Kelly Preston needed a new pair of pants. Not sure of her size since giving birth to son Benjamin 13 months earlier, she filled the dressing room with a range of choices. pulling on a pair of Hudson skinny jeans in size 4-a number she had not rocked since high school-she was floored. They fit. "I didn't know if I was going to frame them or wear them! I was so excited," she says. "It wasn't one of those things where you're lying on the bed trying to get them on, exhaling. I could still breathe!" The achievement was especially sweet, considering that during her pregnancy, Preston had given in to cravings for powdered donuts and cinnamon muffins. "I was huge when I left the hospital," says the 5'6" actress, who turns 50 in October. "I looked just as pregnant as when I went in. I was worried. I didn't know what my body was going to do-if it would bounce back or if I was going to be 20 lbs. heavier for the rest of my life."
Relinquishing her pre-baby body would have been a small price to pay for Preston, whose pregnancy felt like a miracle after she and husband John Travolta, married since 1991, tried for three years to get pregnant. After the initial euphoria, she fought back a "subtle feeling of fear" brought on by the constant monitoring of doctors concerned about possible complications due to her age. "My whole purpose was this baby, and he brought us so much joy, so if I had to weigh more for the rest of my life because of it, then I would have," she says. "But I didn't want to. I'm like any other normal woman!"
She started slowly, taking a year off from acting and eschewing hard-core workouts in favor of basketball and swimming with daughter Ella, 11, and tennis with Travolta (their son Jett died in 2009 of a seizure at age 16). Her slim-down diet (see box) was "all about moderation," says Preston, who ultimately lost 42 lbs. She also started using Organic Liaison, a weight loss and natural supplement program created by her close pal Kirstie Alley
(who herself recently dropped 100 lbs.). Says Preston: "I have more energy than I've had in 20 years."
Which is not to say the actress doesn't allow some indulgences, such as the occasional almond croissant or family game of Cupcake Wars and Cookie Wars, where Travolta, Preston and Ella go head-to-head, baking goodies in their kitchen for friends to judge ("Johnny always wins!"). "Do I get sad when I have a third chin? Absolutely. But I don't have an obsession with weight," says Preston, who "never felt body-conscious" growing up in Hawaii, where bathing suits were the local uniform. "Life's too short."
As for her biggest fan, the reviews are glowing: "She looks fantastic!" says Travolta, who himself recently dropped 20 lbs. thanks to a regimen that includes weight lifting and six games of tennis a day. "She's worked really hard, and I'm very proud of her." "Fortunately my husband loves me at any size," says Preston, smiling ear to ear. "Now he's like, 'Don't lose any more weight!' I say, 'Aw, thanks hon.' That's kind of the best thing ever. Bliss!"
TABLET BONUS VIDEO
Behind the scenes with Kelly