Ask any of your girlfriends which celebrity they could picture being friends with and you might be shocked to hear the name Jenny McCarthy. Though the 36-year-old burst onto the scene as Playboy's 1994 Playmate of the Year and went on to appear as the trash-talking host of MTV's dating show Singled Out, Jenny's the rare female who, despite starting off with a largely male following, has been able to endear herself to women too. Why does she think she's been accepted by the girls team, as she calls it? "In 2002, when my son, Evan, was born, I dialed back that whole sex-kitten thing. And then when I went public about his autism, I gained credibility as a passionate mom."

In addition to modifying her public persona, Jenny's made other big changes, all of which have helped her stay grounded despite her increasingly busy life. The actress, autism activist, and author (she's about to publish her sixth book, Healing and Preventing Autism) recently sat down with Shape to discuss how she does it all.

The key: Living as purely as possible, she says. In the May issue of Shape, check out Jenny's detox diet dos along with her 15 Minute Yoga sculpting workout and you too, can find harmony. Jenny swears by this strength and stretch plan.

One of Jenny's weight loss tips: make your own detox diet rules

Although you'd never know it to look at her now, Jenny, who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, tipped the scale at 211 pounds when she gave birth. "I thought I might be 170 when I left the hospital, but no, I was 200!" She credits her postpartum slim-down to Weight Watchers. "They taught me portion control and to be conscious of what I put in my mouth," she says.

After Evan was diagnosed with autism at age 3, she further overhauled her diet to match his cutting out gluten and dairy which helped her shed even more weight (and greatly improved Evan's symptoms, says Jenny).

Now a typical day includes an egg white omelet for breakfast, fresh fruit and veggies (she purees them to make her own soups) with fish at lunch and dinner, and for snacks, those little packets of nuts from Starbucks.

Jenny's tips for keeping romance real

Four years ago, Jenny started dating actor Jim Carrey, who she says (shocker!) makes her laugh. "Being around Jim is like having a front-row seat to the best play you can imagine every day," she says. Her favorite one of his performances? "He used to read Evan How the Grinch Stole Christmas all the time. It was hilarious!"

And although the three have settled into a routine, she believes in changing things up by hosting the occasional poker night at their house to avoid a relationship rut. "I just taught him Texas Holdem. I think I created a monster," she says. "He's got the worst poker face; he jumps up and down when he has a good hand!" She's even trying to convert Jim into a yoga fan so they can exercise together. "I've seen him eyeing my toned arms," she says. "I give it six months before I find him twisted into a pretzel!" (Try this 30-day challenge to sculpt your hottest arms ever.)

Jenny's philosophy of life: Go with your gut

By her own admission, Jenny used to be a good girl and rules follower. But after seeing Evan suffer a seizure and then slip into cardiac arrest (when he was first diagnosed with autism), something in her snapped. "The only difference between Evan and Jett Travolta [whose family has denied claims that he had autism] is that we were able to revive Evan," says Jenny. "When the doctor said there was no hope, I decided to listen to myself, rather than an authority figure, for once," she says. "I knew we would be able to fight this thing." And she's kept believing in herself ever since, developing this philosophy of life: "I just want to continue to tell my story and to teach parents. Anyone who wants to listen, great, and anyone who doesn't, fine. That's how I move forward."