Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Report: Unbearable Lightness

Today I'm reviewing "Unbearable Lightness" by Portia de Rossi. The book was about her struggle with anorexia and bulimia. If these are subjects that are triggers for you, you may consider skipping this post, and this book.

I know I normally put a few reviews together because I don't think I'm that great of a book reviewer, but I feel like this one maybe deserves its own post. I've always been fascinated by psychology — why people think the things they think and do the things they do. I don't always understand, but I'm always interested in the thought process.

I also love reading celebrity memoirs. So when I heard that Portia de Rossi had written one, I wanted to read it. I think she's a fabulous actress; I loved her on Arrested Development and one of the best, most-underrated shows to ever get canceled too soon, Better Off Ted.

But everything in the book was before those two shows ever landed on her resume. "Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain" instead focuses on the time in the late 1990s when she got her first job as an actress on Ally McBeal.

As a teen model, Portia's youth was spent focused on being thin; she and her mother would work together to stay focused on their diets, her mother even going so far as to give her dieting tips at an age as young as 12. After years of her weight jumping up and down — starving herself before photo shoots then celebrating afterward by bingeing at McDonald's — Portia finds herself in her 20s, a closeted homosexual terrified of ruining her career by admitting her sexuality, and unsatisfied with the weight her body naturally wants to be. After an emotional moment on the set of Ally McBeal when she realizes the sample-size clothes won't fit over her thighs, she decides that she is going to win at dieting, and that she will never again have a costume designer call for larger sizes. In her mind, that will make people love her and will prevent anyone from knowing that she's gay.

Thus begins a year in which secrecy, lies and consuming as few calories as humanly possible are the friends she clings to. She refuses to eat anything but the few foods she has deemed acceptable — and in carefully measured and weighed portions. Even after consuming so little, she feels convinced she will gain weight if she doesn't work off every calorie. But she never admits that she has a problem. She claims she's "not skinny enough" to be an anorexic, even as she dips below 90 pounds.

Reading this book was heartbreaking. But it was wonderfully written. Every time Portia started to feel manic, anxious — I felt that right along with her. But it was so hard to see her punishing her body for being what it was, hating herself for perceived body flaws, and getting angry when others were concerned about her instead of being proud of her "hard work."

When she finally accepts help, you can feel her calm. I hope she still feels that. A+

Do you like celebrity memoirs?

To see what else I've been reading lately, check out my Recently Read widget in the sidebar!


  1. I usually only read funny celebrity memoirs, but this one intriguing. Also, I really loved Better off Ted, cancelled wayyy too early.

  2. I always have celebrity memoirs on my list, and then I never get around to reading them for some reason. I remember hearing her interview with Oprah a few years ago, and it was very sad. She is so talented and funny. I was a bit surprised by her physical appearance on the new season of "Arrested Development," though. She looks incredibly thin and has obviously had facial procedures. She is such a beautiful woman, and I wish she felt that way.

    1. I was concerned about her appearance on AD too, but I saw that before I read this book and didn't know she'd struggled with eating disorders. I just hope she's okay.