How Valerie Bertinelli Freed Herself from Body Shame and Learned to 'Indulge' in Food, Life and Love (Exclusive)

Classic Eggs Benedict

Published Time: 02.04.2024 - 14:31:09 Modified Time: 02.04.2024 - 14:31:09

Classic Eggs Benedict. Brown Butter Banana Walnut Muffins. Crispy Chicken Thighs with Radishes and Fennel. These are just a few of the recipes Valerie Bertinelli shares in her new cookbook, Indulge.

“I don’t deny myself anything anymore,” she tells PEOPLE for this week's cover story. "I think what do I want, as opposed to what am I going to eat because I need to be careful about calories. If I want pasta alle vongole, I'm going to make that. And I'm not going to feel one ounce of guilt about it."

She adds: “But I also don't crave things anymore that won't necessarily feed my body all the nutrition that it needs.”

Interwoven throughout Indulge are very personal vignettes. “I wanted to write essays about forgiveness and finding the sweetness in life,” says Bertinelli, 63. “And indulging in the joys of my life.” 

The cookbook evolved after going back into the kitchen following her 2022 divorce from Tom Vitale, the death of her first husband Eddie Van Halen from throat cancer in 2020 — and hitting “rock bottom emotionally."

“I was in the middle of growth and health and recovery and I found a way to be intentional with joy and I want to share that,” she says. “For me, it’s -

through cooking.”

With the help of “more consistent therapy, more journaling and meditation," she let go of the body shame she had long struggled with. Something she saw with fresh eyes: her so-called “fat clothes" that she’d worn for her Jenny Craig “before” photos back in 2008.

When she recently tried them back on, they ”fit me perfectly, and I didn't feel fat and I'm not fat," she says. "So what the hell is wrong with diet culture? I looked fine. I looked beautiful. And that was my before picture? It was a huge a-ha moment. They fit and I'm at the best place in my life." 

Healing from the inside out brought a happy surprise along the way — new love with a new man. As unexpected as it all is, she happily says, “It feels incredibly right.”

“I wanted to share my story because I have built up this amazing community online she has 1.5 million Instagram followers where so many people have watched me be super raw on camera and feel everything," she says. "I wanted them to know, ‘Hey, I’ve gotten through this part. I swear it’s going to get better.’"

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