Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Report: Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

I recently finished reading Portia de Rossi's memoir recounting her long struggle with eating disorders, Unbearable Lightness. After finishing Hungry by Crystal Renn, I wasn't sure I was up for another celebrity book on body image and eating, but I love Portia de Rossi, as well as her wife, Ellen Degeneres. My friend DD introduced me to Portia via the hilarious show "Arrested Development" this year, though I recognized her as part of the "Ally McBeal" cast.

As someone who has admittedly struggled with weight and self-image issues, these books open my eyes to the dangers of disordered eating and unhealthy means of becoming a certain body ideal. Portia's struggle started at a young age, when she started modeling, and a few pounds quickly turned into a few dozen. Her controlling tendencies in terms of what she could eat (300 calories a day, if that, like plain yogurt mixed with Splenda) and her amount of exercise (sprinting stairs in heels because she worried the 60 calories she ate would show up on film) were extremes. As I read, I felt I was actually watching her weight dwindle... 125, 100, 89, 82. At the worst part of her disorder, she was near organ failure, and showing signs of osteoporosis and cirrhosis. It almost made me feel guilty, reading like a spectator to her struggle and decline.

All in all, it made me reevaluate how I feel about myself. Body dysmorphia is a real thing, and it affects celebrities and non-celebrities alike. With brave women like Portia de Rossi and Crystal Renn, beautiful women we see in ads and magazines every day, it helps someone like me put it all into perspective. We should never hurt our bodies to conform to a societal expectation of what we should look like. Every time I think about skipping a meal because it makes my stomach stick out, or consider purging after an emotional binge, I think about their stories, and it makes me stop. We need to love ourselves, learn to love and appreciate food, and love how we look with or without a few extra pounds here and there. We need to be healthy. And we need to help each other be healthy too.


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