By Ulrica Wihlborg
Originally posted Wednesday May 27, 2009 12:00 PM EDT
Looking at Melissa Joan Hart's new 113-lb. bikini body, it's hard to believe it was only last summer she felt "horrified" by the unflattering bathing suits shots taken of her at a Southern California beach.
"I still read blogs about me discussing how fat I've become," the former Sabrina, the Teenage Witch star tells PEOPLE in the new issue, available on newsstands Friday.
"Everyone still thinks I'm huge," says Hart, 33, whose post-pregnancy body was the subject of cruel Internet attacks after she gave birth to sons Mason, 3, and Braydon, 14 months, with husband, Course of Nature lead singer Mark Wilkerson, 32. "But I'm not anymore!"
Hart understands the confusion. After all, the public has grown accustomed to seeing celebs get back in their skinny jeans mere weeks after giving birth. "There are enormous pressures put on you in Hollywood," she says.
Her inspiration to finally get back in the best shape of her life? The women in her life, including her friend, actress Jaime Pressly, who has a son, Dezi, 2, as well as her own mom Paula, who gave birth to seven children "and is tiny!" Hart says. "I realized I didn't have to be heavy just because I have kids."
Adds Pressly: "She finally took the time to take care of herself. I'm blown away by how amazing she looks."
Reclaiming her slim figure took Hart 14 months of hard work. "It didn't happen by magic – it was as hard for me as it would be for anyone else," she says. The fact that it took a little longer doesn't bother her. "I didn't want to take any time away from spending it with my sons," she explains.
To get back in bikini shape, Hart worked with nutritionist Derek Johnson at New Metabolism to change her diet. She also hit the gym with her trainer Mark Harari at Pulse Fitness Studio.
As for how she feels now? "I feel amazing!" she says. "I had to prove to myself that I could do it. I had to give it a go!"