Valerie Bertinelli is learning to ignore her inner critic.
Her journey to self-acceptance inspired her new book "Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today" (available now). Throughout the collection of essays giving insight into her self-doubt, relationship with rocker Eddie Van Halen and the troubles plaguing her second marriage, the actress and Food Network star also documents her preoccupation with her size. At 13, she started weighing herself twice daily "without ever being happy or satisfied with the number I see." Dieting began at 15, her age when her show "One Day at a Time" premiered.
Bertinelli, 61, tells USA TODAY that shedding her old ways of thinking is a process, as a connection between weight and worth was formed early on.
"I learned at a very, very young age that gaining weight made me unlovable," she says. "I watched my dad not love my mother as much when she gained weight. I had an elementary school teacher point at my belly and say 'You'd better watch that.' Before that, I wasn't even aware of my body. I'm doing my best to get that and scrape it all out of me. But it takes time."
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"Enough Already" also served as a vessel for Bertinelli's anguish after the death of her first husband, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Van Halen. Bertinelli began writing the book just weeks after the guitarist died Oct. 6, 2020, after a long battle with cancer.
"I wasn't expecting to write a book about grief when I started it, but I was in the thick of it," she says. "It actually ended up being very cathartic to write about it."
Bertinelli writes of the "instantaneous and mutual" attraction the two experienced upon meeting backstage at a Van Halen concert and the enduring love they shared, even after they separated in 2001 after 20 years of marriage.
"Ed and I grew even closer together," she reveals in "Enough Already. "We couldn’t live with each other, but we found it impossible to live completely apart."
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She refers to him in the book as a "soulmate," but he isn't her only one. "I think we meet up with with souls that we're meant to work through things together," she says, explaining that she believes part of the pair's purpose was to bring into the world their only child, musician Wolfgang Van Halen (aka Wolfie), 30.
"I can't make people understand this, because it's so personal, but I've never felt love like that," she says. "Even through all of the horrible stuff that we did to each other, there were so many more good things. I just don't feel like I've ever been loved like that, in that way, from anybody else. I just feel a connection with Ed that I've never really felt with anyone else."
She says even that powerful four-letter word doesn't suffice: "Love isn't a big enough word for the feeling that Ed felt for me, and that I felt for him."
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While Bertinelli writes at length of her first marriage, stories involving her second husband, Tom Vitale, are scarce. Bertinelli filed for legal separation in November after a decade of marriage.
"I tried to be really sensitive to Tom and (Van Halen's wife until his death, Janie Liszewski) because they're private people, and I don't want to tell their story," Bertinelli says. "I was just trying to tell the story between me and Ed without being hurtful."
She describes the decision to split with Vitale in "Enough Already" as "a slow, painful one. But we have drifted from the interests that made us a couple and found that those differences can’t be fixed. He is a good man who is going through many of the same issues that I have faced: What can he do to add meaning and purpose to his life? Where can he find joy? What is he passionate about? What has he learned? And what does he do differently going forward? The paths we thought we were on changed."
Bertinelli says that the separation "has nothing to do with Ed" and that her marriage troubles began five years ago.
Bertinelli says she and Vitale are "friendly" today. "I only want the best for him, but I think I need to be alone," she says. "I don't know what will happen, but right now I just need to be alone."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Valerie Bertinelli on Eddie Van Halen: 'Love isn't a big enough word'