Book Review Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

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Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

By Portia De Rossi

Published November 1, 2010 By Atria Books

325 pages (e-book edition)

Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first 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. synopsis from Goodreads

I am a huge fan of Portia De Rossi which is why I read this book.  She played one of my favorite characters on Alley McBeal I loved sub-zero Nelle. I remember watching in horror as she and several others on Alley McBeal became scary skinny. From my perspective this is when the obsession with female celebrities bodies exploded. Ahem thanks a lot David E. Kelly. It’s not like women haven’t always had to deal with being valued for the physical first but, Alley McBeal helped bring it to another level.

Initially I thought that this would be a sort of tell all about the show mixed with her struggle through anorexia and her relationship with Ellen. That isn’t exactly what I got. She does talk about the show and the fact that no one was very friendly or welcoming when she started. The thing that I found most fascinating was how nervous intimidated and scared she was to be on the show. There she was playing Sub-Zero Nelle a hard tough, confident woman and in real life she was more of a frightened little girl.  At no time does Portia blame the show for her anorexia. It is made abundantly clear that she had been dealing with bingeing, purging and disordered eating most of her life. The show was just another thing that contributed to her spiraling out of control. Most of the book however is about her actual anorexia and bulimia and the ways it which it manifested itself. She spends a lot of time sharing very specific stories detailing her  rituals, situations that occurred that made her feel like she had to binge or purge or over exercise. In this way it is much like other books I have read regarding disordered eating. Most eating disorders come with rituals that need to be performed before or after eating or exercising.  She also spends time discussing the fact that she knew she was a lesbian from a young age and what keeping that secret did to her. She had a few lesbian relationships but spent a lot of her time scared that she would be outed while on Alley McBeal. She shares the stories of telling her mom, brother, grandmother and extended family that she was gay. The fact that she was hiding who she really was and spent so much time being scared was something that contributed to her anorexia as well.  There were two things I really wished she would have added to the book. First  was more about her recovery. She speaks about it but not in detail and it is only really touched upon in the last chapter and the epilogue. Second was more Ellen. She does talk about their first meeting and shares a story about their wedding which was so beautiful.

Overall this was a good read.It was emotional and difficult at times but also uplifting.

On a side note I have started watching Arrested Development and OHMYGOD what took me so long. I freakin love this show. I am going to marathon it so I can be prepared to watch the new episodes that are on their way.

Until Next Time

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