Jennie Garth Tells PEOPLE: How I Got My Body (and My Life) Back

By MONICA RIZZO

The Former 90210 Star Opens Up About Losing 30 Lbs., Pulling Her Life Together After Her Divorce and Diving Back into the Dating Pool

As much as Jennie Garth hates to admit it, her 11-year marriage to actor Peter Facinelli didn’t end overnight. Though fans were shocked when the couple announced their split in March, Garth had been dealing with the breakdown of their marriage for a long time. «I spent a couple of years lying in bed and being depressed,» says the Beverly Hills, 90210 actress. «It was that ‘I can’t breathe’ pain. Physically I didn’t look my best, and mentally I didn’t feel my best. I was doing everything I could to be a good mom, but that was all I could handle.»

Yet when her daughters showed her a video of the family from Christmas, Garth was unprepared to see herself onscreen. «We were dancing to Wii, and I didn’t know I was being filmed by my nephew,» says Garth, who was stunned by the sight of the «depressed person» she had become. «I didn’t even know that person. I’m such a different person now.»

So after several months of introspection and isolation, not to mention her milestone 40th birthday in April, the actress realized she needed to get herself back in the game. «I just looked at it like there’s no way I can hide out in the country and never work again, never love again and never laugh again,» says Garth, who left the Santa Ynez, Calif., ranch where she had retreated after the split (and where she had filmed her CMT reality show Jennie Garth: A Little Bit Country) and moved back to Los Angeles in July with her and Facinelli’s three daughters, Luca, 15, Lola, 9, and Fiona, 6. The past year, she explains, «has been a bit of a rebirth for me as a person by shedding that negative space and all the pain associated with that time.»

Emotional baggage isn’t all that Garth lost: The newly svelte actress has dropped «30 lbs. of dead weight.» After all, she jokes, «sitting around on the couch eating Pringles all day is not going to help anybody.» Thanks to twice-weekly sessions with a personal trainer and more sensible eating habits (see sidebar), Garth regained her girlish figure, which she now has on display in her new Old Navy TV commercial with former 90210 pals Luke Perry and Jason Priestley. Since its debut in July, the ad-a tongue-in-cheek reenactment of the FOX drama’s famous love triangle of Brandon Walsh (Priestley), Dylan McKay (Perry) and Kelly Taylor (Garth)-has been winning raves from 90210 fans. Perry, too, can’t stop raving about his pal’s amazing transformation. «She looks fabulous,» says Perry, who is developing a sitcom with Garth. «She has the ass of a 25-year-old!»

That energetic reception is just what Garth needed after enduring the painful transition this year from married life to single mom. «I’m not pining, and I’m not sad,» she says about her divorce from Facinelli, 38. («We both saw it unravel, and it was painful,» she told PEOPLE in March of the split, which was initiated by the Twilightand Nurse Jackie actor after «several» rounds of couples therapy.) Thanks to support from family and friends and «a lot of introspective work,» Garth says she has come through the experience a stronger person. «I have a strong constitution. I have a lot of inner calm about stuff right now.» Even though she still has the occasional rough moment: «I go out, and I see happy families-and men and women on dates-and there’s a part of me that’s like, ‘Ouch!'» she admits. «But you have to pick yourself up and say, ‘Let’s go.'»

Some of Garth’s rockiest times have come while tending to her kids’ post-split emotions, which have included «happiness, sadness, anger,» she says. «I end up apologizing to them a lot, and I say, ‘I’m sorry for the way things are, the way things have been. They’re not going to be the way we thought they were going to be.’ It’s challenging on a lot of levels. Peter and I are certainly putting them first. We’re working really hard to be the best co-parents that we can be.»

One thing Garth wants to make sure her kids know is that while they are truly loved, life isn’t perfect. «My mom did a great job raising me, but she made me feel like I was a princess. I don’t want to give my girls that misconception of life because life is tough and you’re going to have struggles,» she says. «But you are worthy of success and happiness and love.»

That last lesson is one that the now-single Garth has taken to heart herself. Reentering the dating world «is weird and exciting,» she says. «Sometimes it feels awkward, and sometimes it feels really natural.» For the first time in a long time, she admits, «I just want to love and be loved.»

Last month she stepped out with photographer Noah Abrams, but the ensuing media attention «made it into something I wasn’t even ready for it to be,» she says. For the record, «I don’t have a boyfriend or a beau or a new man,» although pal Perry has been urging her to let him fix her up. «That scares me!» she says with a laugh.

What Garth knows for sure is that she feels more comfortable in her own skin than she has in years. «Forty is a great age for a woman,» she says. And while working out the final details of her divorce, she has the strength to look forward. «I have to pick myself up every day and say, ‘The show must go on,’ meaning life as I know it must go on,» she says. «Whatever the obstacle is, I know I can handle it, and I can get through it.»

How Jennie Lost 30 Lbs.
WHAT SHE EATS • Smaller portions in general.»It’s been a lot less eating!» she says.• Greek yogurt

• Salads

• Salmon

• Coconut water. «I’m totally addicted to it!»

HOW SHE EXERCISES

• Lightweight gym training twice a week

• Lengthy hikes in the hills

• Working with a personal trainer. «I used to think it was a stupid luxury I shouldn’t have. But the new me thinks that it’s money well-spent.»

HER GUILTY PLEASURE

«I love banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I buy a box and put them in my freezer for when I need them. It’s like my drug. When I need my cupcake, I take one out.»

HER SECRET WEAPON

Meditation. «I meditate when I feel like I’m spinning out of control, which happens.»

SHE TOOK HER TIME

Garth didn’t expect to get results overnight. Losing 30 lbs. happened over the course of six months, between 1 or 2 lbs. a week.

http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20640697,00.html

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