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Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain
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Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  28,266 ratings  ·  2,188 reviews
"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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 1st 2010 by Atria Books
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Opening Line: “He doesn’t wait until I’m awake. He comes into my unconscious to find me, to pull me out.”

I knew almost nothing about Portia De Rossi before reading her gripping biography. Sure I’d seen her years ago on Ally McBeal. I knew she was beautiful, I knew she was married to Ellen DeGeneres and I had just assumed she was another perfect movie star living the dream with a life to be envious of. This is so not the case here.

Unbearable Lightness is brutal, scary, well written and shocking
My “favorite” part was eight pages in, when she indulges in “too much” yogurt, freaks out, and starts doing lunges to make up for it: “I start sobbing now as I lunge my way across the floor and I wonder how many calories I’m burning by sobbing. Sobbing and lunging – it’s got to be at least 30 calories. It crosses my mind to vocalize my thoughts of self-loathing because speaking the thoughts that fuel the sobs would have to burn more calories than just thinking the thoughts…”

I’ve read/seen a numb
Before I begin my review of this book, I want to share the story of the first and last time I forced myself to throw up. While this doesn’t relate exactly to Unbearable Lightness, it sheds light on why I empathize so much with Portia De Rossi and what she went through. Skip down a few paragraphs if you wish.

In my first few years of adolescence, I always felt lost. I was born gay in a society where the word faggot is tossed around like footballs are thrown on Sunday, born homosexual in a world wh
i wish i knew the conditions of the publishing of this book. it is so obvious that the book could have been much, much better with just some editing (even just some basic copy-editing would have made a difference!). the hand of a loving editor could have made it so much stronger, it's a real shame this hand wasn't given much, or any, play.

the first part, which is focused on portia's bingeing, is sloppy. the second part, where she describes the time in her life when she got a grip on the bingein
Update to give another star, now that I've finished it.

The book could have used a little better editing, but the writing is intelligent. Writing level is not the point, here, though. The goal was not literature, but to send a message, and this she accomplishes very well.

It was, to me, a very powerful book and something I really strongly feel should be read by anyone going through a diet or appearance struggle. Especially the end of the book and epilogue. If you skim everything else, at least sit
I've been reading a lot of books about eating. I'm very interested in why we, as a society, can't seem to do it right anymore. (I have this same question in regards to the, um, marital arts but that's a different review.) Why are people freaking out about food? Why is everyone fat? Except for the people who are too thin? What's with them? I'm also particularly interested in eating since having 1) lost a lot of weight almost 10 years ago and 2) having learned that my infant cousin starved to deat ...more
Diane Librarian
This is a surprisingly good and inspiring story of one woman's struggle with anorexia. I say surprising because I always have low expectations when a celebrity writes a book, but Portia de Rossi's memoir is a notable exception.

Portia's problems could be traced back to when she was a child and realized she was gay. Her mom advised her not to tell anyone, which set off intense feelings of fear, shame, inadequacy and a decades-long eating disorder.

Portia's anorexia intensified when she got an acti
Enia T.
There are two reasons to write a book like this when you are stricken with a psychological illness like anorexia:

1) as therapy, to catalog the dark places you went, so that you can take it out once in a while and reread it to remind yourself of those dark places so that you never let yourself go there again

b) to give help and hope to those who are struggling with the same illness you vanquished.

Here's the thing though: if you're doing a), you don't publish it. If you're doing b), you publish it
Lizzi Crystal
I've always had a girlcrush on Portia de Rossi, and especially what she stands for: that lesbians can be glamorous and feminine. But this book soured me on her. I appreciate her candid honesty and delving so deeply into the nitty gritty of an eating disorder, but she started out spoiled, remarkably selfish, an attention whore, and didn't seem to experience much change or growth. The best part of the book is the end, when she encourages us to "welcome the worst case scenario" into our lives, tell ...more
Natalia Smith
Brilliantly written, intense, engaging, and utterly courageous in it's honesty. Portia bears her soul to the world in this book.

This is a story about a lot of things, but first and foremost, it is a story about being afraid.

