Valerie Bertinelli Is in Love! How the Romance with Her New Man Started Online: ‘My Belly Is Flip-Flopping’ (Exclusive)

The TV star and cookbook author fell in love when she least expected it: "This was not supposed to happen," she tells PEOPLE

<p><a href="">John Russo</a></p> Valerie Bertinelli

A lot has happened to Valerie Bertinelli in the last two years. The TV star ended her marriage to her second husband, worked hard to find self acceptance, returned to the kitchen, wrote a new cookbook, Indulge and she found love again.

“I’m in love,” Bertinelli, 63, tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “It’s a seesaw of emotions because I was adamant I was never falling in love again."

"I was supposed to die with my six cats and my dog,” she adds with a laugh, “and very happily live the rest of my years alone — I'm good alone.”

The former Food Network host is not ready to publicly name her new guy but happily shares, “My belly is flip-flopping. This was not supposed to happen."

<p><a href="" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">John Russo</a></p> Valerie Bertinelli

Before she could let love in, she had to learn to love herself.

“I want to be clear that this process has taken a long time,” Bertinelli says of the years following her 2022 divorce and the death of her first husband Eddie Van Halen, who died of throat cancer in 2020.

“I got more intentional about my healing,” she says. “That meant a lot of walks with [my dog] Luna, a lot of therapy sessions, a lot of learning that I deserve to feel good.”

Related: Valerie Bertinelli Reveals She’s Dating ‘Special’ Man After 2022 Divorce: He ‘Came Out of Left Field’

“The cookbook was an offshoot of the emotional and mental healing I‘ve been doing,” she explains of Indulge. “First came the work. Why I thought I didn't deserve to be loved. Why I was using food to numb my feelings. All the drama and trauma I hadn’t dealt with — with Ed and my last marriage.”

She tells the story through her favorite recipes and intimate vignettes in Indulge. ”I know we’re talking about a cookbook but this cookbook got me through all of it,” she says with a smile.

As she writes in the book, “The more I let myself cry, the better I felt. I wasn’t trying to be happy or sad or thin. I wasn’t trying to be anything other than who I was.”

And then came a sweet surprise. She first became friendly with her new guy, an East Coast writer, on Instagram a few years ago. “It was strictly platonic but there was something about him that I connected with that felt familiar,” she says.

<p><a href="" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">John Russo</a></p> Valerie Bertinelli

They began chatting on the phone earlier this year and only recently did the relationship become romantic. “It’s crazy the comfort level,” she says.

As new and unexpected as it all is, she says, “it feels incredibly right.”

Related: Valerie Bertinelli Shares New Photos of Son Wolfgang Van Halen's Wedding to Andraia Allsop

It’s been a long road for Bertinelli to able to listen to heart, and find what truly nourished her.  “I found joy first," she says, "and then a man entered my life."

For more on Valerie Bertinelli, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.

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Read the original article on People.