Unbearable Lightness. A Story of Loss and Gain.

by Portia De Rossi

Hardcover, 2010




New York, New York, U.S.A.: Atria Books (2010), Edition: First Edition, 320 pages


Known for her roles on the hit TV shows "Ally McBeal" and "Arrested Development," de Rossi delivers a revelatory and searing account of the years she spent secretly suffering from anorexia and bulimia, all the while living under the glare of Hollywood's bright lights.


½ (283 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member swivelgal
Once I started this book, I couldn't put it down. It is well organized and free from tangents. I'd imagine it would be easy to start writing about one thing and then finish having written about another. After all, how many of us think in straight lines? This is an important book not because it
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reveals more about de Rossi; but because it reveals eating disorders as they appear to its victims. The pictures and the text in the final chapters are powerful. Thank you for including them.

I read this book because de Rossi was the subject of many conversations for me: she first walked into Fish and Cage while I first walked into law school. Everyone talked about her weight. The tabloids pictured her body among the stars that were too thin. I rose to defend the images as bad shots while admiring the discipline (and good genes) of the actresses. I had heard rumors of extreme weight loss but I dismissed those as being written by the jealous type.

I neither condone nor abolish what people choose to do with their bodies. De Rossi stands healthy and happy. That is a happy start.
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LibraryThing member akreese
Unbearable Lightness is Portia de Rossi’s story of her long struggle with anorexia and bulimia, from her teen years and into adulthood. In the preface there is an excerpt from later in the book when she was only consuming a tiny amount – about 300 calories a day. It was shocking to read – one
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of those things that makes you wonder how in the world anyone could think that was normal, much less a good idea.

She then goes on to tell her story from the time she was a teenage model who was being told on a regular basis that she needed to lose weight (never mind that her body shape was just naturally curvy). From that point on hers is a sad and compelling story, tracking her progression from a cycle of dieting and binge eating when she was younger, to full-blown anorexia and bulimia as an adult.

The best aspect of this book is that the author really takes you inside her head, lets you see the thought processes she had at the time, and shows how her thinking kept her eating less and exercising more. While I never got to the point where I thought that 300 calories a day was normal, it was easy to see how her thinking had progressed to that stage, and it definitely made me examine my own body image and how I see myself in regards to eating and dieting.

The author also discusses how hiding her sexual orientation from the world added an extra stress to her life, especially in a profession that is so driven by image. She tells of her sorrow and frustration as she closed off that part of her life so that it didn’t become public knowledge. While she does talk a little bit about how she met and married Ellen, the majority of the memoir is about her eating disorder and not her relationship.

As I was reading the book I kept wishing that there were photos in the center of the book, because I find that I get so much more out of a memoir if photos are included. Imagine my surprise when I was reading one of the later chapters, flipped the page and saw a photo that fit perfectly with the text on that page, and the next page and the next. The images in that section of the book were powerful in that context and I’m so glad that she decided to include them where they were. If you do read Unbearable Lightness, I recommend reading it through in order and not flipping through to find the pictures ahead of time. Reading them in the text when I did carried a strong emotional impact.

Unbearable Lightness had a positive influence on me in that I do have a propensity to see my body in a critical light (like most of us probably do), and it reminded me of how damaging that kind of close scrutiny can be.

I thought this was a wonderful memoir and I admire the courage of Portia de Rossi in sharing these deeply personal experiences with the world.
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LibraryThing member JessicaStalker
So it doesn't take a sleuth to figure out that this book was written by an actress and not an author. The timeline is muddled and her focus is hit or miss. Her story was interesting but I found myself with questions during much of the read. I also noticed what she identifies as her pivotal moment
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(her brother's tears at Christmas) isn't quite right. She seems to continue to binge and have unhealthy relationships with food despite therapy. Then she skimmed right over her long term girlfriend who helps her really change. But perhaps she didn't want to give too much attention to her serious relationship that wasn't with Ellen?? Confused.
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LibraryThing member crazybatcow
I have no comprehension of how an eating disorder works. I simply don't understand binging and purging. If you're hungry, eat, if you're not, don't.

It doesn't help that I'm confounded even by the "comfort" eating excuse that seems to be the latest trend in the weight-loss reality shows currently on
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TV. Not that bulimia has anything to do with hunger or comfort or even with the food itself - it's a mental illness that needs treatment; my point is that I can't relate to Portia's story, at all...

