Valerie Bertinelli on Finding Body Positivity, Listening to the Good and Being Kind to Herself

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This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

For America’s Sweetheart—even after the heyday of “One Day at a Time,” the Eddie Van Halen years (and post-years), the cooking cult-following, and the New York Times best-seller—the sweet words of the public still feel foreign.

“It’s so strange to hear people say nice things about me, mainly because I’m not used to those positive words rolling around in my head. I know I don’t tell myself kind things enough, but how great would it be if we all focused on the kind things that are said about us and the kind people that we really, truly are. We are all born with a good heart and kindness in us. Yet, somehow it gets wiped away by the hardships we go through during our childhood, our lives and all of the traumas we are forced to work through along the way.

But we must start listening to the good. I want to start believing the good feedback. I need to start believing the good feedback! If it’s so easy for me to believe the bad things, why isn’t it easy for me to believe the good things? I know that goes for all of us.

Maybe it’s simply a matter of just switching our minds over to say: ‘I’m worthy of the good things as well. And I’ll fix the things that I find uncomfortable and probably aren’t doing me any service, and I’ll go back to the good. Because that’s the way I can live in joy, and that’s the way I can spread joy when I already feel good about myself.’

For me, the big thing is my weight—it’s the thing that holds me back. But I want to start feeling the same about myself—no matter what weight I am. I don’t have to wait until I’ve lost weight to be kind to myself and to be kind to others. It shouldn’t matter what I look like. I’m trying to make that a reality in my life, and then, hopefully, my body will follow.

I’m doing my best to live by the words I’ve written, to not care what the scale says. I think that’s important. I think many, many, many people live with a lie that we were told, that we’re unlovable when we gain weight, and it’s simply not true.

Yet, even as I say it, I’m like, ‘Now, wait a minute…’ Maybe, one day, I’ll be the perfect weight! Let’s wait until then…

But we all know the number on the scale is never low enough—it’s always too high—so I’m going to just crawl under the covers and not have anyone see me until it is. I’ll be happy once all the weight is gone.

I stopped weighing myself when I finished writing my book, which was a big thing for me, and I haven’t gotten on a scale since. My clothes still fit; my jeans still zip up. I guess I was afraid that if I didn’t see what number I was and if I wasn’t able to keep an eye on it, that I would balloon up…but that hasn’t happened.

If it’s so easy for me to believe the bad things, why isn’t it as easy for me to believe the good things?

When you stop denying yourself of certain things, you somehow, also automatically, start to self-regulate—I’ve found that especially true as I’m trying to take care of my mental and emotional health, as well as the weight.

I feel like once that gets on its full journey, then maybe my body will follow. Maybe I’ll want to eat more fruits and vegetables, and drink less alcohol, and eat less sugar, and put things in my body that make both my body and my mind feel better.

It’s all a test and we’ll see how it works, but I do know that my mental health has improved immensely because I stopped looking at the scale every morning—and that’s the first big step for me.

The one thing I’ve learned this past year is that, sometimes, you just have to let yourself feel the feeling. I’ve spent most of my life trying to push down feelings that were uncomfortable…and that, for me, includes food, and I used food in a way that wasn’t healthy. I know I still do it. Even recently, I noticed myself grabbing some crackers after I finished an intense interview, and I said, ‘Oh, I know what I’m doing right now, I’m eating because eating makes me feel good, and I’m doing it because I’m uncomfortable because I just shared a lot of feelings.’

It’s interesting that, when you really watch yourself do it, you can pull yourself back and go, ‘Wait! I just ate right before I did the interview! I’m not hungry. My belly is full, so why am I doing this?’ Because it’s the only tool I have in my toolbox. I know that when I eat food, it makes me feel better, until it doesn’t.

Being aware of why we do what we do is very helpful. It sounds so simple, but I think it’s something none of us learned in school…and it would be wonderful if we could all start.”

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