May 19, 2012

Review: Portia de Rossi - Unbearable Lightness

Portia de Rossi - Unbearable Lightness

• Pub Date: November 1, 2010
• Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
• Format: CD 9hr 17min
• Age Range: Adult

“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 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.

Oh wow. How awful. Portia de Rossi's story is so eye-opening and honest. It made me feel less alone and slightly neurotic. Now, I don't have anorexia, but I do have a serious love/hate relationship with food. It's been a battle for years, and I'm currently "dieting." Hearing her story right when I probably needed it the most has been enlightening. I even love how she made up her professional name.

I'm not going to lie, I was hoping for more about her and Ellen. I don't read book descriptions so I had NO clue that this book was about her battle with eating disorders. But all wasn't lost - not in the least. I was so engrossed with her life story, taking in all I could about how rationally she talked about her mindset, that I hardly remembered the Ellen part of her life. Her thoughts were more than preposterous, but she talks about it all like she's the sane one. It's incredible what these diseases do to a person, physically and mentally.

Trying to convince herself that she wasn't gay, Portia de Rossi created a diversion and focused on her body. 115 pounds was her goal weight at 5'7", but, being a newly famous actress, that turned out not to be good enough. Bottoming out at 82 pounds (!!!!), de Rossi finally reached her breaking point when her body wouldn't comply with her mind's wishes. It's astounding that she managed to eat so little and do so much!!

This book is written wonderfully. It flows just right, and it comes across like it's from a well-established author. The novel is outstanding in its detail and description. It is so easy to fall into step with this book, thinking you're right there with de Rossi, feeling what she's feeling. She's SO hard on herself, to the point where I was exclaiming out loud, "Are you kidding me?!" She is so much stronger now if she can admit that she was feeling these things about herself and her body, her outward appearance and inner turmoil.

I basically loved listening to her story, heartbreaking as it is. She narrates this herself, so everything is spoken just as she means it. She does an awesome job. Our culture these days doesn't seem to make a big deal about eating disorders anymore, but it's serious business. de Rossi is so brave for sharing her story in hopes to help anyone who struggles with the daily ins and outs of eating and maintaining good health at the same time. As someone who deals with this every day, I so appreciate this story. It makes me feel brave to just enjoy being who I am, knowing that I'm not alone, and to make peace with the fact that health will come with a good balance in my life. THANK YOU.

Bottom line: This is my first 5-star book of 2012. You do the math here. :o)


5/5 book sharks!!!

1 comment:

  1. I've been thinking about reading this book, but now I know I have to! Great review!! :)


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