Monday, March 21, 2011

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

Unbearable Lightness
Author: Portia de Rossi
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: November 1, 2010
Hardcover, 307 pages

Synopsis: 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.
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 Lightnessis a story that inspires hope and nourishes the spirit. (From
My Thoughts: Wow. Wow wow wow.
This is Portia de Rossi’s memoir on her battle with anorexia and bulemia. Since she was a teenager, she struggled with her weight, ballooning up and down. The disease took control of her once she landed her first major beauty campaign with L’Oreal. At her first fitting, she was unable to fit into any of the outfits that the stylist had pulled for her, and the stylist told the company executives, “Nobody told me she was a size eight” (118). It is at that moment that Portia realizes what she must do to be that perfect person that the L’Oreal wanted her to be: she had to lose weight and be a size 4. Her journey continues after her first photo shoot with the company, lasting a year and taking her to her lowest weight, 82 pounds.

De Rossi’s writing is so gripping that you can hardly imagine that this really was how someone lived. There are scenes that are so vivid and haunting, you have to put the book down for awhile to comprehend what she is doing. One of the most haunting passages in the book comes early on, when she explains her bingeing and purging after dining with her brother at a Mexican restaurant and then buying food at a convenience store on the way home:
“I started by eating a large bag of Cheetos. The bright orange color would serve as a marker during the purge. It would be a map, almost, telling me how far I’d come and how much further I needed to go. When I saw orange vomit cascading from my mouth and flowing in chunks between the two rigid fingers jammed against my gag reflex, I’d know I’d passed 7-Eleven and then I’d make my way back to the restaurant and back through each course beginning with corn chips, the enchiladas, and ending with the nachos.” (49)
She takes you through her illness, describing how she lived her life at that time and what she did to herself in order to achieve these extreme results. Her journey is not just one of weight acceptance, but also of how she must come to terms with who she really is. She is a gay woman but she hid it from the world, allowing her secret to eat her alive. She was so nervous that someone would discover her secret that she lived in a constant state of paranoia, avoiding certain areas of Los Angeles because they were known as the gay parts of town. It’s hard to imagine someone living their life this way, and even harder to think that this is a memoir, that this isn’t fiction. She lived this way for years.

This book is beautifully written and contains a strong message. I could gush about it for hours (don’t worry, I won’t), about how moving it was to go inside the mind of someone living with an eating disorder, to see how she views herself and the world around her. It also shows how our society values a person’s appearance. I was so disgusted with our society at certain passages, because I realized how impossible standards are forced onto women. At one point in the book, de Rossi is flying home to Australia. It’s a 14 hour flight, and the only thing she consumes the entire flight is one black coffee. The flight attendant congragulates her on her will-power! How awful is that?!?

I would recommend this book to every woman. Even if you love who you are and love your body, you need to read this book. It’s a harrowing journey into the world of a person suffering from an eating disorder and trying to be who she thinks society would want her to be. After finishing the book, I realized that I need to live in the moment, not worry about how I am living and just be happy. And while this seems like common sense and something that I have heard lots of times before, reading this book made me realize that I should accept the person that I am and accept those around me as well. Honestly, I think everyone should read this book. This will be staying on by bookshelf forever.

My Rating: 5 stars!

No comments:

Post a Comment