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Melissa Joan Hart on Posing in a Bikini Post-40-Lb. Weight Loss: 'I Wasn't Trying to Prove Anything Except for That I Felt Great'

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Melissa Joan Hart, 38, recently revealed all — of her 40-lb. weight loss, that is — in a sexy pink bikini as a preview of her upcoming Nutrisystem ad. And now that her ad is finally hitting the airwaves, Hart spoke to PEOPLE about her weight loss journey, inadvertently getting a workout thanks to her three cute sons and whether or not we’ll see her in a bikini again. Check out her candid interview (and watch her new ad!) below.

MElissa Joan Hart weight loss
Courtesy Nutrisystem

Despite the huge smile in her Instagram reveal, Hart (who decided to team up with Nutrisystem after giving birth to son Tucker in 2012) was hesitant to show off in the super-bright swimwear. But she worked up the courage to do it after dropping the last few pounds. “I never wear a bikini, I’m always embarrassed. And I was like, ‘Let me get over it,'” she says. “Let me just swallow my pride a little and do it while I am still in my thirties, because as I get older I’m going to be less likely to put on a bikini. So, I did it.”

“Probably the last time [I wore a bikini], I was on your cover. I really just don’t wear bikinis. I was shy to wear the bikini [in the ad],” she says. “I was like, ‘I’m not in my twenties, I don’t want to wear the bikini. I want to be in a classy swimsuit!’ But at the same time, I was like, ‘You know what, I can do it. I’m feeling good.’ So I went ahead and took the risk.”

But though she loves the way the photos turned out, don’t look for her to be sporting a skimpy two-piece at the beach anytime soon. “I’m a mom … I want to make my boys proud, and my husband. I don’t want to try to prove to anybody that I’m any younger than I am, or any different than I am. I wasn’t trying to prove anything except for that I felt great and I feel like I look good.”

Was there a number on the scale Hart wanted to hit before going for the full reveal? Not exactly, she says: “When you get that naked, it has to be more about what your body looks like. And sometimes the scale doesn’t always go along with how great your body looks. I have a lot of curves, and I love that about myself. So, I wanted to be true to that.”

“I could probably lose another five to 10 pounds if I really, really wanted to, but at that point I’m not working out, I have no muscle on my body, and I have no shape to me,” she continues. “And that to me, especially at my age, is not attractive. My friends always say, ‘You sacrifice your face for your ass, or your ass for your face.’ … I just want to be feminine, you know?”

The actress maintains her weight loss with the help of Nutrisystem (including using the brand’s “Fast Five” weeklong plan to prep for the photoshoot), cutting out salty and sugary foods and by tagging along with friends to gym classes. And of course, there’s always her kids to keep her in shape. “Just keeping the little ones alive is a workout alone, trying to keep them from falling down stairs and slides and off playgrounds … There’s a lot of workouts in this family for sure, whether you want it or not,” she jokes.

But she gets serious about her gym time when she needs it. “When I really want to hit it hard, I schedule it in, and I make sure I make the time for it, because it is a priority. Whether it’s going for early morning runs before hey wake up or going to the gym after I drop them off at school, or right after work. Or maybe fitting it on lunch hour, trying to find those times.”

And though she doesn’t think she’ll be wearing the ad’s Victoria’s Secret swimsuit again (“That’s the last thing I need is someone catching a picture of me in that bikini!”) she does have plenty of motivation to keep fit for the future — and that includes being inspired by other celebrities who’ve snapped back immediately post-baby.

“I love looking at people that I’m motivated by and saying, ‘Gwen Stefani looks fantastic. I want to be like Gwen Stefani,'” she says. “Sometimes it’s not always reasonable to look at somebody and draw inspiration off them. I actually don’t mind the pressure as a celebrity, because I don’t mind using it to try to get me to the gym. People expect me to look good! [But] you’ve got to take it with a healthy dose of reality. It’s gotta be what really works for me. Don’t kill yourself for it, but maybe start to make some changes.”

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What’s your take on bikinis? How do you squeeze in a workout? Share your weight-loss secrets below!

–Alex Apatoff, reporting by Catherine Kast