I wanted to like this. I wanted to learn something from this, perhaps have an insight into a celebrity life... but it was told in fragments with a mixed up timeline and written non-linearly. I'm not going to give it stars because anything I put will unfairly skew the ratings - just because it's not for me doesn't make it not a decent read/story for someone else
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LibraryThing member marad451
Talk about candid. Her struggles with so many things. She's changed my own mind about food and I didn't think I had a problem!
LibraryThing member marcyjill
I don't know why I was drawn to reading this book. Fortunately I don't have an eating disorder, I was never a big fan of Ally McBeal or Arrested Development or even Portia De Rossi, but even so something drew me to this book and I'm glad for it.

First of all, I am now a Portia De Rossi fan. Her
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honest and compelling writing made this book impossible to put down. It was good that I knew there was happiness in store for her or I think I would have been sobbing much of the time I was reading this book. It is always amazing to learn the truth about something or someone that appears so different on the outside. Her fight against herself even when it seemed like she should have been sitting on top of the world is an utterly heartbreaking account and it says a lot about the message sent to women and what it means to be successful.

I have been on a number of diets. I have felt bad about eating something "bad" and I have exercised as a counteraction for that. I always thought that anorexia was born out of some abuse either mental or physical or some other trauma, but now I see that is not the case. I don't think I am in danger of becoming anorexic, but I can see now how it can happen and it does make me worry that much more for my own daughter who is on the verge of entering those tender years of body changes.

I can't recommend this book more highly to women as well as to men who love women who struggle with weight issues.
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LibraryThing member tmaslyk
An absolutely stunning memoir. It gives a personal, emotional and truthful insight to the struggles of anorexia and a beautiful comment on beauty and celebrity in society today.
LibraryThing member yayasbooks
Portia writes about her start to fame and in the process of it struggles with both an eating disorder and coming to terms with her sexuality. Portia is very candid and honest in her memoir- I love that she does not try to "sugar coat" any details of this book. While Portia goes through her ups and
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downs the book does leave on a promising note.
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LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
Better written than your average celebrity memoir, Unbearable Lightness takes the reader on a journey through Portia de Rossi's struggle with anorexia and bulimia. Closeted because she was afraid of losing her career if she admitted publicly that she was gay, Portia took control of her life by
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dieting to the extreme, wasting away to 82 pounds. The book deals almost exclusively with her developing anorexia and obsession with weight loss and I would have been interested in more details about her treatment. That said, it's always interesting to get a glimpse into someone else's life and I think Portia is brave to share all the gritty details. It shows how far she's come in developing her self confidence and I'm rooting for her all the way!
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LibraryThing member abcarroll
Portia de Rossi shares her struggle with anorexia and bulemia in this powerful and moving book. Never feeling like she was "good enough" and only wanting to be loved for who she really was, she spent much of her life trying to be something she was not. I think this would be a good read for anyone
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that has body/food issues.
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LibraryThing member ccahill
An appropriately graphic and personal account of a person suffering with an eating disorder. Portia details her most private and emotional moments of suffering, rarely share by those with an ED - a must read for those with a loved one with Anorexia and/or Bulimia. Would have liked to read more
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about her recovery though.
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LibraryThing member Kiddboyblue
Well, to be honest, I read this one kind of slow. Simply for the fact that the content was very hard for me to read. It made me sad, and heartbroken, and since the writer was so open and vivid with her story, it made it all that more real.
I could only read a few chapters at a time before having to
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put it down because I felt so depressed.
However, simply put, I thought the book was amazing.
Portia didn't shy away from anything, and really invited anyone who cares into her demons; her eating disorder, her insecurities, her homosexuality.
It was beautifully written as well. For an actor, she has a gift with words.
The only thing I didn't like was that not much time if any was spent on her recovery. I understand that the point of the book was about her disorder and not her recovery, yet still when it was all said and done, I felt a bit cheated in that we didn't get to see more of how she beat it.
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LibraryThing member justablondemoment
This was an okay book. It didn't keep me glued to it but it did help me to understand how someone who suffers with anorexia feels and goes thru. It also touches on sexuality and how important it is to be yourself. Good book for someone going through this or knows someone who is.
LibraryThing member ei214
I found Portia's book compelling and I became involved in her story. Our inner dialogue - what we think and tell ourselves - plays such a huge role in our everyday lives. I found this book incredibly honest. As young women - weight, beauty, appearance and what is "acceptable" - we are bombarded by
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our media; it is hard to stand up against what we are told everywhere we look as well as feedback we get from our peers and family. I personally have struggled my entire life with my weight and understand the struggle of "maintaining", the stress and negative voice slapping my hand for eating something I shouldn't have. I could definitely empathize with the feelings of controlling what goes into my mouth - although I have more often cried over not being able to shut my mouth - than starving myself. We look to food as a medication - our choice of "drug". It is not always easy finding "balance" in our lives; I know that is something I strive for. Highly recommend this read.
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LibraryThing member cenneidigh
Wow this book is scary, I can see this happening to so many people I know and yet no matter how they really look they don't see it, I could completely identify with this book
LibraryThing member Jacqui.Wharton
i would hazard a guess that those with eating disorders might feel compelled to revisit some of their problems after reading this book. i wouldnt be surprise if some relapsed to some degree.

nevertheless it was interesting and captured my attention to the end.
LibraryThing member SusannahPK_83
This book was wonderfully written by Portia. I dont know whether she had help from a ghost writer, but in any case, she wrote well and she wrote from the heart.

It was very sad to read about the struggles she had with eating and dieting.

I would have liked to have had more information about the
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recovery process.

Overall, a great read.
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LibraryThing member hardya29
I was initially unsure about reading this book as a recommendation to young adults but after reading it, I would without a doubt recommend it to any girl hoping to enter the modeling or entertainment business. Portia de Rossi is extremely honest but does not become hostile about the environment
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that she was thrown into. She is writing from the perspective of a fully recovered, healthy woman explaining what she went through and empathizes with the plight of other young women.
Not only is she covering self-esteem and body issues but also identifying as gay. This is an excellent issues book for teens to read because it’s not only teenagers who deal with these kinds of social pressures and she is speaking from the perspective of an adult as well as a celebrity. The weight of the material and who is speaking makes a heavy impact and even though it is marketed as an adult book, I didn’t find any of the material to be inappropriate.
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LibraryThing member lkarr
Great insight into the mind of this anorexic woman, but it was torture reading about it.
LibraryThing member UberButter
If you're a fan of Portia de Rossi, this is a great book to read. Unbearable Lightness deals with her struggle with an eating disorder and her homosexuality early on in her career (when she played on Ally McBeal). It was heart-wrenching to read through her troubles, and while nothing new if you
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have read about or know anyone with an eating disorder, anyone who can openly admit their disorders in hopes of helping others is wonderful. Reading her journey and how she finds what she needs in the end brought a tear to my eye. And inspirational read about a beautiful, talented actress.
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LibraryThing member Jtalley2
"Unbearable Lightness", by Portia De Rossi is a very raw autobiography of a woman who battles with self imagine and acceptance. The author is very honest with intimate details of the struggle she has with an eating disorder.

I enjoyed the style the book was written in. It was a very easy book to
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read. I definitely have a new perspective about eating disorders. I think as women we all struggle with self image at one point in our lives and this book is relatable on that front.

I would recommend this book and would read this author again.
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LibraryThing member amme_mr
I really enjoyed this autobiography by Portia De Rossi, where she openly and honestly discusses her battle with anorexia. It was an easy book to read, and one that I would highly recommend for others to read.
LibraryThing member ericadrayton
I found myself crying towards the end of the book. I could not believe how similar my experience with being gay was like in comparison with Portia. I just never imagined I would be thinking the exact same things a "celebrity" would be thinking. She inspires me to be myself. Even though I don't have
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issues with my weight and I happen to love my body I am still able to take away from her book the core message I think she is trying to convey: Everyone is beautiful but YOU have to believe it to be true and not rely on the acceptance of others.
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LibraryThing member dianag27
Portia de Rossi did a wonderful, yet haunting, job writing this book. Sharing her story so honestly made this book a quick read. Her struggle with her eating disorders and her triumph over them is truly amazing and a testament to her will and strength. Definitely an interesting read.
LibraryThing member olegalCA
Not as good as I had hoped.


ALA Rainbow Book List (Selection — 2011)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

320 p.; 6.1 inches


1439177783 / 9781439177785
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