By Jennifer Wulff
August 01, 2005 12:00 PM

How many croutons will it be? Such is the question on Carnie Wilson’s mind today. After drizzling a chicken caesar salad with a modest tablespoon of dressing, she throws in a handful, then quickly picks out a few. “That’s enough of those,” she says. “I don’t need the carbs.”

During her pregnancy, Wilson wouldn’t have resisted. “I got a little lazy,” Wilson, 37, admits, sitting in the living room of her San Fernando Valley home, which she shares with her husband, musician Rob Bonfiglio, 38. “I ate a lot of scones baked’em. But now I’m focusing.”

Until recently, all Wilson was able to focus on was where to find her next Kleenex. Suffering from postpartum depression following the April 22 birth of her first child, Lola Sofia, “I cried all day over everything,” says Wilson. “It’s a physical feeling. I don’t know how to describe it. You’re overwhelmed with love and joy, then sadness and fear. You’re so afraid you’re going to fail this baby. What if you drop her or hurt her? She’s totally dependent on you and it’s scary.” Although Wilson did not take any medication because she worried about the side effects, she sympathizes with Brooke in the Brooke Shields vs. Tom Cruise rumble over antidepressants. “I don’t think Tom Cruise is right,” she says. “Medication can help us live a happier life. However, he’s partly right about exercise and vitamins. I do feel better when I’m exercising and eating correctly. But I don’t think that will work entirely for everyone. I was lucky.”

Wilson recovered gradually, with the help of some hypnosis tapes given to her by her therapist. “He takes me to a hypnotic state and repeats life-affirming words that help me have the confidence that all will be all right with my child,” she says. Lola also ended up being a lifesaver. “Part of what helped was that I got into a routine with the baby,” she says. “I love breast-feeding her. She latches on and looks into my eyes and it’s the most wonderful feeling.” Says Bonfiglio of the bout: “It was a mysterious time, but Carnie’s back to herself. She has her spirits back.”

Next, she wants her body back. She reached 240 lbs. during her pregnancy and wants to be closer to 150—her weight following her 1999 gastric bypass surgery. The first 40 lbs. “just fell off,” she says. “But now I really have to work at it.” Her regimen? Three meals a day consisting of mostly protein, vegetables and fruit. And lots of exercise. She works with her personal trainer, Lan Re, three times a week, doing a combination of yoga, Pilates and weight training. In between, she goes on lots of power walks—and some leisurely ones too, pushing Lola in her Bugaboo Frog stroller. Wilson tries to keep the house free of any grab-a-handful temptations. She’s determined that tortillas and cheese—her fave—will not get the better of her. “Your spirit is so crushed from all those years of being fat,” she says. “But now I have a child to feed and a spirit that can’t be crushed, so I’m able to move ahead.”

In fact, she’s always on the move these days. In addition to caring for Lola around the clock (the couple have a nanny in only on Saturdays), Wilson has written a cookbook that runs the gamut from “skinny to sinful” recipes coming out this September, To Serve with Love. She’s also busy recording a new CD of lullabies, Lolabies, which will be a mix of classics and songs that Wilson cowrote. Although Lola herself hasn’t belted out any tunes of her own yet, her mom and her Beach Boy grandpa, Brian Wilson, are sure to be an influence. “When he looks at her and holds her, you can see his face just melt,” says Wilson of her dad. “He’s just over the moon about her.” As is Mom. “This little angel, this little Dunkin’ Donut,” she says, “has changed my whole life.”

By Jennifer Wulff. Maureen Harrington in Los Angeles