updated 10/23/2013 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 10/23/2013 AT 11:15 AM ET
It’s been a year of big changes for Kim Kardashian – she became a mom to daughter North, she got engaged to North’s father, boyfriend Kanye West, and she’s lost 43 of the 50 lbs. she gained while pregnant.
“Pregnancy for me was a lot tougher than people saw on my show or from magazines,” Kardashian, 33, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. “So to get back to feeling like myself just makes me feel good again.”
Kardashian admits that the brutal scrutiny surrounding her pregnancy pounds – on social media, in magazines, in paparazzi photos – was painful and made her want to “tune out the media.”
But a healthy Atkins-based diet plan, along with regular exercise, has eased the new mom, who has been breast-feeding North, into losing the weight – and gaining enough confidence to post a sexy swimsuit selfie showing off her results.
“I always envisioned that I would have this easy time just being pregnant, only my belly would get big,” she told viewers on her E! reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians in an Oct. 13 episode. “And it has just been so not that way for me. But sometimes, you just have to take life for what it is and enjoy the ride.”
Reporting by ELIZABETH LEONARD
For more of Kim Kardashian’s exclusive interview, including a daily menu plan and details of her exercise program, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
PLUS: Watch for PEOPLE on Katie every Thursday. Check your local listings for times.