Credit: Michael Bezjian/WireImage.com

Valerie Bertinelli -- who recently dropped 50 pounds from her 5-foot-4 frame -- has discovered the secret to staying thin.

"I've realized I'm more important than food is. I love a big slice of pizza. But I love myself more," the Jenny Craig spokeswoman tells the November issue of Ladies' Home Journal.

"Being thin is about changing the way you think about yourself," says Bertinelli, 49.  It's about saying you deserve to be healthy."

Still, she admits, "In no way have I perfected this eating thing and I don't know that I ever will."

She's OK with that.

"Life is about making progress," she says. "It's not about perfection."

Bertinelli says she used to have a love-hate relationship with her closet.

"For years I hated all my clothes and how I looked in them, and I hated myself for it," admits the actress. "Now it's my inspiration cabinet. I look in here and everything fits. It's kind of a miracle."

Now she loves showing off her body.

"I'm almost 50 and I haven't felt this good about myself since I was 16," she says.