“One Day at a Time” was not only the title of the TV show that made Valerie Bertinelli famous, it’s also her mantra as she tries to maintain her headline-grabbing weight loss and tackles a Mount Everest-scale challenge in the form of the grueling, 26.2-mile Boston Marathon.
Appearing with Meredith Vieira live on TODAY Monday, the still pixie-faced actress says now that the hoopla from her high-profile weight-loss campaign, carried out over two years in the course of her sponsor Jenny Craig’s TV commercials, has died down, she needs new challenges.
So, she’s lacing up her running shoes. “I’m really going to do it,” she told Vieira proudly. “I’m training right now, and come April 19, four days before my 50th birthday, I’ll be running 26.2 miles.”
Finding new ways to push herself is crucial to Bertinelli as she navigates the brave new world of the slimmed-down. Her once-petite 5-foot-2 frame tipped the scales at 172 pounds when she signed on as a Jenny Craig spokeswoman in March 2007. She dieted down to the low 120s and made eyeballs pop in a TV commercial and photo spread in which she showed off her new wares in a revealing bikini.
“Over 95 percent of dieters gain back the weight and then some within five years. I was that person; I still could be that person,” Bertinelli said as she knocked wood on the table between her and Vieira. “I’m three years into this, so I want to really strangle the beast for the last time.
“Maintenance is the boring word, but it’s the one where most of us really get caught up, and it’s the challenging one because it’s not so sexy anymore. There’s like no set goal, there’s nothing on the scale to say ‘Woo hoo, I did it!’ ”
Video: After ‘Losing It,’ Bertinelli is ‘Finding It’ Speaking later on TODAY with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, Bertinelli explained that she actually lost 50 pounds with Jenny Craig, but is more comfortable using 40 pounds as her total weight loss for public consumption.
“I say 40, because I know that’s my wiggle room,” she told Gifford and Kotb. “I’m 132, and I’m not going past that; sometimes I’m 128, sometimes I’m 126. It’s winter now, and I don’t have to put the bikini on, so I’m 132, thank you very much!”
In speaking about that famous TV commercial when she revealed her impressive new physique in an unforgiving bikini, Bertinelli admitted it was a bit intimidating. “I kept thinking about when I was walking around, does there have to be extras there?” she said. “They’re all looking at my … I have jiggly bits. And that’s OK. I’m almost 50.”
Bertinelli continues as a Jenny Craig spokesperson, appearing in commercials with two more recent recruits: actors Sara Rue and Jason Alexander. Bertinelli said that in the past, she has lost weight only to put it back on — so she’s sticking with the program that got her where she is today.
More from TODAY.com
See this family take photos with Santa for 60 straight years
- Doctor, 103, shares secrets to longevity: 'Pick the right spouse'
- Steal this easy holiday party trick for a stunning veggie platter
- Check that crazy cat person off your list with these purrfect gifts
- Quiz: Which Christmas movie family is most like yours?
- See this family take photos with Santa for 60 straight years
“[This is] the longest I’ve ever done it,” she told Gifford and Kotb. “I’m still on the program. I enjoy the food, I still eat the food.”
Out of Hollywood
In addition, Bertinelli is challenging herself by taking to the streets of Boston for its world-renowned marathon, competing to raise research money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She joins thousands of other everyday folks in the race, and in talking to Vieira, she made it clear that the everyday world is just the place Bertinelli wants to be. Video: Valerie Bertinelli comes clean
Bertinelli has been a household name since she was 15, starting her nine-year run as Barbara Cooper on “One Day at a Time” in 1975. She also did a stint on the TV drama “Touched by an Angel” and appeared in numerous TV-movies. She gained a tabloid edge with her marriage to rock superstar Eddie Van Halen in 1981, a union that ended in 2005.
But she hasn’t acted professionally since a guest spot on the TV show “Boston Legal” two years ago, and told Vieira she feels far removed from the Hollywood life living in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley.
When Vieira asked Bertinelli if she felt there was a double standard between male actors and female actors in terms of their weight, she replied, “I don’t pay much attention anymore to what the standard is in Hollywood. That’s not what my life is about. It’s about real people and connecting with real people. Not that Hollywood people aren’t real — well, a lot of them aren’t! I don’t pay attention to that world and the superficialness that comes with it.”
My son the rock star
Bertinelli has more workaday worries, including keeping tabs on her only child by Van Halen, 18-year-old son Wolfgang. In her new book, Bertinelli talks about her son, who is affectionately called “Wolfie,” going on tour with his father as the new bassist in Van Halen in 2007-2008. He called his mother from the road asking if he could have a sleepover with a gal pal.
While Bertinelli looks to the future — one in which she’s not carrying around extra pounds — she continues to examine her past. She talked with Vieira about the trials of her former “One Day at a Time” TV sister Mackenzie Phillips, who described in a memoir an incestuous relationship with her singing-star father John, and also delved into chronic drug abuse that caused her to hit rock bottom. Video: ‘One Day at a Time’ reunited
Bertinelli appeared on “Oprah” with Phillips last fall, apologizing for not being there to help her former co-star through her ordeals. Bertinelli told Vieira the lines of communication between the pair are better now.
“We e-mail each other and talk to each other,” Bertinelli said. “We try to stay connected more than we did in the last 30 years.
“I’m incredibly proud of her,” Bertinelli added. “I think she’s done a very brave thing, and I think through this, because she’s touched so many people and helped so many people, it’s going to help her stay sober.”
For information on how you can support Valerie Bertinelli’s Boston Marathon run to raise funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, click here.
© 2013 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints