01/17/2007 at 08:00 AM EST
Jennifer Garner says being a mother has changed her life more than she ever could have imagined.
"Having a baby fills your life in such a way that no matter what you're doing, there's something bigger," the mom of 1-year-old Violet said Saturday while promoting her new movie Catch and Release. "I've just been in heaven being with her the past year."
In the new issue of PEOPLE, Garner, 34, shares more about bringing up baby with husband Ben Affleck, also 34:
How motherhood changed her: I call my mom now and say, "You know all the dinners you made that I said 'No' to and went off and ate peanut butter? I'm sorry. I get it. I slaved over roasting this, and (Violet) goes, 'No, no, no!' "
Lessons learned: I was rocking her, and she was fascinated by the light hitting the ceiling. I thought, "God, for the past five years, I haven't stopped to look at light on the ceiling for (one) second." To slow down and go at her pace has been such a gift.
Losing the baby weight: It took me a long, long time. I just wasn't that motivated. I wanted to play with her. Then I got on the treadmill, stopped stuffing my face and lost the weight. I cut out croissants, bagels and muffins – all the good stuff. And went back to having a salad once a day and protein.
Ben Affleck on daddy-duty: He does a good job. I mean, okay, maybe I wrote out what he was supposed to make for her (to eat) today while I was gone. But that's just me being paranoid. He's great – he can do it.
On the Mommy-Daddy bond: There's nothing more emotional than seeing your partner – the man you love – with your baby at any time: the first time, the second, yesterday, today. There's nothing more beautiful.