For more than a decade Carnie Wilson has been open about her struggles with weight. In 1999 the Wilson Phillips pop star weighed 300 lbs. and famously underwent gastric bypass surgery, broadcast live on the Internet. It “saved my life,” says Wilson, who then lost 150 lbs. in 16 months. But in the years since, Wilson—who now stars in GSN’s reality show Carnie Wilson: Unstapled—has been on a physical and emotional roller coaster as she’s tried to come to terms with being what she calls “clearly food-obsessed.” After battling alcohol addiction in the years following her gastric bypass, Wilson sobered up and soon after became pregnant with her first daughter, Lola, now 4. She gained 70 lbs. during the pregnancy, most of which she shed over the next three years. Since her second child, Luciana, was born last June, Wilson has been unable to lose the 61 lbs. she packed on. On Feb. 4 the 41-year-old star appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and was shocked at what she learned. After being weighed in front of the camera, Wilson was informed that at 5’3″ and 218 lbs., Oz defines her as morbidly obese and prediabetic. “I need help,” says Wilson, who now weighs 212 lbs. (her Dr. Oz appearance was taped on Jan. 13). She says she “doesn’t agree with all” of the doctor’s conclusions, but her husband, musician Rob Bonfiglio, sees the writing on the wall. “She likes to point fingers. There’s always smoke screens. I’m here to support and encourage her,” Bonfiglio says. “But I can’t do it for her.” Now, with two young daughters, Wilson realizes she needs to stop making excuses and start setting an example. “I have to be a teacher to my daughters. Lola started to notice commercials on TV with PEOPLE who are trying to lose weight, and she looks at me,” Wilson says. “She’s thinking about this stuff, and it’s getting to her.” Prescribed a 90-day program by Dr. Oz and his team that includes daily exercise and food journaling, Wilson says she’s on track to lose the weight. She sat down with People senior writer Monica Rizzo to discuss her latest weight-loss challenge. “Do I feel like a failure now? No,” she says. “This is life, and life is up and down. I’m at the down, but I’m coming up.”
How did you gain so much weight while you were pregnant?
The only things that made me feel better were English muffins and bagels. The weight came on fast. I didn’t have these issues before pregnancy. I’m just frustrated with these pounds. Having children derailed me a bit. One of the storylines of Unstapled is following my progress—or no progress—in losing the baby weight.
How do you feel now?
I want more energy. I don’t want to be in the obese category. It’s a scary place to be.
When Dr. Oz said you were morbidly obese, was that a wake-up call for you?
It was a supportive nudge. His partner Dr. Mike Roizen is the enforcer. He sends me some pretty intense e-mails.
What does he say?
Well, I made these beautiful lean, ground meatballs and he’s like, “Dump the meatballs!”
How’s it going on Dr. Oz’s weight-loss program so far?
I’ve lost 6 lbs. in three weeks, and I’m happy with that. The Oz team is saying, “We want you to exercise every day for 30 minutes. Walk 10,000 steps.”
Do you like to exercise?
I loathe it! 10,000 steps is too much. I’m trying to hit 7,000. When we were out today, I said, “God, it’s a gorgeous day.” And what did I think? “I just want a big tub of buttered popcorn, and I want to lie on the couch and watch a movie.” That was my first thought, not, “It’s a lovely day. Let’s go for a jog!” Maybe Renée Zellweger would, but not me!
So what is your dream goal?
My goal is to miraculously grow 4 in. taller. I want to eat my macaroni and cheese without gaining weight! Have another baby. [laughs]
What is your real goal?
I’m not looking at size. I think a healthy weight is somewhere between 150-170 lbs. for me. I don’t want to be drastic. I want to be realistic.
On your show you cook and bake. In fact you are starting your own line of baked goods. Aren’t you setting yourself up to fail?
I love to feed people. If someone wants to analyze this, then you can say I’m vicariously eating through other people or I’m obsessed with food. I love food. I love the way it smells. I love the way it tastes. Sometimes I snack on too much sugar. Would I be better without eating any sugar? Probably, but that’s not life.
So aren’t you in effect sabotaging yourself?
Sometimes I get the “f— it”s. I sabotage myself. But I don’t eat portions of what I bake. I’ve never had a slice of my own cheesecake. I’ve only had a bite. I still eat less than other people do at one time. I still take half the bread off when I eat a sandwich.
Do you mind that you’re still the poster girl for gastric bypass?
No. It saved my life. At the end of the day it’s not just the Hollywood person who’s trying to lose weight. I don’t know how many people Kirstie Alley has in mind to help, but I know, for me, the most touching thing is these total strangers who share with me. They say, “You saved my life.” And I say, “No, you saved your life.” I get instantly emotional.
Do you feel ashamed or embarrassed by your weight gain?
I have been in way worse places to feel shame. I’m feeling hopeful. This is how I stay accountable and on track. I’ve kept off a ton of weight. I can never beat myself up for that. I’m still a success.