Valerie Bertinelli: ‘When I don’t work on what’s eating me, I’m going to start eating’


Valeri Bertinelli is People’s cover person this week. I absolutely love it. I am crap at identifying photo work, so I naively just give the person credit for ‘great lighting.’ I know that doesn’t excuse anything, we really have to stop judging ourselves based on altered images, but she looks healthy, and for Valerie, that’s been an uphill battle. Right before her 49th birthday in 2009, Valerie famously shot the cover of People wearing a green string bikini. She was in great shape, physically, and it was an impressive cover. To get there, Valerie had lost 50 pounds. Looking back on that weigh loss, Valerie said she has mixed emotions. She was proud she’d lost the weight but ashamed at how much she needed to lose the weight to feel good about herself. Now, at 60, Valerie said she is working on her mental state as much as her physical. And a big part of that is accepting and loving how she is, including physically.

When Valerie Bertinelli put on a green bikini to pose for the PEOPLE cover in 2009, it was the first time she had worn a bikini in almost 30 years.

She was about to turn 49, and after nine months on the Jenny Craig diet, for which she was a spokesperson, and countless stomach crunches, she had lost more than 40 lbs. “There’s a lot of pride and a lot of shame associated with that cover,” says the beloved star in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “I worked really, really, really hard. Physically definitely. I wish to God I had worked just as hard on my mental shape.”

“But when I don’t work on what’s eating me, I’m going to start eating,” she says.

Eleven years later, the 60-year-old host of Food Network’s Valerie’s Home Cooking is doing “the mental and emotional work” underlying her complicated relationship with food. Issues she’s been exploring in an interview series she began with the Today show — where she is now a special correspondent — in January, when she said, quietly fighting back tears, “I want to know what true joy feels like.”

The series began, she says, “because I wanted to lose 10 lbs. for my 60th birthday — and then it became much more than that. It became, ‘I’d like to lose the weight but I may never lose the weight.’ How do I love me for who I am right now? Today. At this body. At this age.”

[From People]

My gawd but this hit home for me. 48 was the last time I was happy with my body and I’ve mentioned my food issues here plenty. And it’s not like I don’t know how to lose weight, I’ve done it before. So in addition to being disgusted with myself physically, I get angry at my self-sabotaging food habits. It’s messed up and exhausting. I’m going to check out Valerie’s Home Cooking to get some insight to how Valerie is making the mental shift. I’m not looking for excuses to not take care of myself, I just want to be okay with this different version of myself.

One thing I am using quarantine for, is learning how to dress my new frame in a way that makes me happy. Clothes are my mental solace so I feel like once I can dress in a way that makes me happy, I’ll stop attacking myself so much. This week I’m trying to wear bare arms without wincing every time I pass my reflection. Like Valerie, I will still try to meet certain goals, but I also want to be okay if I don’t quite get there. It’s a good message and I’m glad Valerie is sharing it.

People Magazine Cover 4-6-2009 Valerie Bertinelli


Photo credit: People, Instagram and WENN/Avalon

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22 Responses to “Valerie Bertinelli: ‘When I don’t work on what’s eating me, I’m going to start eating’”

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  1. Granger says:

    I went through early menopause at 42 and my body has changed dramatically since then (I’m 49 now). It was okay when I was still working out like a fiend — but then I got a new and very demanding job, and stopped hitting the gym so much, and my body changed so quickly that I’m still sometimes surprised when I look in the mirror. I fight a constant battle between disliking what I see and feeling grateful for all that I have. Hecate, I completely relate to your statement about trying not to wince when you see your bare arms. I haven’t worn a sleeveless shirt in a couple of years because I don’t like my arms anymore, and I don’t remember the last time I wore shorts because of my cellulite. I can’t stand that I still spend so much energy focusing on these things because I know, as a rational and intelligent person, that my self-worth comes from so much more than my appearance! But it’s still a struggle.

    • Mara says:

      That sounds like it must be such a strain on you – take comfort in the fact that we’re always our own worst critic when it comes to our bodies and humans are inherently irrational beings (so don’t beat yourself up about feeling this way). I hope things get easier.

    • Mari says:

      Don’t fret about what you don’t have, celebrate what you do, and go from there. I battled eating disorders and body image problems all my life. One day I started walking with my husband. I was trying to get him in shape. And that was it. A few months later I ran a bit. A very little bit. Stayed at “a bit” for quite some time. Then it was more, and later…more. It just came organically. Next thing you know (a couple of years!), I’m more focused on distance and time and strength and what can this body do? And you want to nourish that so you develop a completely different view of food. Then I ran my first half marathon and had a better time than a colleague 20+ years my junior. Strong is hot!

  2. Embee says:

    Hecate I am so impressed by your work. One of the things that I have noticed that makes a HUGE (probably the greatest) difference BOTH in how I see myself and in helping me make healthy (as opposed to addictive) choices is SLEEP. When I am well rested, I don’t indulge in destructive eating patterns and I seem to burn my body fat more readily. Just something I noticed in lockdown since I’ve been sleeping more and moving less.

    • Laalaa says:

      Agreed. I would add alcohol to this as well. It’s very obvious if you have a heavy drink night, but what I never realized was how only ONE drink can affect the body. It’s a complete depressant (for me), the day after I have just one drink my mood is a bismal. Never noticed that before until the lockdown.
      I guess J Lo is right not to drink alcohol ever, who knew

    • SamC says:

      Totally agree. I’ve gotten into a horrible habit of half falling asleep on the sofa watching TV, getting up and move to the bed wee hours of the morning, and can definitely see the correlation with how I eat, exercise motivation, even work focus on those days.

