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Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain
Unbearable Lightness A Story of Loss and Gain Author:Portia de Rossi “I didn’t decide to become anorexic. It snuck up on me disguised as a healthy diet, a professional attitude. Being as thin as possible was a way to make the job of being an actress easier . . .” — Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first ... more »leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work — first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying.
In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day, from keeping her daily calorie intake below 300 to eating precisely measured amounts of food out of specific bowls and only with certain utensils. When this wasn’t enough, she resorted to purging and compulsive physical exercise, driving her body and spirit to the breaking point.
Even as she rose to fame as a cast member of the hit television shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, Portia alternately starved herself and binged, all the while terrified that the truth of her sexuality would be exposed in the tabloids. She reveals the heartache and fear that accompany a life lived in the closet, a sense of isolation that was only magnified by her unrelenting desire to be ever thinner. With the storytelling skills of a great novelist and the eye for detail of a poet, Portia makes transparent as never before the behaviors and emotions of someone living with an eating disorder.
From her lowest point, Portia began the painful climb back to a life of health and honesty, falling in love with and eventually marrying Ellen DeGeneres, and emerging as an outspoken and articulate advocate for gay rights and women’s health issues.
In this remarkable and beautifully written work, Portia shines a bright light on a dark subject. A crucial book for all those who might sometimes feel at war with themselves or their bodies, Unbearable Lightness is a story that inspires hope and nourishes the spirit.« less
If you are expecting to get any insight into Ally McBeal or Ellen, forget it. This was a few hundred pages of what Portia ate, or more likely, didn't eat. The disease is horrible. But frankly, I couldn't garner much sympathy for her. Her disdain of fat people, her self-absorption, well...it just didn't do it for me.
Was really looking forward to reading this book. I finally gave up about half way through. It just went on and on with the same thing. It just seemed like it was the same chapter over and over with just a slight change. Just wasn't what I was expecting.
I read this even though I dang well know better than to read triggering books like this when Im really stressed out and having anxiety attacks like I was the other day. Brilliant move, self. So be warnd, if that's an issue for you.
I think the fact that this book was so triggering is actually an indicator of how good it is. If Portias writing wasnt so engaging and she wasnt so unflinchingly honest, I wouldnt have been able to connect with it and see so much of myself in it, which is what set me off. At one point, she was talking about her food diary and how she didnt just keep track of food and calories, but also writes abusive notes to herself in it to motivate her. She said one of those notes was YOU ARE A FAT UGLY DYKE and I had to set the book down and walk away for a bit. That was my food diary in highschool, exactly.
What I think this book does very well is plainly show the way an eating disordered persons mind works. You can see how its not just about food and weight, its about the crushing feeling of not measuring up, failure, and disappointment in all areas of life. But at the same time, its not just one thing they can control like a lot of people (even therapists) try to reduce eating disorders down to. Yes, its about all that other stuff, but it is also about weight and eating, really and truly. Our culture is monumentally screwed up about weight and appearance. That has an effect. It means something very powerful in our culture when a woman is whittled down to nothing and its rewarded in a lot of ways. Its not just some crazy coincidence that all this other anxiety and self-hatred just happens to manifest as an obsession with weight loss. I think Portias writing makes very clear both elements of this disease.
Amazing memoir about getting inside of the head of someone battling eating disorders. Knowing it's the head of a beautiful and (for a time) successful actress makes it even more interesting in terms of the dark side of Hollywood and understanding the pressure put on these people.
More than anything this was a deeply vulnerable story about Portia coming to terms with loving and accepting herself. I cried many times. Great read... and as an audio book, I went through it in record time!
Portia de Rossi is known for portraying hard, self-confident women in tv shows, but in reality she lived a life lacking of self confidence and fighting internal demons. As I wasn't aware of Portia de Rossi until she was out and dating Ellen, most of this story was completely new to me and very interesting.
Interesting to say the least that this now proud gay woman who is married to an outspoken lesbian, there were some moments where I was ready for her to meet Ellen and her life to start changing! There were quite a few pages devoted to the body issues she was having and the means with which she was manipulating her exercise or eating habits to achieve what she thought would be the perfect body. I am not sure this was touched on enough, but I think a big part of her issues started with the modeling at a young age and a mother who supported a 12 year old dieting. I wish she had put more detail into the mother/daughter relationship and how that probably brought her to the issues she was trying to overcome.
Overall a great celebrity book, that I would recommend to readers who are interested in reading the details of how Portia de Rossi came onto the Hollywood scene and the things that she hide from the outside world.
Cheryl B. (shiva) reviewed Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain on
Portia is lucky to be alive. It is a well-written story about her experiences with food. I'm surprised she was able to get through it as easily as it seems she has. I wish her well.
This isn't a "how to" recovery book. It is her journey. I think that is a positive part of the book. It describes it, but seemingly a bit at a distance.
"Unbearable Lightness" is an intimate, honest, raw, powerful portrait of a successful Hollywood actress who almost killed herself in her obsessive quest for physival perfection to fit into our society's mold of what a young pretty woman should look like. At first simply wishing to fit into wardrobe sample sizes without embarrassment, Portia severely restricted her caloric intake, then was caught in cycles of binging and purging until, weighing merely 82 lbs, she could no longer function without debilitating joint pain. Diagnosed with lupus, she realized how close she was to dying and bravely chose to live. As she closely self-examined her motivation and saw how unattainable, unnecessary, and exhausting her need to be skinny was, she strove to replace her well-established, time-consuming destructive habits with a new way of life, which included counseling and medication, plus physical activities such as horse riding, walking, and learning to fly, but never again regimented exercise and calorie-counting dieting. Finally unafraid to be her natural lesbian self after making peace with her very private mother and dead father, Portia found happiness and fulfillment with her loving wife Ellen.