Paula Deen Credit: Melanie Dunea for Woman’s Day

Nearly a year after she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Food Network star Paula Deen shed an impressive 36 pounds -- and kept it off!

"It's all about moderation," the butter-loving Southern chef says in the February issue of Woman's Day. "I just needed to learn to eat a normal portion size and not overindulge."

Health benefits aside, Deen had other reasons for wanting to revamp her diet. "I want to be here for my grandchildren. I think about them every day. My daddy was dead at 40. My mother was dead at 44. And look -- I'm 65 and I'm still here! Go, 65!" she laughs. "Waking up every morning is very exciting for me, to see what the day is going to bring."

Deen still eats her favorite foods, including her famous fried chicken and her grandmother's poundcake, though she does so less frequently. "It's amazing how little changes will give you big results," she says.

Even so, the TV star -- once a size 18 -- refuses to eat fat-free meals. "In my refrigerator, there's no light mayonnaise," Deen offers as an example. "I'd rather eat less of the real thing and have it taste really good than have diet stuff that tastes awful."

Deen, who resides in Savannah, Georgia, tells Woman's Day she's been able to curb her appetite by slowing down during meals. "Putting my fork down and having a conversation has been a huge help," she reveals. "Because it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you're full."