“Unbearable Lightness” Book Review

I just finished reading Portia de Rossi’s eating disorder memoir today, “Unbearable Lightness”.  Portia bravely and poignantly shares the story of her twenty year obsession with eating and body image.

On “Ally McBeal” I watched Portia with great enjoyment.  She was beautiful, funny, sexy and smart.  After reading her book I think that Portia embodies all of these qualities.  However, she is a Type A personality (my diagnosis, not hers), and she never regards herself as good enough. She perceives herself as not being:

Smart enough,

Talented enough,

Skinny enough, or

Pretty enough.

Launching into a modeling career before she has reached teen age, she always feels that the other girls are taller, thinner and prettier.  As a starring actress she feels that she is ignored and underused, ready to be fired at any moment when people discover that she is:


Ugly, and


Women in our society can put so much pressure on themselves to look better every day.  It is shocking to read Portia’s story when from the outside she seems so glamorous and effortlessly beautiful.  She wears make-up before she goes into “make-up” because she doesn’t want the stylists to see how awful she “really” looks.

Her obsession with food and exercise is tragically obsessive.  Apparently having an eating disorder is a full-time job and then some.  The story is written in such a way that you are truly enmeshed in her pain and obsessive struggle to be thinner and thinner and thinner, almost killing herself along the way.

The crazy thing is that after all of her struggles, she finally realizes that she can eat what she wants, when she wants to, and still have a great body.  The weight that she was always trying to go below is her “true” weight — the size her body wants her to be.  I think we all have this weight, and if we can learn to exercise and eat sensibly we never have to deprive ourselves.

Poor Portia ate only 300 calories per day for much of her life while exercising fanatically to burn those calories off.  She even purged when she ate this scant amount, still feeling that she was out of control and fearing that she would become fat.  Eating a five calorie piece of sugarless gum was seen as a real “treat” for Portia, and when she once ate several pieces at a time she completely freaked out!

I really enjoyed the book.  She writes well, and it was very easy to read.  I give it two sugarless pieces of gum up.


About mallorylayne

midlife mom seeking meaning for the rest of her life.
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