Sunday, November 14, 2010

Portia de Rossi's book

i just finished Portia de Rossi's, Unbearable Lightness. It stays with me.

The book is well-written (a big plus)and interesting. Her description of her life with her eating disorder is clear and very recognizable. In her telling, de Rossi never judges her actions, she just tells them and the reader gets the message through the description.

The story can be triggering, and in some hands, it might almost seem like a how-to. i also found it a painful story, and I'd put the book down feeling sad.

What helped me was watching what her life became once ED entered the picture. De Rossi was 100% devoted to weight loss, no matter the cost to anything else. At the height of her fame, she sat in her home, eating butter spray and running on the treadmill to burn off the calories of sugar free gum. Nothing, nothing else mattered. Her story pounded home the waste of years, the self absorption and the pain brought to self and others in the quest for.........what?

De Rossi gives a thorough description of her life with Anorexia and Bulimia. We watch them build and speed out of control as the 5'8 actress fairly quickly starves herself down to 82 lbs. just as quickly, she gains the weight back and more until she's 168.

oh, do i know about huge weight fluctuations and the excruciating physical and emotional pain they cause. i was right there with de Rossi every step of the way.

Then she lost me. in a few short pages,she has figured it all out (eat when your hungry, stop when you're full) and is easily maintaining the 130 her body always wanted to be anyway. ta da.

after hundreds of pages of detailed sickness, she's cured, in love and happy. oh.

as i said, it's an interesting read and, of course, a very important topic. i would highly recommend it for parents or anyone wanting to learn more about eating disorders.

has anyone else read it? i'd be interested in other views.


  1. I've had the book sitting on my shelf for a little while but have never read it. Maybe I'll start it soon. You gave an interesting review of it. I wish it was as easy as "ta da" to recover.

  2. Makes me wonder if she just needed an ending, maybe? I get the same reaction when I read books or articles and watch movies about infertility. It seems to always end (ta da!) with the woman getting miraculously pregnant. Or suddenly holding an adopted kid. Sheesh. It ain't never that simple, is it?
    Great review!

  3. I found the People article extremely triggering. As a severe restricting anorexic, I am always triggered by numbers and reading things such as de Rossi's book or others like it can sending me diving into restriction quicker than I can think about it. I'm not blaming the media and these books for my anorexia; I am responsible for my actions in the end. It's just that it kicks in a certain competitiveness that I can't overthrow right now because I'm not strongly in recovery mode. Having said that, I will probably read the book because of sheer curiosity.

    As far as the ending, the article also made everything seem easy and pat. I think it takes an excellent writer to be able to wrap up such a subject in a way that continues to stress and maintain the complexities of both the disease and recovery, that recovery isn't static but ongoing, and let's face it, de Rossi most likely isn't that type of wrier (if she even wrote the book; I suspect at least some ghost writing of the book.)

  4. Sounds like typical self help books - when they get to the help part they always disappoint. This was a good one that had a pretty good ending: Skinny Boy: A Young Man's Battle and Triumph Over Anorexia

  5. S.A. i wonder if you might find the book triggering? if you do read it, i'd be very interested in your response. if it were as easy as ta da to recover, do you think you'd want to?

    Danielle Mari; GREAT to see you back in blogger world. YAY! yeah, i think she suddenly wanted an ending. and everyone likes a success story. i was pretty disappointed -- all of us who suffer know all to well what it's like to suffer. very few of us know how to recover. i wish it could be that easy with all our struggles, very very much including yours, Danielle

    Angela; i wish it could be easier for you. maybe wait to read the book -- i could see where it might be pretty triggering? i think it could be difficult to craft recovery. and probably not very "sexy", but that's what i'm always looking for, step by step. take care of yourself, dear angela

    Harriet: thank you for the recommendation. i often forget to remember men in the ED equation. Have you ever read Drinking: A Love Story, by Carolyn Knapp. i'm not recommending it because of it's particular focus. it's beautiful, beautifully written and poignant. i think it's a great read for someone who likes to write memoir. if you're interested, google Carolyn Knapp. i've read a lot of her work and a lot about her.

  6. I haven't read the book but I keep seeing her magazine cover, the one with her shockingly low weight on it in really big numbers. I don't know why they do that. Probably to sell copies. I'm not really triggered by it anymore, but I know it triggers alot of people. I think you can tell the world you were anorexic without pointing out "how anorexic" you were.
    I do think that recovery is different for the rich and famous. Sure, they have alot of stress and pressure. But they also have the means and money to throw at treatment that so many just can't afford. And they can also afford to take time off to focus on recovery. The rest of us have to do recovery while at the same time managing work/school/life. SO I guess my opinion is that a celebrity ED memoir might be a good read, but is not neccessarily representative of the typical recovery experience (if there is such a thing).

    Wow nothing I am trying to say is coming out right this morning. Am I even making sense?

    P.S. sorry I have been so sucky at commenting lately <3

  7. lisalisa; you make perfect sense! in the book, she writes how her horses saved her -- getting up every morning and going to her stable, staying hello to the help who cleans the stables and cares for the horses, and then riding off for some nice equine therapy. i get up every morning and brush my teeth.

    i'm sorry you're feeling off. hang in there. you've made such strides. your thinking is really clear. thanks for your comments -- they're always right on, thoughtful, caring and smart.

  8. I read the People magazine article. I find memoirs mostly triggering unless there is some advice for how to beat ED. Telling me to listen to my body is such a simplistic approach. I'm glad that she was able to beat the anorexia. I would be curious to know if she still gets help with a nutritionist and therapist.
    I hope you are doing well!

  9. Angela; thank you. i hope you are well too.

    Right - don't you want to hear more about the healing than the rituals, etc., we all know anyway? and wouldn't it be nice to know the support she got and she stays healthy (other than riding her horses?)

    one other thing i found is - i don't know how i feel about her. i didn't really get a sense of her personality. over all though, i did get stuff from the book and it was a story well told, i think

  10. Portia didn't say that she recovered 'overnight' it took her a long time. While she even lied to her counsellor for a long time after she was in therapy. Her 'ta-da' moment was her former partner helping and watching her through her actions and eating patterns as a 'naturally' thin woman. She learned through Francesca. This booked has halped my more than I ever thought it could and very quickly. My mother used to buy groceries and then tell me not to eat them, that they were 'mine, don't touch it it's mine'. So, I would sneak eat them very quickly when she was out of the house, or simply sneak food into the house and eat it very quickly in either the closet(literally) or my bedroom. That started off a very bad relationship with food for me. I'm now 46 years old and from reading Portia's book the message I took away from it was that now as an adult, I buy my own food and no one can say I can't have it anymore. The food is always going to be there for me if and when I want it. I'm at such peace in my mind now about's going to be there tomorrow for me if I want it and no one is going to tell me I can't have it. I was never anorexic but have done the binge and purge thing for many years.....all because of how my mother made me feel about food, I have such a sense of calm now about food and I know I can stay at my proper weight now, because no one is going to take my food away or tell me that it doesn't belong to me and I can't have it, so I don't have to eat it like a vaccumm cleaner hidden away anymore. It's in the pantry and fridge and I can have it if I want it and I make healthier choices now since reading Portia's book. One quote from her that really resonated with me was "Restriction Generates Yearning". That's what someone like me took away from this book.