Book Review: Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossie

Portia de Rossi, actor and Ellen DeGeneres' wife, wrote a book about her memories concerning her eating disorder. Because of being touched by her story and being surprised about her writing skills, I thought it might be interesting for you hearing my thoughts about this book. Anorexia nervosa is a dangerous trend in our society because more and more people suffer from it in our society. So if you are interested in getting to know a realistic view of anorexia, then keep on reading.

General information
320 pages, autobiography, published 2011

In this groundbreaking memoir, Portia de Rossi reveals the pain and illness that haunted her for decades, from the time she was a twelve-year-old girl working as a model in Australia, through her early rise to fame as a cast member of the hit television show Ally McBeal . All the while terrified that the truth of her sexuality would be exposed in the tabloids, Portia alternately starved herself and binged, putting her life in danger and concealing from herself and everyone around her the seriousness of her illness.

She describes the elaborate rituals around food that came to dominate hours of every day and explores the pivotal moments of her childhood that set her on the road to illness. 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, ever more in control of her body and the number of calories she consumed and spent.
From her lowest point, Portia began the painful climb back to a life of health and honesty, falling in love and marrying Ellen DeGeneres and emerging as an outspoken and articulate advocate for gay rights and women’s health issues. In this remarkable and landmark book, she has given the world a story that inspires hope and nourishes the spirit.

“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 . . .”

My thoughts
Portia de Rossi describes her journey with eating disorder starting in her youth that continues even in her twenties. She shows the pressure of Hollywood that is dominated by skinny actors and also how her hidden homosexuality damaged her. Everything started with a healthy diet and transformed really quickly into a restricting, addictive eating behaviour. So Portia shows how easy it is to develop an eating disorder and before you have even realised it, your are caught in the vicious cycle. One really recognizes that she wrote this book out of her heart, she doesn't hide any behaviours and that makes it so incredible emotional and touching. Thus, she give us concrete descriptions of her food diary, her activities and her anorexic mind which points out that anorexia isn't about egoism or narcissism as a lot of people think. It shows that anorexia is a real disease and is so complex than for someone who hasn't suffered from it it is really hard to understand it. De Rossi shows the shocking and really dangerous side effects of starving and also adds, which I think is really important, that you will always struggle a bit with food for your whole life. She also clarifies that at the end the anorexia controls you, not only physically but also mentally:

“Average. It was the worst, most disgusting word in the English language. Nothing meaningful or worthwhile ever came from that word.” 
However, personally I wouldn't recommend this book to an ex-anorexic or an anorexic because of these concrete description which include exact food diaries, measurements and all activities. It can be really triggering when you also hear all tricks and techniques that she used and you might get motivated to start starving again. I think, this book is great for "normal" people who want to understand an anorexic mind and to decrease all the existing prejudices, however, I wouldn't recommend it to (ex-)anorexics, especially anorexics in recovery.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed reading this book as I think this topic is of utmost importance and there exist too much prejudices of anorexia nervosa. I am sure that Portia de Rossi as an ex-anorexic is aware of the triggering effect her book might have, therefore, I am much more pleased de Rossi had the courage writing this book. With this book Portia de Rossi reveals the unadorned truth with shocking and dangerous aspects and with the description of self-destruction, secret shame and addictive behaviour she shared a huge part of her anorexic personality with the world. But at the end, Portia was able to escape out of her disease and found the love of her life in Ellen DeGeneres which gives every anorexic hope that there always exist a ray of hope. Or as she mentions:

"in other words, accept yourself. love your body the way it is and feel grateful towards it. most importantly, in order to find real happiness, you must learn to love yourself for the totality of who you are and not just what you look like” 

I hope you found this post interesting. Have you read the book?

Wish you a wonderful day! Lots of love,

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