"I knew as soon as I left the house a week, even two weeks after giving birth, [to daughter Stella] people are going to take pictures and scrutinize," Spelling tells PEOPLE. "Whereas mothers everywhere don't even think about losing the weight for a year. It was hard to find that balance of what's acceptable."
The naturally slender actress, who says she didn't worry about pressure to be thin until she was in the media spotlight in her 20s, says she noticed that some Hollywood moms bounced back to their pre-baby shape in just weeks.
"After I had Liam, the weight didn't just fly right off. I had to diet and exercise," says the actress who gained 40 pounds after giving birth to son Liam, 2, and daughter Stella, 10 months. "When I had Stella, I remember looking at Jessica Alba [after she gave birth] and thinking, 'Wait a minute, it flew right off her.' Then I read that she works out six days a week and I'm like, 'Oh God, no, I can't do that.' "
Good Eating HabitsA sensible diet – three balanced meals a day with mostly organic products – and exercising with her family helped Spelling drop the pounds in seven months. Her husband Dean McDermott, whom she married in 2006, is staunchly supportive of Spelling. When the tabloids were speculating about the reasons for her weight loss, "his biggest concern was my self-confidence," she says. "He just kept reassuring me, 'I think you're beautiful and perfect no matter what you weigh, I just want you to be healthy."
Spelling, 35, and McDermott, 42, especially scoffed at one report that claimed she had yelled at him because he told her she was too thin. "First of all, it would never get to that point – it would be an ongoing conversation because we're together every day," says the actress. "If people say I'm thin, I'm like, 'Great babe, make me a meal.' He's an awesome cook."
Says McDermott, "She is really good at eating healthy. She's just as strict and driven with her diet as she is with work."
Spelling insists she'll have more time to concentrate on herself once her busy schedule tapers off. "When it rains, it pours – everything's happening at once. My book is coming out, our fourth season of Tori & Dean is coming out, 90210 … Afterwards I'll be able to slow down and really focus on me a little bit more," she says. "Every woman, we all have different lifestyles but that's what we all need at the end of day – just to be able to breathe."
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