Nicky's Reviews > Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
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's review
Mar 31, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: true-hollywood-stories, true-story, 2011, lez, xx, this-is-mental
Read in April, 2011

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 number of stories about eating disorders, and no one has ever gone so deep into the little nooks and crannies of her particular brand of crazy as Portia de Rossi.

I was both appalled and in awe. Her story is emotional and terrifying.

But the book has major problems. She acts completely and totally fucking insane for 275 pages then tacks on a 30-page epilogue to summarize her recovery. That doesn’t make sense to me. She gives us all the nitty-gritty, down and dirty details of her eating disorder then glosses over her journey back to health? Her journey back to health is the whole point! Without that, this book might as well be a how-to guide.
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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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Andrea I totally agree. As a person who struggled with anorexia/bulemia once-upon-a-time, I found myself thinking things like, "I should start measuring my food again," and "Oh, yeah ... egg whites and oatmeal ... those can help me shed a few pounds!" It did almost feel like a how-to guide to me at times. I appreciate her candor and wish she had allowed us to see more of her recovery.

Nicky The more I think about it, the more I feel the book is pretty irresponsible.

Mrudula I entirely agree about the epilogue!

Kendra I agree! I was so wrapped up in the book, I started feeling a crazy desire to run, to be more disciplined with what I eat, that it would be lovely to be 130 pounds again. The epilogue took away some of that with I was reading about her "conscious eating" approach (and a few days away from the book gave me some perspective), but I also feel like she needed a bit more of "this is how I got better" instead of "I just started eating again because my doctor said I was sick."

Kara LOVED that you pointed this out. I felt that the book proportions should have been flip-flopped or half and half. I don't know of many who suffer ffom an eating disorder and 1-overcome it and 2- get better because the doctor said so.

Robin Totally agree too on the structure!

Paige Absolutely agree. I had the same feeling. I felt like the point of recovery and health that I am sure she meant her book to portray did not actually come across. It felt a little too much like a glorification of the disorder and made even the bad parts seem worth it. Maybe that is because I have always had trouble with eating and food, but it came across this way to me.

message 8: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Eckhardt I agree. I felt like it would teach me how to become anorexic if I wanted to. I tried the frozen yogurt thing- though I didn't portion it out like she did. I just wanted to taste it. I wanted to know more about how she developed a healthy relationship with food.

Nadia I don't think the journey to recovery is more important than the suffering she endured-what she wrote, her story, should not be judged. It's the author's story, and a personal one that she was courageous to share. The author does not have a responsibility to the readers, per se. That's surrenduring our own responsibility and even our thoughts to whatever we're reading, saying "Someone else should take the blame for whag I'm thinking." Are we that impressionable? She told her story the way she saw fit. And her editors and publisher agreed. It's ridiculous to think a writer should change or add something to her story because of how some readers might take it.

Nadia what* not whag! Also, throughout the book, while she's describing how she works out/counts calories, etc, she also describes the negative feelings she has and how her patterns with food and her body image are detrimental to her.

Joanne Never having suffered with an eating disorder, I don't know how it comes across to those who have experienced it. All I can say is what it read like for someone who hasn't experienced it- that level of detail and craziness was actually totally enlightening to understand how those who suffer from this can really feel.
From the outside, it is impossible to imagine, and I understand that now. Giving the details she did made me realize platitudes and positive affirmations aren't helpful, neither are guilt trips, or whatever else people employ to try to help.

I was totally floored at her getting out of her car and running in heels to burn calories. That is so alien a thought process to me...
I realize it may seem like a How To manual to many, but it terrified me.

Perhaps another book she may feel up to sharing more of the recovery process. For now, I'm grateful she shared as much as she did. That took a lot of courage to admit.

message 12: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay I have had anorexia for 15 years, since I was 11 years old. At my worst I weighed just over 4st. I wouldn't say I'm "recovering", more "co-existing" with my eating disorder, I'm a little underweight but not dangerously so.

Portia's memoir is a very accurate portrayal (so far, not finished) of the craziness of eating disorders but I think I should probably stop reading it. I can relate to everything I've read, and have my own similiar versions of it but I don't know that it's a good idea for me to read. I have recently upped my calorie intake to 500 a day, and now I'm thinking I should reduce it back down to 300 (yeah, for some reason 300 calories is a magic number in anorexia!) and that's dangerous territory for me to be in.

message 13: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah I do agree I found myself thinking, hmm, yeah, I could do that again, just a little. I found myself missing anorexia and would have to stop reading to get myself out if that mindset. then I would read another part that I could remember feeling/doing and would be so relieved to no longer be feeling that. I was hoping for more about her recovery, seeing as she was so detailed about the disease. I'm glad she doesn't gloss over the disease, making it seem not as awful as it is. I appreciate her honesty there. but for annyone going through it, recovering, or recovered, it makes it very dangerously easy to slip back into that way of thinking. I was left disappointed she didn't make her recovery a bigger part of the book.
overall, I think it was a good book. but I agree it could def be used as a how to guide, she's so honest

message 14: by Jess (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jess So agree, the last part was soo good, I wish it was a lot longer. I havnt found ed books triggerjng begore I read this one its the one book I foubd really messed up my head, I srarted to get guilty anout wating gum like I once was years ago. Do not recommend for anyone whose had or has an ed

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