Alyce (At Home With Books)'s Reviews > Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
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Nov 18, 2011

it was amazing

Unbearable Lightness is Portia de Rossi’s story of her long struggle with anorexia and bulimia, from her teen years and into adulthood. In the preface there is an excerpt from later in the book when she was only consuming a tiny amount – about 300 calories a day. It was shocking to read – one of those things that makes you wonder how in the world anyone could think that was normal, much less a good idea.

She then goes on to tell her story from the time she was a teenage model who was being told on a regular basis that she needed to lose weight (never mind that her body shape was just naturally curvy). From that point on hers is a sad and compelling story, tracking her progression from a cycle of dieting and binge eating when she was younger, to full-blown anorexia and bulimia as an adult.

The best aspect of this book is that the author really takes you inside her head, lets you see the thought processes she had at the time, and shows how her thinking kept her eating less and exercising more. While I never got to the point where I thought that 300 calories a day was normal, it was easy to see how her thinking had progressed to that stage, and it definitely made me examine my own body image and how I see myself in regards to eating and dieting.

The author also discusses how hiding her sexual orientation from the world added an extra stress to her life, especially in a profession that is so driven by image. She tells of her sorrow and frustration as she closed off that part of her life so that it didn’t become public knowledge. While she does talk a little bit about how she met and married Ellen, the majority of the memoir is about her eating disorder and not her relationship.

As I was reading the book I kept wishing that there were photos in the center of the book, because I find that I get so much more out of a memoir if photos are included. Imagine my surprise when I was reading one of the later chapters, flipped the page and saw a photo that fit perfectly with the text on that page, and the next page and the next. The images in that section of the book were powerful in that context and I’m so glad that she decided to include them where they were. If you do read Unbearable Lightness, I recommend reading it through in order and not flipping through to find the pictures ahead of time. Reading them in the text when I did carried a strong emotional impact.

Unbearable Lightness had a positive influence on me in that I do have a propensity to see my body in a critical light (like most of us probably do), and it reminded me of how damaging that kind of close scrutiny can be.

I thought this was a wonderful memoir and I admire the courage of Portia de Rossi in sharing these deeply personal experiences with the world.
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