The night before Valerie Bertinelli prepared to step out in public wearing a bikini — for the first time in nearly 30 years! — she found herself unable to sleep. As her mind raced with insecurity ("I thought, Am I really going to do this? Can I pull this off?" the actress admits), Bertinelli tried to summon up a pep talk, telling herself, "What am I so afraid of? Come on — it's just a bathing suit!"
And yet as any woman knows, those innocent-looking strips of Lycra can be a terrifying sight — especially for someone just shy of her 49th birthday (April 23), who only two years ago tipped the scales at 172 lbs. — more than 40 lbs. over her goal weight for her 5'4" frame. But after whittling herself down to 132 lbs. in about 9 months on Jenny Craig (for whom she serves as a company spokeswoman), Bertinelli, who had last worn a bikini when she was 20, was ready for a new challenge.
"I thought, If I'm so afraid of a bikini, there’s something wrong. And so I had to get back into one!," Bertinelli says in the new PEOPLE, available on newsstands Friday.
And so — after about a year of exercising on her own while losing weight, primarily by walking 10,000 steps a day — she hired a personal trainer in December. Before long she was running up to five times a week. During what she calls the bikini "homestretch" — the last three weeks — she trimmed her daily caloric intake from 1,700 to around 1,200, and gave up her regular "splurge" glass of champagne. "It was crunch time," she says, "like getting ready for your class reunion!"
The result? Bertinell says she is now in the best shape of her life. "I never, ever, ever had deltoids!” she says. "Oh my God, when I'm doing exercises and I see them pop out, I'm like, Yes!"