Valerie Bertinelli made a powerful statement while wearing an outfit that was once meant to shame her.
“Found the clothes I was wearing in my very first ‘before’ picture for Jenny Craig,” the Food Network star said in a video published to her Instagram account Tuesday.
In her video, Bertinelli is wearing a pink button-down blouse and jeans, which was featured in a 2009 commercial for the diet company. That same year, Bertinelli also posed in a bikini next to the photo during a cover shoot for People magazine.
Yet, according to Bertinelli’s Instagram video Tuesday, losing weight did not positively impact her life.
“I have done so much emotional and mental work to recover from years of, ugh, pretending everything was OK when it wasn’t,” Bertinelli says in the video. “Health is not a body size. Health is not that number you see on a scale. Your worth as a human being isn’t dictated by your body.”
In the 2009 Jenny Craig ad, Bertinelli is wearing a bathing suit with a towel wrapped around her waist. As she speaks to the camera, the photo of her in the pink blouse and jeans appears to her right. Under the photo are the words “Lost 40 lbs.” Below those words, in smaller and fainter text, reads the laughably telling line: “Results not typical.”
“With the help of my Jenny Craig consultant Kathy, I lost 40 pounds and I gained confidence!” Bertinelli says in the commercial while whipping off her towel as her “before” photo fades away.
In Bertinelli’s Instagram video, she appears frustrated with the mentality she had when she shot that Jenny Craig commercial.
“I thought I was fat the last time I wore these clothes,” she says with a sigh. Bertinelli then takes a long pause while looking at herself in the mirror.
“I’ve never felt more beautiful, more at peace, more mentally and emotionally stable than I do today and I’m wearing my ‘fat clothes.’ That’s fucked up,” she says with a laugh.
Although Bertinelli’s message about body acceptance will likely resonate with many, her saying she thought she was fat the last time she wore the outfit still sends the message that being fat is a bad thing.
Aubrey Gordon — an activist, author and podcaster who embraces the word “fat” to describe her own body — suggested on NPR’s “All Things Considered” in January that people who wear straight sizes (meaning not plus size) use more specific language when they “feel” fat. She argued that this takes the negative connotation away from the word “fat” and helps people better understand what they’re truly feeling.
“Fat is not actually an emotion, right? Fat is a body type. And fat people’s bodies are not metaphors for low self-esteem or bad body image days,” Gordon said. “It is really disheartening that when people want to talk about feeling at their worst in their bodies, the descriptor that they reach for is a descriptor of my body. They’re saying, ‘I feel terrible today,’ which means ‘I feel like I look like you,’ which feels terrible to me as a fat person, right? The more that folks can talk about the real thing, it actually gets you more precise help and support from your friends.”
And if you, like Bertinelli, are still reckoning with all the tricky issues surrounding body image, Gordon shared what helps her.
“I will say for me, the stuff that gets my relationship with my body back on track is actually sort of peeling back the curtain on where a bunch of our most reductive beliefs about body size come from. And overwhelmingly, they come from really unreliable sources,” Gordon said, mentioning “corporations looking to profit off of our bad body image” like Jenny Craig.
“Like, all of this sort of stuff comes from people who don’t want what’s best for most of us … They want to make a buck,” Gordon said. “it’s really freeing to realize, you know, we’ve been sort of led down a garden path. And once you sort of see where that garden path leads and where it came from, things have gotten a lot easier for me on that front.”