Valerie Bertinelli tells PEOPLE "it's what's in my heart that matters most, no matter what that stupid number on the scale tells me"

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Hosting a cooking show like Valerie’s Home Cooking means getting to eat the delicious meals prepared on set each day. But the Food Network show’s host Valerie Bertinelli, whose weight has fluctuated since she lost 40 lbs. on the Jenny Craig program, has discovered a happy medium between consuming all the food she cooks and skipping out entirely.

“I’ve learned to respect food and I’ve learned to not look at it as my enemy,” Bertinelli, 57, tells PEOPLE. “And I’ve learned that food is love and to treat it respectfully and to really nourish your body with it, as opposed to abuse my body with it.”

Valerie Bertinelli Visits "Extra"
Credit: D Dipasupil/Getty

The chef admits she’s had to work at having a healthy relationship with food since hitting a rough patch two years ago. “I was unconsciously and emotionally eating,” she says. “Now that I’ve woken back up, it’s about finding balance and the forgiveness for when the scale doesn’t say what you want it to say.”

Bertinelli continues, “I’m still tying to find that common ground and that comfort zone. The perspective is it’s not that important as long as you’re healthy and then you can get back into whatever size jeans you want as long as you stay aware of what you’re eating.”

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The mom to Wolfgang, 26, regularly shares her message with social media followers, as well as offering guilt-free recipes for indulgent favorites like bacon.

“To this day, I am still working to feel comfortable in my ever changing body,” she captioned a throwback photo on Instagram Oct. 6. “But, I’m finally starting to realize, it is what’s in my heart that matters most, no matter what that stupid number on the scale tells me.”

If the Hot in Cleveland alum had to choose one last meal, it’d be a no-frills take on a beloved classic. “Pizza!” Bertinelli continues to PEOPLE. “Just good pizza. The crust has to be thick but chewy and puffed up.”

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