Valerie Bertinelli Says She's Given Up 'the Damn Scale': 'I'm Done Judging Myself'

The star and Food Network host explores her ongoing journey for self-acceptance in a revealing new memoir

Two years ago, Valerie Bertinelli was about to begin 2020 determined to lose 10 lbs., "the same 10 lbs. I had been trying to lose for the past forty years." Then one morning as she walked over the scale, she thought, "No. I can't be doing this again."

In the two years that followed, the 61-year-old star and Food Network host, who says she often felt "like the most famous dieter in America," came to realize that tying her self-worth to the scale wasn't working and never had.

It took losing her first husband, guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen, who died on Oct. 6, 2020 of cancer at age 65, to see what truly matters. It's a story she tells in her new memoir, Enough Already, excerpted exclusively in this week's PEOPLE.

For more on PEOPLE's cover story with Valerie Bertinelli, listen below to our daily podcast on PEOPLE Every Day.

"The goal is to live in the moment," she says, "and not according to the scale."

Over time, her grief led to a deeper wisdom about life's brevity and the road to happiness.

"There is no magic number that will make me feel good about myself," says Bertinelli, who learned to find the magic in every day — from a mouth-watering recipe, to listening to her son Wolfgang's new music, to even just watching cat videos. And always finding gratitude like her role model and one-time Hot in Cleveland costar, Betty White.

Valerie Bertinelli
Valerie Bertinelli. Brian Bowen Smith

For more from Bertinelli, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

"I'm done judging myself," writes Bertinelli. "I want to be kinder and more accepting of myself."

Still, it's an ongoing process, she says: "I have a lot of decades of thinking I have to look a certain way for people to accept me and to like me."

That thinking began early on. "I watched my father treat my mother badly when she would gain weight," she recalls. "I had a 5th grade teacher poke my belly and say, 'You want to keep an eye on that.' So I learned at a very young age that when you gain weight, you're not lovable. And what I'm learning is that your body is not what makes you lovable."

That self-scrutiny and shame intensified as a teenage star on the hugely popular sitcom One Day at a Time, where she would compare herself to her costar Mackenzie Phillips, once telling a reporter that she looked like "a ton of lard" standing next to her.

"I had pretended to be the bubbly upbeat all American girl," she writes, "but in private, I have rarely thought of myself as anything but a failure."

Enough Already by Valerie Bertinelli
"Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today" by Valerie Bertinelli. Mariner Books

At 47, she become a spokesperson for Jenny Craig. "I wasn't trying to get healthy or deal with the reasons I had gained weight over the years," she writes. "I had split from Ed and I refused to take money from him. As a single working mom I needed to make money. Jenny Craig was a good job."

After losing a total of 50 lbs. over the course of two years, she posed in 2009 on the cover for PEOPLE in a bikini. As she writes: "I started to gain weight as soon as the photo shoot ended."

"I was starving myself and doing twice a day workouts," recalls Bertinelli. "Some people can look like that without doing that but not me. And there is shame for being part of the problem to make other people think they could do it. I bought into it hook, line and sinker, but I didn't take care of my head and my heart and I think it really starts with that."

RELATED VIDEO: Valerie Bertinelli Gets Teary After Critical Comment About Her Weight: 'Where's the Compassion?'

"We're all part of this diet culture that isn't actually helping us, our mental or emotional health," she continues. "I'm trying to dismantle all of the things I learned that are ingrained in me. And I've learned there are many people that feel the same exact way that I do. Some of us were taught the wrong things."

And something did begin to shift that morning two years ago when she woke up thinking she had to lose 10 lbs.

"I gave up the damn scale," says Bertinelli. "I haven't weighed myself since I finished writing the book and all I know is every time I put on my jeans, they fit. I don't have to lay back and put them on! Every time I want to get on the scale, I think, 'Why would you do that Valerie?' Because it's not about the number. There's not going to be before and after photos. Whatever happens happens."

"This is what I am. Right now. Today."

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