Anorexia and Bulimia: Portia de Rossi talks
I have stopped keeping books when I’ve finished them. I pass them on to friends, or leave them in the communal laundry upstairs in my apartment building. There are few books I wished I’d kept a copy of. Portia de Rossi’s book Unbearable Lightness is one of those books.
I have to admit that I didn’t like Portia, and thought of her as stand-offish, better-than-you, cold and icy. She was far from my favourite actress; I tend to like bubbly, goofy girls and Portia seemed to be the polar opposite of this.
I didn’t really like Portia de Rossi before…well, not much
I was sceptical about whether or not I would like her “voice”, but I was oh-so-pleasantly surprised. She is honest, brave, challenging and raw. She describes her bulimia and anorexia in intimate detail. It’s gruelling and I think that most women and many men would relate to her struggles with food.
She seems to be a perfectionist, and aims to control herself and her emotions by controlling what she puts in her mouth. She is also battling internally with the fact that she is gay, and has to hide it for the sake of her career. Her book is called Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain. I couldn’t put it down.
From 81 pounds to 158 pounds
There is one section where she describes a bulimic episode in such honest detail, it makes the reader cringe. Poor Portia goes from 37 kilos to 72 kilos in the book – that’s 81 to 158 pounds. She describes episodes of maniacal exercise too, where she runs on her treadmill obsessively each day wearing only her underwear and running shoes (the treadmill is in her own home, of course!).
She also describes what it’s like to be an actress in Hollywood, but as other reviewers have noted, she doesn’t really talk much about her co-stars or relationships, and this may be down to the fact that for a lot of her illness, she isolated herself from others. Eating disorders can do that.
The road to recovery from eating disorders
The thing I liked most about this book was Portia’s recovery. She decides that to win the battle with food, image and her weight, she has to stop dieting. It takes her body some time to catch up to this new way of living, but catch up it does. She becomes vegan and starts ‘listening to her body’ as the primary method of controlling and maintaining her weight.
Portia and veganism
Portia inspired me to do the same. Like her, I explored veganism (Portia and Ellen are both vegan, they even had a vegan wedding cake) and I decided to start listening to my body. If I had a sugar craving, I satisfied it. If I wanted something salty at midnight, I would eat it in small amounts.
Read this book with caution
As others have said, I would not recommend this book specifically if you are suffering from anorexia or bulimia, as I think it could be triggering. Portia describes what she eats at various stages, and this is like a red flag to a bull with people who are already suffering with restrictive eating.
It’s well written, interesting, honest and beautiful. If you are thinking of getting a copy, I highly recommend it.