Bethenny: It depends on what we had the night before. Today I brought arugula salad with Parmesan and tomatoes. And then I had chocolate-covered pretzels for dessert. I eat a lot of sweets. I like a small brownie in the afternoon.
So you don't buy into the whole sugar is evil message that we're getting these days?
Bethenny: It's ridiculous. I don't buy into anything that's extreme.
Let's talk yoga. Do you do hot yoga?
Bethenny: I barely do regular, but I definitely don't do hot. I haven't been exercising that much lately because I always think that sleep is more important. And my daughter and work are coming first.
I don't know how you stay in such amazing shape.
Bethenny: I don't know either! (Laughs) I don't have time to exercise. I could always stay thin, but I'd like to be fit. But what happens is if I go for four days to a spa, I'll work out for four days. It comes back. But I have to get a rhythm, and it's hard right now. I want to be a great mom and spend a lot of time with Bryn, and I'd never take an hour away from her to work out.
You have about 1.2 million followers on Twitter, and a lot of them are vocal. Does that help when you're going through a tough time or does it feel like you're living in a fishbowl?
Bethenny: Both. My Twitter audience can be great. They can be harsh. Ellen says to never buy into any of it. Don't buy into the haters. Don't buy into the lovers. But I get a lot of inspiration from people on social media. I think you learn a lot about people; you learn what they like. It's a good place to connect.
Successful people are often hardest on themselves. Is that you?
Bethenny: I'm very hard on myself.
How do you get past that?
Bethenny: You have to do things to love yourself. You go through self-destructive phases, when you're in a difficult time in your life and you feel fragile and a little self-destructive. And then you have moments of being strong. You do the best you can. I'm no different from any other woman. I beat myself up. I expect things from people in relationships and don't often get what I need and have to accept that.
What do you think about having it all?
Bethenny: I don't think you can have it all at once. It's hard to have a career and a personal life and a love life and a sex life. If it happens, I'll let you know! (Laughs)
There's often pressure in Hollywood to have the perfect body. Do you face that?
Bethenny: I'm not overly concerned. I like that I have a nice figure, but I don't feel any pressure about it. It's not the thing that people identify me with. I mean, they do, but it's not who I think I am. I'm flawed. I've created a success based on being flawed.
So when you're having a blah day, how do you project confidence?
Bethenny: Just smile and connect with someone. Go look at something beautiful.
What do you do that's just for you?
Bethenny: Recently I'm trying to find my identity again. I'm figuring out who I am in this new life. So I'll take my dog and go for walks along the river. I'll walk and do something mindless. It's good.
Do you still have time for girls' nights?
Bethenny: I do! I just had a girls' night on Saturday. I don't always love if it's people I don't know well, though. I'd rather be with people who are all caught up, because I don't want to talk about the show or my divorce.
What do you consider the most important quality in a partner?
Bethenny: In a romantic partner? Hmm. Acceptance. Confidence. Sense of humor. Ability to take charge. I'm always so in charge, I'd like someone else to take charge. And it's not that easy. I'm not that easy a person to take charge of. I don't want anyone to take charge of my business. I want someone to take charge of my personal life.
What is your happiest time of the day?
Bethenny: When my daughter runs into my arms. If she comes to the studio, or in the morningÂjust her running into my arms.
Since it's December: What's on your wish list, both tangible and intangible?
Bethenny: I have everything; I don't want anything tangible. The intangible gifts would be sleep and peace.