"It's all I wanted," Frankel said. "I just wanted to be thin."

It wasn't until a trip to Italy in 2006 that she broke the cycle of guilt, binge eating and extensive laxative use.

"I didn't want to go on a trip and not eat while I was there," Frankel said. "We're so crazy in this country about tall fat-free lattes. In Italy, it is all about portion and quality. They are thinner than we are. We are all too obsessed."

After the trip, Frankel changed her approach to food. Now she does not feel guilty about what she eats.

"The body is a bank account," she said. "Nothing should be forbidden. People are afraid of food. You can have it all, but you can't have it all at once."

Frankel maintained her eating approach during pregnancy. As a result, she was comfortable with being photographed in a bathing suit for magazines three weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Bryn, now 10 months old.

"It wasn't a problem," said Frankel about regaining her figure. "I was happy and healthy before, during and after. It was the easiest thing in the world. Most people view pregnancy as one gigantic binge. I didn't."

To juggle book signings, promotional appearances for her television show and other events associated with her brand, Frankel has enlisted the help of a nanny. She also prioritizes.

"I say no a lot more to other things because I just want to be with [Bryn] and my husband," said Frankel, who advised other working mothers to do the same.

Mothers should not attempt to do everything, according to Frankel.

"You are never really going to have balance," she said. "Do not take on too much. You have to say no sometimes. Don't get obsessed with other things. Don't feel guilty; we're doing the best we can. That's all you can ever wish for."

Frankel said she is determined not to allow the same hangups about body image to bother her daughter.

"Since she was born, we said she's a nice girl," Frankel said. "She'll be nice and open — and know that everyone is different. And that's what makes the world a beautiful place."

Frankel has a message for bullies who may target her daughter in the future.

"No one's bullying her," Frankel said without hesitation. "They'll be terrified. I'll go in and kill somebody. Are you kidding me? They have to know who they are dealing with. Nobody's bullying my child."

It's that bluntness that has helped Frankel distinguish herself in the reality-television genre.

"That is what the goal is — to be completely honest," she said. "I didn't know how far it would go when I first started. I have such a great open and trustworthy relationship with my fans. I feel an obligation to them to be honest and give them the whole story. They may not like everything I do, but they know that it is going to be the truth. They know they can trust it."

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

More from Bethenny

Dream 'Housewives' cast: "Kim [Zolciak], Nene [Leakes], Gretchen [Rossi], Caroline [Manzo], me. I think that's it."

On 'Real Housewives of New York': "I don't regret it. It was a wonderful, amazing decision that I made, as far as business and the opportunity," she said. "I don't regret it, but I am very happy that I am not there anymore."

Her style: "I do a show-and-tell after my appearances on shows each week [on my website, bethenny.com]," said Frankel, who describes her style of dress as "simple."

If you go

"Skinnygirl Night Out — A Conversation with Bethenny Frankel" is at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St. Tickets are $35-$125, plus fees. Call 410-547-7328 or go to ticketmaster.com.

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts