Comfort Eating and Valerie Bertinelli

Valerie Bertinelli

Did some little thing ever catch your eye and entice you into a more thorough investigation of a subject? It was just a tiny paragraph in Entertainment Weekly, written by Keith Staskiewicz, about the second volume of memoirs published by actress Valerie Bertinelli. Staskiewicz says,

In the new book, she details her battle with emotional eating, the embarrassment of seeing herself naked, her new career as a spokeswoman, and how it feels now that she is no longer touched by an angel food cake.

Bertinelli “came out” as a food addict a long time ago. Her first book was titled Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time, and in it, she told the so-familiar story of being addicted to one particular food. For her, it was a “significant dosage” of jalapeño and cheddar cheese poppers, a brand whose slogan is “Bring home the fun.” Bertinelli says,

I’d love to meet the person who came up with that line and ask him a question. Is it really fun to see yourself blow up three dress sizes?… I suppose they wouldn’t sell as many if their slogan was ‘Pack on the pounds’.

This is a very funny autobiography, by the way, and it stands to reason that Finding It: And Finally Satisfying My Hunger for Life probably also is quite entertaining. Bertinelli looks at the life stresses that led to emotional eating, and speaks very feelingly of those jalapeño poppers:

I savored the taste with tiny, almost sensual bites, drawing out the feeling of comfort and escape I got from eating.

For a quick course in what Valerie Bertinelli is all about, we consulted an interview conducted by the very skillful interviewer, Judith Newman, on behalf of Ladies Home Journal. Newman notes that it takes a certain amount of courage for a glamorous celebrity to ‘fess up to the entire world that her relationship with food is not healthy and she is in fact a food addict. Several have done it — Oprah Winfrey, Carrie Fisher, and Kelly Osbourne come to mind. Being in good company may make it easier for an individual to go on record as on official fattie. Or maybe not.

The actress says she can’t remember when weight was not a struggle. As a teenager in the comedy series “One Day at a Time,” she always felt too hippy next to the very slim Mackenzie Phillips, who played her sister. Bertinelli says,

Even when I got really thin, though, I never had an eating disorder. Well, at one point I may have been a little anorexic — I’d go on these super-restrictive diets.

Her most extreme weight was 172 lbs., which felt like way too much to the 5′ 4″ woman who experienced shortness of breath and painful knees. The actress/writer has been representing Jenny Craig for several years. The interviewer says,

Bertinelli calls herself ‘an average Joe in a bizarre job’ and she has a point. A single mother (to son Wolfgang, 17) who chubs up when she gets depressed: What could be more regular than that?

In answer to a question about how she trained herself out of emotional eating, Bertinelli recommends journaling. This was especially helpful during the illness of a beloved pet, when she might otherwise have been tempted into a classic case of grief eating. She also realized that it is no good trying to hide the fact of actively addressing a food problem. A person needs a support system, a community, and a buddy.

Dr. Pretlow reached the same conclusion, schooled by the young people who interact via the Weigh2Rock website. When polled about the weight loss buddy concept, more than half of the respondents endorsed it. In Overweight: What Kids Say, Dr. Pretlow constantly acknowledges how much he has learned from listening to children and teens. He writes,

Very early in the history of the site it was observed that the kids, on their own, sought weight loss buddies on the bulletin boards. They highly value the support of a web buddy in their struggle to lose weight, as they may not receive support from their family or friends.

Back to Valerie Bertinelli. She tells funny stories about herself, like how dangerous it is to be a diet company spokesperson because the paparazzi are always trying to get a picture of you looking fat. No matter how much Hollywood may have changed in other ways, it is still a place where women are expected to be young and thin. This doesn’t seem right to Bertinelli. Sure, it was like that when men were doing all the casting. But now, many women hold powerful hiring positions in the film industry. But the rule is still the same — young and thin.

So… has she kept the weight off? How have things worked out for Ms. Bertinelli, now age 50, in the months since this interview was published? Very well, thank you. The title of a recent press item, written by Dahvi Shira, tells the entire story at a glance:

Valerie Bertinelli & Tom Vitale Like To Be Naked Together.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “More About Me: Second Memoirs,Entertainment Weekly, 10/30/09
Source: “Valerie Bertinelli Books,” Amazon.com
Source: “Valerie Bertinelli on the Light Side,” Ladies Home Journal, 04/08
Source: “Valerie Bertinelli & Tom Vitale Like To Be Naked Together,” People.com, 02/10/11
Image by Mark Coggins, used under its Creative Commons license.

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