This is one those books that forces you to examine your perspective. It speaks directly to that voice in the back of your mind that tells you you're not good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, worthy enough. Portia's story takes that voice festering in the shadows of you
I don't want to go into all the details of why I thought this book was so important/why I liked it so much but I'll go into the main reasons. To be fair I will first mention that there are a few technical flaws with it, I suppose, in that the tense shifts now and then. I've seen this mentioned and it's true that it spent so much time focused on the sickness and so little on equally detailing the recovery.

But I don't know how to say this other than just saying it: this is a very accurate view of
A heartbreaking look at mental illness from a fragile mind in an image-obsessed industry.

This was a very touching and honest memoir that really showed the struggles de Rossi went through trying to control her weight.

It's well written and occasionally I had to put it down to stop myself from crying at her pain. It's not just that this is an honest look at eating disorders, but de Rossi isn't afraid of portraying herself as less than perfect. Considering this is the image she strove so hard to ach
I really didn't expect to like this book and I ended up loving it. Unbearable Lightness is de Rossi's story of battling her eating disorder, self-hatred because of her sexuality, all while dealing with her increasing fame.

While the book would have benefited from a talented editor (especially in the first half) it is a brutally honest account of her struggles with eating throughout her life. Her struggle is something that every woman can probably related to on some level-the need to fit into soci
Nancy Wood
I am sure that for the author, it was a wonderful exercise to write this book. I suppose it IS a shocking story but it got tedious for me, reading how she struggled in Hollywood to fit in and chapter after chapter of how she starved herself. It was her desperation to be famous, really, and I guess I have little sympathy for the rich and famous when it comes to how they choose to chase that fame--and why are their struggles any more "shocking" than the every day struggles of us "regular" people? ...more
Tonile {My Cup and Chaucer}
Shared experiences are one of the greatest things about the human condition. No matter how troubled you are and how alone you feel, there is someone willing to listen, to care, to help, to remind you that you are never truly alone. Help might come in the most unlikely of places at the most unlikely time, but its existence alone is a miracle. Unbearable Lightness is a miracle for anyone suffering with self acceptance, body image or sexuality issues. At times funny, at times vividly graphic, at ti ...more
Meg ♥
This was such a great story. It was so inspiring to see someone come back from such a low time, and get her life back together. She is a beautiful woman, and I'm sure her story will help some people who battle this difficult problem.
Kristina Abretti
Having both suffered and recovered from an eating disorder, this was a difficult read for me. I strained to read it slowly, as during each passage centered on Portia’s sickness, I revisited my own. Our internal dialogue – excluding our sexuality – was identical. Our disorders were established from a place of ingrained, unyielding insecurity. But they prospered; they THRIVED because of our inflexible longing to win.

I related to her harsh decision-making. Omitting the granola bar from my lunch was
Unbearable Lightness was a compelling read, in fact I read it in just 3 days. Portia De Rossi has always been fascinating to me, she changed her name at 15 from Amanda Rogers to the more exotic Portia De Rossi on a whim, she is married to one of the most powerful lesbian celebrities out there, and she is a pretty good actress to boot. I thought her book would be more about her coming out as a celebrity, but what it really is about is her horrific battle with anorexia and bulimia.

This book is ve
Never in my life of reading literature have I come across such a whirlwind of a book. I am not anorexic, but I know my way around mental illness and to say she was sick would be a VAST understatement. The book has a slow start but when she really begins to dive into the eating disorder it becomes a tornado of mania that was almost overwhelming to me. I think if anyone wanted to understand how deep and multifaceted a disorder can be they could turn to this book. 300 calories a day and her thinnes ...more
An autobiography of the actress Portia de Rossi whom I mostly know of from watching Ally McBeal on Fridays at boarding school (haha, the common room, all huddled together in pjs and dressing gowns).

Portia seems a little nuts.. mentally obsessive. Mostly chronicles her obsessive dieting and recovery. Looking at how skinny she still is, I don't think she really has recovered but she works in an industry where most people are that weight, so, you know. A lot of them meet the medical criteria for a
I recently finished reading Portia de Rossi's memoir recounting her long struggle with eating disorders, Unbearable Lightness. After finishing Hungry by Crystal Renn, I wasn't sure I was up for another celebrity book on body image and eating, but I love Portia de Rossi, as well as her wife, Ellen Degeneres. My friend DD introduced me to Portia via the hilarious show "Arrested Development" this year, though I recognized her as part of the "Ally McBeal" cast.

