04/27/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT
Digging through her closet in January, Tori Spelling
was on a mission. It had been seven months since she had given birth to her daughter Stella and she was anxious to prove she had shed the 40 lbs. she had put on during the pregnancy. What better test than to try on a favorite pair of "skinny jeans" she hadn't worn since her first pregnancy 2½ years earlier? "Deep down, I was like, 'Oh my God, will I ever be that size again? The size I've always been?'" recalls the 35-year-old actress. Pulling the jeans out from behind racks of maternity clothes, she tugged them on and was elated to discover that they fit better than ever.
But her celebration was short-lived. Weeks later, unflattering paparazzi photos of her new body were splashed across the tabloids and Internet with labels like "scary skinny," along with speculation that she was battling an eating disorder. "It's hard for me. I wish they could flash back to what my old body was before I got pregnant, which was pretty much this," says Spelling. "But I get it. I acknowledge that I look thin in those photos. Obviously I don't want to lose any more weight, and I think, 'Yeah, I could stand to gain a few pounds,' but I am healthy. I'm just crazy busy and being a mom."
Busy is an understatement for Spelling's jam-packed schedule these days. Her second book, Mommywood
, which chronicles her life with husband Dean McDermott and their two children, son Liam, 2, and daughter Stella, 10 months, hit stores on April 14, the same day Spelling reprised her role as Donna Martin on the CW's 90210
. She also has been filming the fourth season of the couple's hit reality show Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood
, which premieres on Oxygen in May. Then throw in Spelling's plans to promote her Home Shopping Network jewelry collection and her kids clothing line, Little Maven, and slowing down doesn't seem to be an option. "I'm so blessed to have as much work as I do, but I agree there needs to be some downtime," she says. "I'm the first to admit that sometimes I don't have the time to sit down for a well-balanced meal. Usually you kind of just finish whatever your child doesn't eat and that's it because you have to move on to get them into the bath and then to bed. I'm like, 'Cool, you have a few pieces of hot dog left and one broccoli floret and a fry, okay, I'll take it.'"
Such a frenetic lifestyle should come as no surprise for the daughter of prolific TV mogul Aaron Spelling, who died in June 2006, and mother Candy, with whom Tori has a "difficult relationship" at best (see box). "The apple did not fall far from the tree; she is her daddy's daughter," says McDermott, 42. "She's so driven. She wants to create it all and she can, but she has to learn how to balance everything, and that's where I come in." The two were married in May 2006 after costarring together in the TV film Mind Over Murder
, and they had son Liam less than a year later. "She wants to do it all," McDermott says. "But I can tell you right now, there is no way in hell that I would ever let my wife get unhealthy."
With each of her pregnancies, it took Spelling seven months to lose the extra weight. She followed the NutriSystem program after Liam but nixed the diet and trainer after Stella's birth. "I'm working so much; if I had an hour, I didn't want to go to a gym," Spelling says. Instead, her family began exercising together—riding bicycles, walking and jogging—and switched to cooking mostly organic foods. "I just try to eat three balanced meals with snacks, and it's usually whatever is in the diaper bag for Liam," she says. "I do try to feed the kids healthy but Liam loves fries—I have to admit, we are a fry family."
Spelling also admits she's at times exhausted running behind two children who are under 3 and only 15 months apart. "You don't have enough hands!" she says, laughing. "But the rewards are so great. Stella just worships Liam. I'll see him grab her hand or pet her on the head." It's those hands-on moments that best keep the actress grounded. "You forget about all the poop and the crying and all the million and one things you have to do and how much your life changes when you have two strollers and two diaper bags and two car seats. The bonding between them and seeing their little faces every morning, that outweighs it all."
And for Spelling, it's all the more reason to remain healthy and strong despite what the tabloids and bloggers might project. "It's horrifying for me as a woman because the last thing I want to put out there is that it's acceptable to be too thin or have an eating disorder. I want to be a positive role model for my daughter," she says. "And I have two kids that I need to be healthy for because they need their mom."