A Look At Valerie Bertinelli's Weight Loss Transformation Over The Years

Valerie Bertinelli has struggled with her weight for as long as she can remember. Shooting to fame as a teenager alongside the naturally lean Mackenzie Phillips on "One Day at a Time" didn't help. "She's always been thin, and I called my hips 'childbearing hips,'" she told Oprah Winfrey in 2008. "I felt like a fat thing next to her." That wasn't the first time she felt pressure to lose weight. The Food Network star's body image issues go as far back as her childhood.

"I remember my fifth grade teacher patted me on the belly and said, 'You might want to keep an eye on that,'" she told People in 2020. "That was the first time I became really aware of my body." But Bertinelli's issues went beyond societal pressure. She actually suffers from disordered eating that stems from depression. Whenever Bertinelli hits a rough patch, she turns to food in an attempt to mask her feelings. "By eating something away, all it does is make me feel worse about myself," she said on the "Today" show in January 2022.

As a consequence, Bertinelli has lost and gained weight in the public eye. She has been repeatedly praised for the former and criticized for the second, a process that helped keep her in the vicious cycle that often culminated in unhealthy practices. Over the years, the former Jenny Craig spokesperson has changed her views on weight loss as she tried to become more accepting of herself.

Valerie Bertinelli lost weight on drugs in the '80s

Valerie Bertinelli's first experience with weight loss happened in adolescence, but it was far from a result of healthy lifestyle changes. While starring in "One Day at a Time," Bertinelli started using cocaine, known for its appetite-suppression effects. In no time, the 5-foot-4-inch Bertinelli saw the number on the scale plummet to 98 pounds. "That was the cocaine diet," she told Good Housekeeping in 2010. "Then, everyone else was doing it. I was a follower. It's not something I'm proud of."

When she got her first driver's license, she weighed 110 pounds. After Bertinelli married Eddie Van Halen at age 20, her drug use worsened. But instead of doing it for pleasure, Bertinelli became addicted to how cocaine made her look. After years of experience with different diets, Bertinelli learned what actually worked. "I went straight for the weight-loss aid that I knew curtailed my appetite: cocaine," she wrote in her 2008 memoir, "Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time."

Being a part of the rock scene of the '80s, turning to the stimulant drug was the easiest route. "We had plenty of coke around," she penned. But Bertinelli didn't like any of the other effects of the drug and eventually gave it up so she could go back to enjoying her mornings. "I got tired after a while of hating the birds chirping," she said on the "Literally! With Rob Lowe" podcast in 2022.

Divorce exacerbated Bertinelli's food compulsion

After giving up cocaine, Valerie Bertinelli's appetite returned with a vengeance. And she leaned on it to deal with anxiety and other emotions she felt like suppressing. "It wasn't one particular food; I just had no stop button," she said in the 2020 Good Housekeeping interview. Bertinelli's 2001 split from Eddie Van Halen made it all worse. "I would get home from work and drink vodka with cranberry juice and eat jalapeño cheese poppers," she said. "I did that for months."

In the months before Bertinelli and Van Halen's divorce was finalized in December 2007, she was 172 pounds, a weight that pushed her body mass index close to the obesity threshold. "Those were some of the darkest days of my life, and I was eating my way through them. I became a hermit," she said during her Oprah Winfrey interview. Bertinelli — seen above in April 2007 — joined the Jenny Craig program in March 2007. The decision sprouted partly over worries about money following her divorce.

Bertinelli was in her 40s and at a weight incompatible with the industry's standards. But she needed to work. "I knew I had to lose weight," she told AARP in 2022. "And I figured: 'Go hard. Go do it in front of everybody.'" A year into the program, Bertinelli shed 40 pounds and achieved the perfect size: "Size surfer girl," she shared in an April 2008 commercial. "I can't believe I'm surfing again," she celebrates in spandex shorts. 

Bertinelli's infamous green bikini magazine cover

Weighing 132 pounds, Valerie Bertinelli put on a green bikini and posed for People in March 2009. That was the first time she wore a swimsuit in three decades. "I thought, 'If I'm so afraid of a bikini, there's something wrong.' And so I had to get back into one!" she said. In the weeks leading up to the shoot, Bertinelli — seen above in 2009 — reduced her daily caloric intake from 1,700 to 1,200 and upped her exercise routine.

She couldn't be happier with the way she looked. "I never, ever, ever had deltoids!" she said. "Oh my God, when I'm doing exercises and I see them pop out, I'm like, Yes!" Two years into her weight-loss journey, Bertinelli couldn't believe she had been able to keep the pounds off. "I know about losing weight, done it before ... but maintaining it, that's what I'm going through right now," she told ABC News in 2009.

But Bertinelli's views on weight loss have shifted and she now feels conflicted about it. "There's a lot of pride and a lot of shame associated with that cover," she told People in 2020. She's proud of the work she put into her health but now recognizes she failed to address the underlying reasons for her fluctuating weight. "I wish to God I had worked just as hard on my mental shape," she said. Because, inevitably, the root cause was bound to strike again. And it did.

Bertinelli gained weight after leaving Jenny Craig

In 2014, a year after she parted ways with Jenny Craig, Valerie Bertinelli saw the number on the scale go back up. The media was not kind to her. "Valerie Bertinelli packs on 50 lbs!" wrote the National Enquirer. Bertinelli had indeed put on weight after suffering an injury in January 2014. "Because I broke my foot three months ago and I've not been able to work out, the weight starts to creep up," she said on "The Talk" that April (via ABC News).

But around this time, Bertinelli started to question the importance she had attributed to weight loss and shifted her perspective to emphasize acceptance. "I started thinking, 'Why do I feel so much shame?'" she asked. The conversation needed to change. Bertinelli even started to question her partnership with Jenny Craig, concluding that it probably did more harm than good.

In more recent years, Bertinelli has been blasted for her Jenny Craig commercials, with many women accusing her of hypocrisy with her new rhetoric. "You don't get to be a victim when you helped create the problem," a social media user wrote in a since-deleted tweet in 2021 (via Prevention). Bertinelli acknowledged the role she played while defending herself, noting she was also a victim of diet culture. "I have been buying into the diet industry my whole life and then I became part of the problem, so here I am today receiving the karma of my actions," Bertinelli tweeted.

Bertinelli still struggles with her weight but focuses on health

Valerie Bertinelli still struggles with her fluctuating weight. But instead of trying to promote weight loss programs and diets, she now uses her story to further body positivity. While she previously tried to justify her 2014 weight gain, she has since become vocal about how her post-Jenny Craig weight gain was covered. "This is a 150lb body on a 5'4 frame ... this is considered overweight by who's standards I don't know," she captioned an Instagram post featuring 2014 photos of herself in a bikini.

That's not to mean that Bertinelli is always happy with how she looks. In 2021, she uploaded an emotional video to Instagram in which she showed how badly affected she was by a commenter who said she needed to lose weight. "You're not being helpful ... because if I could lose the weight and keep it off, I would," she said angrily. Bertinelli admitted to still struggling with her yo-yoing figure in her 60s. "You think I'm not tired of it, lady," she said, crying this time.

Bertinelli still does the best she can, though she tries to focus on her health instead of her weight now. In 2023, she joined Dry January to avoid alcohol's negative effects for a month and was surprised when her jeans started hanging loose on her hips. "It's time for me to go down a size. Yeah, I like that side effect," she said in a February 2023 TikTok video.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues or an eating disorder, contact the relevant resources below: