The Bearable Heaviness of Portia DeRossi’s “Unbearable Lightness”

“How are you going to pull it off? How could you ever be pretty enough to be a leading lady? You’re not even thin. You don’t have long, lean, limbs. You have ordinary looks and an ordinary body. You can’t play a leading lady in a movie. You’re gay. What a joke! What happens when people find out you’re gay and you’ve fooled them into thinking you’re Christian Slater’s love interest? How is that going to work? Give it up, you stupid dyke.”

– the voice in Portia De Rossi’s head when she weighed 89 pounds, from Unbearable Lightness

At her thinnest, Portia De Rossi — presently World’s Hottest Lesbian and one half of the World’s Greatest Lesbian Couple of all time — carried only 82 pounds on her 5’7 frame. She worked out for hours and survived on a diet of 0 – 300 calories a day. On Christmas Day, in Australia, after turning down every meal served on her 14-hour flight and spending her first night home jogging around her hometown, Portia horrified herself by eating “two medium-sized roasted potatoes with rosemary and salt” at dinner. Then her body began shaking, panic set in, and then, this:

“I raised my arms above my head and shook out my hands as if to expel the energy. My cousin and my brother were in the living room, sitting by the Christmas tree, but I no longer cared. In front of my cousin and my brother, I started jumping up and down with my arms above my head and shaking my hands to try to get rid of the calories in the potatoes.”

In Chapter 20 of Unbearable Lightness, Portia recounts sprinting laps in the Beverly Center parking lot to burn off the pack of gum she’d chewed on the escalator. In the introduction to Unbearable Lightness, Portia eats six ounces of yogurt, panics about losing control and fitting into her Ally McBeal wardrobe and begins doing lunges while sobbing — “sobbing and lunging — it’s got to be at least 30 calories” while yelling at herself: “You’re a stupid fat disgusting dyke.”

In Chapter 13 of Unbearable Lightness, this Australian Rolling Stone cover debuts…

…and Portia worries that“the photo shoot expressed another terrible secret, possibly worse than being gay. It told the world, or at least the people of Australia, that I was fat.”

In Chapter 27, Portia remembers filming a movie with Christian Slater at the height of her illness, and how her 25-year-old “wrists, knees and elbows hurt so much it was hard to move them without feeling intense pain.” She couldn’t lift a cigarette to her mouth. She had to be carried back to her hotel. She didn’t eat, she continued working.


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Portia attributes her eating disorder to a number of forces but mostly to Hollywood pressure to be thin and the criticism she endured as a 12-year-old in the modeling industry. But it was also about shame:

“[My mother] didn’t really know how devastating it is for a parent to say ‘I accept [your homosexuality], that’s the way it is and it’s fine but don’t tell anybody.” It’s a strange message to send somebody. There’s a very fine line between being private and being ashamed.”

Portia directly addresses how this imposed shame about her sexuality enabled her disorder and how coming out helped her recover. It’s another reminder of how non-acceptance can be deadly. Sometimes eating disorders and being closeted complement each other quickly: a talent for concealing your desire for sex/love can translate into a talent for concealing your desire for food.

In Caroline Knapp’s book Appetites: Why Women Want she proposes that the “underlying striving” among women today is “the appetite for appetite: a longing to feel safe and secure enough to name one’s true appetites and feel worthy and powerful enough to get them satisfied.” On disorders of appetite specifically, Knapp writes:

“There’s the awareness, sporadic perhaps but familiar to many, that we spend entirely too much time trying to suppress appetite instead of indulging it… there’s an ill-defined but persistent feeling that on the whole this is a painful way to live, that it leaves us more anxious than we ought to be, or more depressed, or somehow cheated, as though somewhere along the way our very entitlement to hunger—to want things that feed us and fill us and give us joy—had been stolen.”

There’s parts of Unbearable Lightness when Portia denies her desires so ambitiously that you might start worrying that Portia is about to die. But you don’t, because you saw her today on the teevee. That helps.


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Unbearable Lightness is the first book I’ve read on this amazon kindle I got, so everyone’s been interested in touching the kindle and turning its pages and asking me how I like it and, consequently, asking me what I’m reading on it. I say “It’s Unbearable Lightness? It’s Portia De Rossi’s new memoir, it’s like about her eating disorder problems, and being gay and like, how it’s all mixed up. It’s actually oddly really compelling. I dunno. She was really sick. She ate like 300 calories a day. THREE HUNDRED CALORIES A DAY!

Once the gadget-gawking is over, friends who know me well or who, like me, have also struggled with EDs in the past, all ask the same question: “Is it triggering?”

I’ve been saying “no, I don’t think so,” comparing it in my head to the f*cked up trigger-happy headspace induced by Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted because Marya described ugly things with such perfect prose that reading it felt like floating without bones. Even Carolyn Knapp’s Appetites and Lori Gotlieb’s Stick Figure had triggery moments.

But it’s possible I’m numb to “triggers” at this point. On top of my own struggles with EDs in my late teens/early twenties, it’s like everyone I’ve ever befriended or dated has an eating disorder. Even though hetero males are the least likely of all demographics to have an ED, I managed to date two who did. Also my Mom was a nutritionist so I grew up surrounded by food/diet information.

Then there’s been all the reading and the academic pursuits I’ve undertaken. Books about body image/the media/self-esteem like The Body Project, The Beauty Myth, Reviving Ophelia, Schoolgirls and Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. I even published an essay in one. I’ve seen all the TV movies and the movies — A Secret Between Friends, Sharing the Secret, Perfect Body, The Best Little Girl in the World, Thin, Girl Interrupted and Dying to be Perfect.

I  can recount from memory the following anorexia/bulimia TV storylines: Cassie from Skins, Evan Rachel Wood’s character in Once & Again, Kelly Taylor on Beverly Hills 90210, Emma on Degrassi: The Next Generation, DJ on Full House, and that girl with the feeding tube and the anorexic twins on Intervention.

After all that — and the countless talk show episodes or BBC/TLC/NBC specials and E! True Hollywood Stories — I still think there’s something new here. That surprised me most of all. I think it’s her voice. I’m not a big fan of celebrity memoirs so I was surprised by the narrative’s ability to be at once intensely personal (resonant), totally alien (non-triggering) and entirely accessible.

By “alien” I mean that part of what’s new here is that this isn’t really a story about people like me and you — the emotions are identical, of course. You feel her feelings. But her circumstances are unreachable to the common reader. There’s no room, even, for a judgey reader to consider the veracity of the memoirist’s self-perception of herself as “fat”/”ugly” because it’s Portia F*cking De Rossi. These forces serve to bring the disorder itself into unique, poignant focus as our only common point of reference. Stars are, it turns out, just like us. Just exactly like us.

Portia writes:

“When it’s quiet in my head like this, that’s when the voice doesn’t need to tell me how pathetic I am. I know it in the deepest part of me. When it’s quiet like this, that’s when I truly hate myself.”

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Though there have been some excellent lesbian memoirs published (Mean Little Deaf Queer, The Other Side of Paradise, Name all the Animals, Like Me) very few have cracked the bestseller list. Unbearable Lightness already is. Your friends & family are gonna walk into a bookstore and be faced with a book about a BEAUTIFUL STARVING LESBIAN. Not just any beautiful starving lesbian, but a successful actress with a thriving career married to Queen Lesbian Ellen DeGeneres.

The last lesbian memoir to really bank was Rosie O’Donnell’s memoir, Find Me, which came out in 2002 when everyone still la-la-la-loved her. (I still do, obvs.) And in an article about the book’s upcoming release, Salon.com wrote:

If someone that accessible and brazenly mainstream, so normal and regular, can publicly acknowledge who she is and who she loves, it’s time to call Jerry Falwell and tell him it’s over, because to marginalize gay people at this point in the game is going to be absurd.

Swap out “Rosie” for “Portia.” Maybe it’ll actually happen this time? It’s been eight years. Right?

Unbearable Lightness contains our impossible dreams, our worst nightmares, our secret shame and our self-destructive tendencies in equal parts, and in the end, everyone lives “happily ever after.” Usually lesbians kill themselves at the end of the book/movie, but this girl SURVIVES. FURTHERMORE, when the Prince shows up on his white horse to save the damsel, the Prince is actually a gay lady.

Without ever employing a fairy tale trope or writing the words “fairy tale,” Portia De Rossi has written something like a fairy tale — but with more vomiting at the beginning and more out lesbians at the end.

For women of my generation, it’s the happy ending to a story we’ve been watching all our lives: I remember Ellen DeGeneres’s coming out and career crash and how that made us feel as homogays. I remember how the hyper-skinny girls of Ally McBeal made us feel as women and I specifically remember Portia because of those infamous photographs.

This story took a turn in a direction more positive than we could’ve ever predicted and ultimately reading it triggered optimism, of all things. Optimism; the lightest thing of all.

“I met Ellen when I was 168 pounds and she loved me. She didn’t see that I was heavy; she only saw the person inside. My two greatest fears, being fat and being gay, when realized, led to my greatest joy.”



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Profile gravatar of Riese

Riese is the 35-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City and mellowed out in California before returning to Michigan for reasons that are unclear to her now. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2354 articles for us.

62 Comments

  1. 0

    I’ll be ordering this as soon as I get the funds. Also, loved the excerpt from “Appetites”. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read that book, and it was one Haviland recommended to me.

  2. 0

    I bought the book yesterday despite the fact that I don’t generally read celebrity memoirs. I started it last night and Portia is incredibly brave. It is one thing to tell people you had an eating disorder; it is another to take them into the insanity of that eating disorder in the vivid way that Portia does.

  3. 0

    Agh they won’t let me buy this on my Kindle because it’s not available in Europe. I really really want to read this book especially after seeing her on Oprah.

    Right now I’m the happy possibly over confident out girl kinda like Portia now days minus the Ellen, but I know this book will bring me back to the terrified starving ashamed girl that I used to be. I never really think about those days anymore but I know reading this book will make me think about them and I guess there comes a point when you feel ready to do that.

    Portia’s book just seems so hopeful. Like you can look back at all the shit when you know that its just the past and it doesn’t have any power anymore.

    • 0

      You might be able to trick your kindle by temporarily typing in an American address… my friend types in a UK address to order things only available there, and it totally works! 😉

      • 0

        From what I understand, you need a US credit card for that approach, too.

        Not available in Australia, either. SIGH!

        • 0

          My Kindle was bought with a Malaysian credit card, delivered to a US address, and then I brought it back with me to Australia. I set my country as USA and they never asked me to verify anything. I could set the country to Afghanistan and it’d probably let me. It’s all good.

          (And you can get it sent to Australia too!)

    • 0

      Actually I just bought the kindle editions of both this book and Ricky Martin’s from Italy, using an Italian credit card. So it must work from Ireland, too!

  4. 0

    Thanks for this, Riese. Obvs we have talked and will continue to as I make my way through it entirely (I’m just starting) but I am SO happy that Portia wrote this…on many levels. Personally, of course, which I think (?) is obvious, and for the masses, who, like you said, will walk into a store and see a book about a “beautiful, starving lesbian”…

    What makes me even happier than the telling of this story? The promise of her next book, of all of our next books, our next moments of desire fulfilled, of women who don’t need to starve anymore – of women who are ready to be beautiful and self-actualized and soaring.

    That’s the area. 🙂

  5. 0

    Really well reviewed. It’s like she has copied down thoughts from my brain from the last three years. Her courage to publish this gives me hope

  6. 0

    As someone who’s struggled with an eating disorder for over 5 years, I really want to read this book.

    I love the mixed message parents send their kids. Not too long ago, when I revealed to my mom that I had questioned my sexuality for a bit in highschool/early university, I asked her how she would have felt if I had realized that I was in fact gay. She said, “Well, I’d be upset.” When I asked why, she said, “not because I’d personally have a problem with it, but I KNOW that EVERYONE ELSE in the world would.” I said that a) that’s a gross exaggeration, b) why would it be anyone else’s business? and c) if I had the support of my friends (who would be totally down with it, I know) and family, why should a stranger’s opinion matter? She just said, “Oh, nobody’s comfortable with it. Trust me.”

    So yes, she very obviously DOES have a problem with it. She thinks that she’s totally liberal and open-minded, but she’s really not at all.

  7. 0

    Ok, so I’m going to go buy this at work today. I would have yesterday but I had such a hard time between picking Ricky Martin’s book or Portia’s..I think I’ve decided that I’m going to get Portia’s first. Then after I go through it in one night I’ll just go back to work tomorrow and buy Ricky’s. Settled.
    It’s just that they’re both hardcovers! Hardcovers are expensive, you guys!

    • 0

      i know, i NEVER buy books in hardcover, it’s like against my rules of life. but sometimes i have to because i just can’t wait a year for the paperback (FREEDOM is another example of this). You can always download the kindle version to read on your desktop, though.

      • 0

        Well I could buy it on my NOOK, but I didn’t, and the reason for that is I wanted the physical hardcopy of the book. I love my ereader but I also love how it feels to actually possess the physical copy of the book. So you’re recommending FREEDOM? I think about it every time I go to work and wonder if I should buy it.

  8. 0

    When I saw Portia’s interviews it surprised me how much I like her voice, so tomorrow I will buy my first audio book…

  9. 0

    Not big on people who got together through infidelity being called the great lesbian couple. Both her and Ellen were in relationships when they decided to betray their significant others. Important couple – yes. But infidelity is infidelity.

  10. 0

    Portia is amazing. And brave. And I love that she wrote this book.

    I was wondering if her memoir would be triggering for people who have struggled with EDs. I know what is triggering for me when I am not drinking and reading about addictions tends to be triggering, so I was wondering. Not because all of it is the same thing, but because some of it is a little bit the same. I am glad to hear that it is not triggering.

    I need to buy this book. I will do that this weekend.

    I appreciate this review, and all of these words.

    • 0

      Idk, I think whether something is triggering or not depends on what point you’re at in recovery. Like, the book may not have been triggering for Riese, but right now I can hardly read the term “eating disorder” without feeling triggered. I may have to wait it out on this one…

      • 0

        I agree.

        I was just wondering as I said, and it was a relief to hear that for Riese and with her experiences that she did not think that this was triggering. But what you’re saying, I get it. Like I said, everything re: alcohol-addiction related is triggering to me when I am sober. Everything. All of the things. So I agree, it depends on what point you’re at in recovery.

        Trust yourself. Wait it out on this one.

        Love.

      • 0

        that’s a good point. it’s been about 3-4 years since i even flirted with ED-behavior and about 7 years since i struggled with it actively. so like Dina says — the book will always be there. whenever you’re ready for it.

    • 0

      I personally don’t think the book is a trigger. Honestly, I think for me it was an eye-opener. It probably sounds so cliche, and I’m fine with that, but I think this book is going to save a part of me. I want to miniaturize this book and carry it around in my pocket like it’s my bible, that’s how serious I am about it.

  11. 0

    I love her voice too, but when I truly love a book I must have it in my hands– tangible in the manner of sense of touch.
    I am buying it due to the beautiful honesty and courage and how well written the parts are that I have read. Also, I have spent years working professionally with eating disordered women and she has much to teach us–it is truly one of the most difficult disorders to treat and I have so much respect for those who go to that deepest part of themselves and start the climb out.

  12. 0

    I plan on reading this book immediately because Portia is one of my favorite people in Hollywood and I have had eating disorders for the majority of my life.

    The internal gay panic was a big part of it at times, for me.
    Thanks for the review, Riese.

  13. 0

    Did anyone else think it was really distasteful Oprah showing that clip of Portia undressing in Ally Mcbeal? She has obviously put herself through so much hell to get into that shape, but in the clip she is obviously ‘hot’. Seemed kind of thinspo to me. Oprah’s little ‘bones popping out all over the place’ didn’t really change that for me. Women have a fascination with the willpower it takes to have an eating disorder and the Oprah show kind of seemed slightly admiring of it.

    • 0

      I agree with this, but I am not particularly surprised by it. Oprah is still stuck at that most base level of talk shows where they are about sensationalizing personal experiences. It gives me so many icky contemporary carnival kind of feelings, the fascination with the details of human limits.

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  15. 0

    OK, so I finished reading her book last night. I was going to save the rest of it for today, but I really couldn’t put it down. I have to say that the entire book drove me crazy. It was all I could think about all day long, and apparently it was obvious because I was asked by all my friends and coworkers why I looked so far away. I’ll just put it simple by saying that the way Portia thought reminded me so much of the way I think.
    This book didn’t make me cry — well, not until the end, that is — it just made me take a long hard look at the way I think and the way other girls think, I’m sure. There was a line in the epilogue that really spoke to me and made me see differently, it was, “it’s important to find something other than your body image to be passionate about.”. And it’s so true!
    To close this up, I want to say that I loved this book. Her honesty — serious, in yo’ face, honesty, was what made this book so good. I would recommend it to any girl, for sure.
    Advice about the book: it’s very hard to get through, especially is you probably feel some of it relates to you, but when you get to the epilogue…wow…it makes it so worth the read.
    Read it!

  16. 0

    “Marya described ugly things with such perfect prose that reading it felt like floating without bones.”

    you do the same thing, describe ugly things with perfect prose, except in a good way. i don’t think i will ever read Wasted even though i want to so, so badly, but i know it would end in disaster. i’ll just stick to you instead.

  17. 0

    Thank you for your review, Riese.

    I haven’t bought the book, but I am tempted to. I am torn between being intimidated by the massive stack of reading I have for school already and feeling like I could probably use a book right now that will make me reflect on my own less than healthy ways of seeking a feeling of control.

    I heard tell of an audio book, I could listen while I walk to class!…. aaand I just looked it up, WHY is it so much more expensive?? $23 on iTunes. But it looks like I can get one free book if I subscribe to Audible.com… We shall see.

    • 0

      Yes, Portia’s audio book is great! Except for the annoying voice in the beginning and at the end, I loved every minute of the 9 hours and 17 minutes Portia was reading it to me. I didn’t care about the money because I’m a sucker for a nice voice, but I’m definitely gonna read her book, too. Although I’m really glad I’ve been listening to it first, because her memoir is so honest, sad and heartbreaking that I was happy that she cracked me up, from time to time…
      Whatever you prefer, it’s a beautiful book!

      • 0

        Portia will read it to me! I hadn’t even thought of that!

        I signed up for the auidble.com free trial and got it for FREE! And I’m pretty sure I get another audio book FREE!

        I do love physically reading books, and I know that she, and all authors, deserve all of my attention, but I could really use this right now and I have no time. So! Audiobook it is. Now I have to go back to reading Architect’s Essentials of Contract Negotiation and Building Codes Illustrated for Healthcare Facilities…

  18. 0

    i just finished this book and the only word i can use to describe it is interesting. her ability to articulate her thoughts, feelings and rationalizations are amazing. i kept finding myself looking at the picture of her on the cover as she went on and on about how ugly she found herself. to hear a woman so incredibly beautiful berate herself in such a manner was …. i don’t even know what word to use. it highlights just how much of an illness it really is.
    as someone who has(had) struggled with eating disorder like behavior in my early 20s i did find it slightly triggering. i felt an urge to “get disciplined again.” in the moment of reading i said to myself “god you’ve gotten lazy remember how clean and satisfying it was to control that aspect of your life.” then i would stop reading and look around my life and realize how blessed i am and how sad it is to feel that way.
    i don’t recommend anyone who is not fully recovered to read this book. yet. wait a few years. her descriptions are so vivid and she puts herself so much in the moment that one could find themselves longing for that…distraction.
    an eating disorder distracts you from something you are avoiding dealing with.
    i wish she had given more detail to how she got from beginning recovery to where she is now.
    as a fellow vegan i wonder sometimes if my attention to avoiding animal products and passion for cooking animal free dishes is just a redirection of urges in a more healthy manner.
    i wonder if she feels the same.

  19. 0

    woah. I am apparently not in a good position to be reading/listening to this………………….

    So, fyi: sometimes, no matter how much time has passed, you are not ready to think about some things. Especially when you don’t have time to.

    This audio book will go on my metaphorical shelf for the time being. Then I will start breathing again.

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  21. 0

    I have not read the book. I watched the interview on Ellen, but that’s it. So, I’m going to give a kinda negative review, but maybe that’s ’cause I didn’t read the book yet. Here goes:

    Throughouth the interview, I felt like Portia was such a whiny person, just complaining about her issues instead of trying to work through them. I have struggled with dysthymia in the past, so I KNOW how it is to deal with things for years and let them “fester” as she was saying…how you have to deal with things or they manifest themselves more bigger later in one’s life.

    Having said that…

    I dunno…I feel like Ellen was the strong one and should be the one to be highlighted and exonerated due to her personal past instead of Portia. But I was watching the Ellen show, and Portia is her wife, and Ellen really loves Portia, so there is a little bias there, and I totally understand that. That makes Ellen so cool; how strongly she loves and gives and is generous and all that; there was nothing original about what Portia said…SOOOOOO many models have struggled with ED’s before her…ELLEN had struggled with coming out of the closet and losing her career nearly a decade before hers even started, so why is she so whiny now, all of a sudden? I guess ’cause she is just now coming to terms with everything? I just wanted to say, “Get over yourself and move aside for someone who has something to say to help others…FOR REAL.”

    I am so not hollywood, though, so I suppose I just don’t understand it all. Maybe that is part of the sickness; Portia doesn’t understand how truly beautiful she looks to us normal folk and so when she complains about having an ED we just wanna be like, “SHUT UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!”

    What do others think?

  22. 0

    You know, right after having written my comment, I guess I am wrong. Who am I to say how and what Portia feels and what is or is not “whiny”. I am whiny to people around me all the time and struggle with so many things…

    I can’t take it back, can I? I suppose I can’t be forgiven for what I wrote/though? I put it out there, but now I regret it. 🙁

    Sorry Portia; after thinking through what I wrote, I think I *may* understand your side a little better now. Thank you for being honest and candid about your personal struggles; hopefully others will be brave enough to do the same IN ORDER TO HELP OTHERS.

    Once again, thanks Portia and Ellen.

  23. 0

    ohhhhhmira.
    i am very happy to see you retracted your criticism. though, i think your initial response is, tragically, a common one for people who perhaps haven’t seen someone they love, or perhaps themselves, go through an eating disorder. It is a brain changer, and the book (which I have now finished and have many thoughts on, all of them positive towards Portia) shows the very sickest part of it.
    It’s very hard for anyone to understand who hasn’t dealt with it on an intimate level, that it’s not about beauty or weight, really. That’s all a perception, and the sicker you get, the more skewed your perception becomes.
    As you said in your second comment, Portia is very brave for stepping forward with this very vulnerable story. I hope people read it to get an understanding of how absolutely mind altering and sick the illness is, and most importantly, that positivity can be brought to the issue.

  24. 0

    Yeah, you’re right Haviland. I really want to read the book now. I suppose I shouldn’t have commented in the first place since I haven’t read the book. I suppose ED’s not about looks or beauty (or at least not all about that), like you said, but more about power and self-esteem and other things. I have a totally different perception of the book now, after letting some of Portia’s comments from the Ellen interview sink in. I have requested the book from my library and really want to read it; I think the emotions Portia describes will resonate with alot of readers, even if the specifics don’t (having an eating disorder or being gay, for ex.)

  25. 0

    Wow, am I the only one to have something negative to say? Okay, here goes:

    1. 90% of the book is about how sick she was – only in the epilogue does she talk about recovery, in a very cursory way. I think by now we all have a generally idea of what anorexia looks like, the more complicated and tougher question to how to move past it. I mean, Intuitive Eating gets one measly paragraph? Also kind of irked me when she said basically riding horses and Ellen saved her – what hope does that give the rest of us?

    2.The endless recitation of weights reached and calories restricted and even photographic evidence – I am concerned that many people who haven’t reached those lows will conclude that they aren’t “sick enough” to warrant treatment – or it will simply give them new goals to strive for. Anorexics (myself included, I’m in reocery ) are notorious for comparisons and for wanting to be the best at everything, including and especially starving. She also gives a lot of “how-to” details – I would never buy this book for an actively eating-disordered friend.

    3. The fact that she keeps using the insanely loaded term “fat” to describe the 168 pounds she reached in treatment. I mean, she uses this word even in her Epilogue, in her “current” voice (vs the voice of the eating disorder). My heart goes out to every girl who is in that weight range who read that word, over and over, then went to the bathroom to ram their fingers down their throat.

    4. Not too wild about her plug for veganism, only because her eating disordered readers already have enough reasons to fear and avoid food, screaming 24/7 in their heads. Also the reason she gives not to drink milk is that milk is used to increase the weight of calves. So the con is that it supports weight gain? Isn’t that an example of eating disorder thinking?

    All that being said, yes obviously it’s a highly readable book, I couldn’t put it down. But I just feel a bit annoyed and disappointed by her whole treatment of the subject. She never seemed to rise above the personal details to acknowledge that she has a major responsibility to treat the subject in a way that is going to help her readers, not trigger them. That is going to help more people get treatment, not make their illness seem trivial in comparison.

    • 0

      I actually really do agree with most of your commentary. TBH I was annoyed for the firsr 50-75 pages or so, like why are you whining about being a model when that’s what you chose to do, these are some serious #firstworldproblems, but as she got sicker I stopped feeling that way — maybe because it became increasingly apparent that she basically had a terminal illness.

      And yeah, the recovery bit was a bit of a cop-out. When people ask me how I “got over it” when I struggled with EDs, I sort of wanted to say, “I’ve got nothing for ya.” Like Portia, as soon as I stopped counting and obsessing and just ate what I wanted, I re-discovered that I have a really fucking fast metabolism and I stayed looking pretty much the same ever since. It seemed like that’s what happened to her and though I recognize that this is a psychological disorder, I imagine that “I stopped having an ED but luckily I’m naturally skinny and beautiful! And i ride horses with Ellen!” didn’t do anyone any favors.

      • 0

        I had a similar reaction about the ending of the book, too. I also saw her on Oprah when she said “if you listen to your body and eat what you want you’ll naturally be a healthy weight” [paraphrase] when there’s a lot of scientific research so suggest otherwise.

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    I’ve never had an ED, but I have more friends than I realized who have one. I skimmed the book at the bookstore and just reading the reviews from people as well as what I’ve read, what I got from it is that she’s still ill and always will be. Is that wrong? I always wonder about people who had EDs who become vegan.

    Part of me feels I understand though because I went through an intense depression about 8 years ago and I know how easy it is for the mind to warp, but for me, when I dealt with the issues and began changing my life, the depression went away. I still have the blues occasionally, but I have not gone that deep into a depression ever since and I know I never will because I’ve had lots of very stressful situations that should have landed me that deep again but have not.

    With that in mind, it is hard for me to understand the idea of triggering that happens in EDs because I feel like I’m “cured” and no longer triggered into some of the stupid behaviours I took up at that time. I feel like my depression made me stronger and it was like a rainstorm I got through and while life has clouds occasionally now, I’m not as reactive to those clouds, if that makes sense.

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      I read the book, and I don’t think she ever mentions that she’s “cured.”

      I know that she is doing better, and she has a better control over herself when it comes to her food. She stagnated her focus from food and on her horses [and other various activities]. Her being vegan seems like a completely different note than with her having ED because I’m pretty sure that Ellen is either vegetarian or vegan as well. Being vegetarian or vegan is/should be completely on the person’s belief or choice of health.

      The important thing is take your energy and direct towards something you like whether or not you’re good/bad at it. It’s so that you have less space to worry about ED, depression or any other disorder.

      I’m not saying that one should push aside their problems, but it helps to subdue it until that person is ready to confront it.

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    I think the fact that she wrote, as she has said in many interviews, “from the point of view of a sick person” is the most interesting part. Because of this, however, it’s not going to be a book which necessarily empowers good habits, gives you a overwhelming sense of resolution, or makes you feel great about your own body. Some of the things she mentions at the end can be helpful, but this is certainly not a go-to self-help guide for anyone with an ED. But all this aside, it’s a book about being in it. I think that’s what makes it so raw and honest.

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    Just picked up the book from the library yesterday. I’ve never personally dealt with an eating disorder, but there are many passages that really resonate with me. Particularly those dealing with perfectionism. e.g…

    “The thought of being in the middle of the pack always worried me….Even when I took first prize, topped the class, won the race, I never really won anything. I was merely avoiding the embarrassment of losing. When ability is matched by expectations, then anything less than an exceptional result was laziness. And laziness in my opinion was shameful.”

    .etc…

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    This just arrived in the mail today. I can’t wait to start reading it. Thanks for your review and for pulling out some of the meaninful quotes.

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