Body & Soul: Valerie Bertinelli Finds Her Happy Place

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Feeling Good About Herself

The other man in Bertinelli's life isn't here today but judging from all the framed photos of him around the house, Wolfie is never far from Bertinelli's heart. Now 18, Wolfgang Van Halen is her only child, and much of Finding It is devoted to the bittersweet emotions of watching her floppy-haired son transition into adulthood. Bertinelli writes of adjusting to Wolfie's first serious girlfriend and feeling rejected when there's no seat for her on the band's private jet. "My son doesn't always want me around," she writes, "as much as I want to be around him."

On the upside, there's now less of a strain between Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen. She has made peace with their turbulent relationship and considers the musician a good friend. "Tom and I even sat in the front row at Ed's wedding last summer," she says.

Above the living room's brick fireplace there hangs a brightly colored painting of Noah shepherding animals from the ark. Bertinelli glances up at it before discussing another subject in the book: her decision to develop a closer relationship with God. "I've always believed there was a higher power," says Bertinelli, who was raised Catholic. "But now I've started to wonder about what I've done to make Him happy. I've spent so much of my life worrying about what other people thought of me. But God's is the only opinion I truly care about," she says, then smiles. "I don't want people to think I'm some freaky Jesus nut. You say something about religion and you're labeled as a crazy person or a raving conservative. The bottom line is, I'm just me and I'm just searching."

The sun is sinking toward the Pacific and Bertinelli heads into the kitchen. Three of Vitale's children, as well as five of the couple's friends from Chicago, are visiting. The table is crowded with hungry, sun-kissed guests.

At the stove Bertinelli helps herself to a small serving of pasta with lots of fresh tomato sauce. "This sauce isn't fattening. It's what you put it on that counts," she says, taking her spot next to Vitale. For crunch she goes for grilled fennel with olive oil and sea salt instead of the crusty Italian bread. But it's not what she's eating that matters so much, it's the look on her face: contented, peaceful, happy. "I've realized I'm more important than food is. I love a big slice of pizza. But I love myself more. Being thin is about changing the way you think about yourself. It's about saying you deserve to be healthy. In no way have I perfected this eating thing and I don't know that I ever will," she says. "But life is about making progress. It's not about perfection."

 

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, November 2009.

 

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