Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi

To be successful, you just have to try really hard. Even if you goal is extreme weight loss and your tools are speaking your self-loathing out loud because it burns more calories than just thinking them.

I have really mixed feelings about this book. I liked that it was gritty and unexpected. It was exceptionally direct about the lengths de Rossi went to in order to achieve her weight goals. I read another review where the reader was having problems getting through the book because it is so depressing and dark and it wasn’t looked at the situation in a humorous or self-deprecating way. Really? I don’t want to read about this kind of struggle from a humorous perspective. There are a few things that I think shouldn’t be joked about and this is one of them.

The darkness was one of the things that made this book good. She’s so deep in her eating disorder that even when Portia is seeing a nutritionist, and honestly fools herself into thinking that she is doing something good for her body and her career, she’s still so unhappy. She can’t find any joy in her health. Even when she’s lording her weight loss over others, she’s still crippled by the way people look at her and judge everything about her. The fact that she was only ever really able to get out of the cycle of the disorder by collapsing is also telling. She didn’t stop because she wanted to, but because she was forced to by other people.

Aside from the anorexia, I found her stories, few as they were, from the set of Ally McBeal compelling. You always read these memoirs where people are talking about how amazing the cast is and how they become a second family, but on this set, no one seems to be friends. Their conversations are perfunctory polite and they never connect as more than coworkers. While I know the show was popular, I’ll admit that I didn’t really like it. Maybe this was why.

My big, huge, giant complaint with the book is the missing portion between parts 2 and 3. We go from collapsing from starvation to married and happy with a flip of a page. I needed to hear about the recovery. From someone who doesn’t really want to be doing it, this must have been incredibly difficult. I wanted to hear how through recovery, she was finally able to come to terms with her sexuality. Throughout the book, she constantly referred to being a lesbian as this giant weight, but suddenly she’s happily settled down with her wife. It feels like she still hasn’t recovered enough to talk about that part of the story. She’s healed enough to share how she hit bottom, but not how she got better. So many people suffer from eating disorders or body image issues and are able to relate to her story. The recovery portion of needs to be present; otherwise the book ends up coming off as a “how-to” guide for achieving anorexia instead of a survival guide.

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One thought on “Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi

  1. I have to agree with you there. If someone just skips ahead, it’s pretty clear indication they’re not really being open. And stories like this need to deal with the nitty gritty if they want to be their best self. She missed a chance to really connect with the reader there.

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