  3. Esmom says:

    Aw, Hecate. Your words touched me and even though I’ve never seen you I know you’re beautiful. My mom has been on an endless diet her entire life, always chasing that elusive weight that she thought would magically make everything in her life perfect. Thank goodness I mostly escaped that toxic perspective but the pressure comes from everywhere these days.

    It’s funny how even though she thought she was never thin enough, my mom was fine wearing swimsuits and shorts and tank tops in the 70s when I was a kid. Back then it somehow seemed much more acceptable to be any shape, although I know that’s not true. I’m 53 now and I am dismayed by the changes I see, too, and have also vowed not to let them stop me from wearing what I did 20 or even 10 years ago.

    For me it’s the sagging skin and emerging wrinkles that feel so discouraging. I’d probably wear a scarf or turtleneck every day but I am resisting the impulse. On a work Zoom call yesterday I noticed I can make my neck look ok but adjusting how I hold my head. Sigh.

    • manda says:

      omg I relate to everything you said. My mother and father both dieted my whole life, and it left my sister and I with really weird feelings and habits with food. My mother, my whole life, would see a fat person out and ask me if she looked as bad or was as big as that person. I feel like that has made me see bigger people as not as big as other people see them, so maybe that’s a plus, but it also left me so critical of myself. I don’t wear sleeveless and only wear shorts if my legs are a little tan, and even then, not too often. I’ve been noticing in these zoom and video calls that I appear to have a saggy underchin! Oh goodness, I don’t know how to deal with that. But yes, I have found that if I sit up straight and have the camera in front of me or a little higher so that I am not looking down, that helps

  4. Lightpurple says:

    Valerie is such a delightful person; I hope she can find what she needs to be happy with herself.

  5. Nev says:

    Yayyyyyyu I really enjoy Valerie!!

  6. tempest prognosticator says:

    She has great hair.

  7. Mellie says:

    I just love Valerie, her show is really good. Her recipes are fairly easy too. She’s delightful.

  8. Yellowrocket says:

    Hecate have you read Anti-Diet or The F*ck it Diet? Neither are diets but they both have great outlooks on body acceptance and feeding yourself.

  9. Lara says:

    I have to admit that I have a problematic relationship with food- my father used to make me and my sister go to all-you-can-eat buffets and would get really angry when we “didn’t eat our money’s worth.” And then wouldn’t really make dinner because we should have eaten at the buffet. (My mother worked nights.) I associate food with so much unhappiness that when I’m upset, I just lose my appetite. It’s also developed into a habit of skipping lunch because I’m too busy working, skipping breakfast because my commute is long, skipping dinner because I’m too tired. I’m not anorexic in the sense that it’s motivated by losing weight, and I do force myself to eat. I’ve actually been a lot better about eating since working from home. It’s just food made me so unhappy growing up, so I end up ignoring it. My medications also suppress appetite. And of course, this cycle from childhood has taught my body to cling to the calories it does get, so I actually don’t really lose weight.

  10. Call_me_al says:

    Valerie and Hecate, thanks for sharing. Same. I struggle with guilt and anger when I am unable to eat reasonably. I’m also an eating disorder therapist! I try to talk myself through it by reminding myself i can’t afford to give away my time and energy to negativity. Too much to do! I try to listen to the feeling, learn from it and move forward. It’s a work in progress.

    • manda says:

      that was what I was going to be when I was a teenager! (I’m not sure how I got off track; I ended up going to law school. In retrospect, definitely should have done something with social work, but time moves forward). One thing that my doctor told me, and it worked for me but I had forgotten about it, is if you feel like eating something just wait 20 minutes, and if you still do, then ok. But a lot of the time it is just a boredom thing or a comfort thing and the urge passes. I struggle so much with wanting to overeat and then getting angry at myself. I need to get back to that because I have been doing some major boredom/stress/comfort eating. And also, unfortunately, I have to get the tempting food out of here. That is really what works best for me, not having it around

  11. Jenn says:

    One thing I’ve learned over the years, is other people don’t see the same things we do. I can look at a picture of myself, and pick it apart about what’s wrong, and someone else, all they see is me. My smile, my mood, my joy, or not! Lol. So wear the damn shorts, the sleeveless shirts, all the things you think you can’t, and don’t waste time and happiness on the things you’re not.

    • manda says:

      Very good advice! I read somewhere that for some reason when we think people are talking about us, we always assume it’s bad. Why wouldn’t it be good? I think of that sometimes

  12. Léna says:

    Oh, I understand so much the self sabotaging eating habits. That’s why I am so lucky I got home to my parents and boyfriend before lockdown. I love living alone but I tend to eat when I’m bored, or eat too much to relive guilt from trauma (my psychologist explained it to me but I don’t know how to formulate it correctly). And being surrounded by family and my boyfriend for the last two months, I just eat whatever is at the table and I don’t eat anything else (because I didn’t buy that food so I would feel guilty eating it if it’s not “necessary”). I only lost two pounds because I also had to stop working out because of health problems but I feel so much better about myself eating just what’s necessary for my body and not feeling so bad after eating .. it’s a learning process, I hope when I go back to my apartment alone I won’t come back to self sabotaging eating

  13. Meg says:

    The amount of nasty comments about her body on her social media for her cooking show is just so cruel

  14. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    When I was a really young girl, I practiced reading by reading TV Guide (don’t judge me). There was an interview with Valerie Bertinelli, whom I loved on One Day at a Time. And two things she said stuck with me for decades — one, she told the interviewer “Don’t print that I smoke!” while putting out a cigarette. The other was when the interviewer described her as rubbing her well-rounded thigh while lamenting “Eddie likes thin women.” It made me feel sorry for young people like her in the Hollywood spotlight. I think she’s had image issues for a long time, and I hope she’s at peace now.

  15. Valerie says:

    Her cooking show was/is so much fun, I love watching her with her friends because they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company.