As someone who has admittedly struggled
Each year or so I find myself wanting to diet. Needing to. Whatever. This year, being only at its beginning, I just treated myself to a nice dinner and my favourite dessert in the whole world, two Reese's peanut butter cups which I'll probably regret later. Or not. I'm thinking about the way I look, sometimes I care too much, sometimes I just ignore it. But thank goodness my life and work never depended on my looks, I never struggled to be accepted, to be admired, to fit in the latest trend of s ...more
True story: I have an enormous stack of library books out and this is the ONLY ONE I finished. I read it in one evening. It has all the really scary honesty of the best voyeuristic memoirs. de Rossi (or Degeneres, now, I think she did petition to change her name to Degeneres like her wife) holds nothing back, or appears to hold nothing back, and it's fascinating & heartbreaking all at once. I have had so many friends with eating disorders that even though nothing was new or surprising to me ...more
I have mixed emotions about this book.

I truly admire her honestly in telling her story. That couldn’t have been easy. I think its wonderful that she discusses not just the physical side of what she was doing but the emotional side as well. She said in one line - basically someone can’t insult you if you don’t accept it. This really stuck with me.

On the other hand - she doesn’t discuss her recovery. Basically there was an intervention of sorts, she starts going to a therapist, lying to the therap
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I hadn't planned on reading this book in one night. I intended to read a chapter or two and then go to bed, but Ms. de Rossi tells her story well and with a degree of honesty, authenticity, that grabbed and held me.

Looking back, the book is a notable for what it leaves out as for what it puts in. It's not a story that trashes -- or even comments on -- other Hollywood denizens. She blames nobody but herself for her choices; she's not looking to lump blame on others -- and that's refreshing.

Elizabeth Scott
I only ever heard of Portia de Rossi when I started watching Arrested Development (one of the greatest tv shows of all time!) and I thought she was amazing in it--I didn't know she'd been on Ally McBeal, or that she'd had an eating disorder for most of her life, and reading about her time on Ally (which doesn't sound like much fun--it seems like the entire cast/crew/everyone seemed to run on fear of the show's creator??) as well as how her eating disorder developed, and got worst as she was on A ...more
Melissa (Book Nerd Reviews)
I have never suffered from an eating disorder before. But when reading this book, I can honestly say I felt like I was there with Portia in the moment, feeling what she was feeling. The difference with this book as opposed to many celebrity authored books, is that there was no ghost writer here. Portia wrote all of the pages herself in her own words, and I was blown away… the girl has talent!

Her description of how she felt in every moment was so mesmerizing, and sometimes so sad.. I wanted to sh
Lori Anaple
What an amazing insight into the mind of anorexia and bulimia. The only thing that I can really complain about is the lack of discussion regarding her recovery. Yes, the disease is horrid. Yes, it totally warps your mind. Yes, you really do lose all sense of control and give it over to the disease. The tale she tells is moving, insane and real.

When reading it (if you are recovering from any eating disorders) be very careful to pay attention to the possible triggers. Many people have complained t
Charlie Ramirez
Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi is a tell all memoir of the struggles and ups and downs she experienced in regard to her eating disorders and her addiction to dieting. If I learned anything from this memoir, it is the idea that sometimes the truth is all you need. Written as though everything was happening as you read, you can't help but become personally involved in the story as well. By writing the story in present tense, Portia allows the readers to gain insight of the mental capacity ...more
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Portia Lee James DeGeneres, known professionally as Portia de Rossi, is an Australian actress, best known for her roles as lawyer Nelle Porter on the television series Ally McBeal and Lindsay Bluth Fünke on the sitcom Arrested Development. She also portrayed Veronica Palmer on the ABC sitcom Better Off Ted.

Portia is married to Ellen Degeneres.
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“True nobility isn't about being better than anyone else; it's about being better than you used to be.” 117 likes
“Shame weighs a lot more than flesh and bone.” 98 likes
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