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Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain Hardcover – November 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; First Edition edition (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439177783
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439177785
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (470 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author, an actor in movies and TV, (including Ally McBeal, Arrested Development, and Better Off Ted), model, and gay rights advocate, writes that "playing the role of heterosexual while fantasizing about being a homosexual had been my reality since I was a child." It's one she played into her 20s, when she was for three years married to a man. Now, she is married to Ellen DeGeneres, whom she met in 2001 after recovering from anorexia and bulimia. De Rossi nicely chronicles the years in between, during which she starved herself to 80 pounds. She artfully draws the reader into the tension of a life lived in secrecy: did anybody notice she lunges rather than walks, the better to burn calories? will anyone guess she is gay? when she nearly fainted, was anyone around? While some details could be viewed as anorexia how-tos, they make it possible to comprehend the twisted logic of de Rossi's frantic daily pursuits, and grasp the enormity of her achievement in overcoming her problems. The path de Rossi took to her happy ending is well worth reading about: her story is a cautionary tale, an inspiration, and a triumph. (Nov.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

“Anorexia was my first love,” de Rossi declares in her memoir of her early Hollywood career and the eating disorders that went along with it. Her unflinching self-portrait depicts a cripplingly self-conscious young Australian in LA overwhelmed by the pressure to be thin. Never comfortable in her own skin, a by-product of her status as a closeted lesbian, de Rossi was sure if she ever gained weight (or came out as being gay), the shooting star she’d been cultivating would turn to lead. Weight loss was the key that allowed de Rossi to feel powerful and in control, until dieting became a sickness that nearly killed her and devastated her family. De Rossi’s story and words are not revolutionary, but they are frank, brave, and revelatory of the unhealthy trends that stardom can generate. Although more development of de Rossi’s happy ending (her eventual complete recovery, self-acceptance, coming-out, and marriage to Ellen DeGeneres) would be welcome, the book succeeds as it’s intended: a journal of her sickness and a provocatively sad love affair with dieting. --Annie Bostrom

More About the Author

Portia de Rossi is an Australian-born actress best known for her roles in the popular television series Ally McBeal, Arrested Development, and most recently Better Off Ted. She currently resides is Los Angeles with her wife Ellen DeGeneres. This is her first book.

Customer Reviews

Very well written honest book.
I do not read books very much but this was easy to read.
D. Gervasi
Portia de Rossi's story is so eye-opening and honest.
Michelle K.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

161 of 181 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As the previous reviewer has pretty much summarised the entire book (!) I'll just say that this is an honest, moving and well written account of a dark time in Portia's life. It was hard to read how she brought herself close to death, keeping herself on a tiny allowance of calories and strenuous exercise (in high heels at times). I know Hollywood expects women to be thin, but I was saddened to read her accounts of costume fittings - where she was humiliated for being anything other than 'stick thin'.

I loved the story about meeting Ellen in 2001 at a concert, when Ellen invited her over to her house along with other guests. Portia thought she was just being polite, but it turned out that Ellen had only invited the other people over so she would have the excuse of a party to invite Portia. So Ellen was stuck with having to entertain all those people that night!

I think coming out as a lesbian in Hollywood is still a risky move (how many others are there? not many) and Portia is an inspiration to other women who are coming to terms with their sexuality and trying to live their life honestly. Well done Portia, from a fellow Aussie :)
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85 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Music Moves Me on November 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Portia is an amzing writer. Her tale is gripping, captivating, and horrifying at the same time. This book reads like a page-turner and most readers will really enjoy the journey that she takes you on.

I also think it is a timely and true tale of how the influences of the media, Hollywood and the "thin-ideal" have come to dominate the way women feel about their bodies, that we are never "good enough" the way we are, and that we should always be comparing ourselves to others. In that way, I think that almost every woman will be able to relate to her story, eating disorder or not. But if you have ever had an eating disorder, you will recognize the triggers she writes about, and her story's darkness will be very familiar.

For those who are looking for help in these pages for their own eating disorder, what I will say is that this is NOT a book that really encourages recovery, I mean it is obviously an encouragement to live a healthy life, but you won't find helpful recovery advice or direction here - just so you know. As another review states, recovery is almost an afterthought in this book. So, be careful if yoou are sensitive to books that trigger. I am not discouraging buying the book, but I just think it makes a helpful review to know what you are and what you are not getting. As someone who has "intimate knowledge" of living with anorexia and bulimia, I will say that this is like looking in the mirror. Family memebers who don't understand the pain may also find it enlightening.

If you are looking for books to take you to the next step and point you toward recovery, or if you have a family member with anorexia or bulimia symptoms but is still very thin, I HIGHLY recommend to book "100 Questions and Answers about Anorexia Nervosa" by Dr. Sari Fine Shepphird.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Hanson on January 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book because I thought it was going to be different from all the countless eating disorder memoirs lining the non-fiction (and sometimes even self help?!) shelves in which the authors essentially compete with one another to tell the most shocking and extreme war stories of starving, exercising, and/or binging and purging-- always under the guise of helping others by "shedding light" on the problem. I had seen Portia in interviews, looking healthy and claiming she was fully recovered (which, as she notes in the book, is something many in the ED community claim is not even possible; the best you can hope for is "active recovery" or "remission"). Most intriguing of all for me was the oft-trumpeted fact that she went from 82 to 130 pounds (though reading the book, you find out that before 130 she went to 168) WHILE on a weekly television show-- very much in the media spotlight-- and without ever getting inpatient treatment. In other words, I was interested in learning about her RECOVERY and hoping that her experiences would be, if not helpful, at least comforting to me, as I struggle to find peace inhabiting my own body as I gain weight after being dangerously thin.

To my disappointment, THIS BOOK IS NOT ABOUT RECOVERY. This book is a highly detailed narrative about de Rossi's journey from a low-level eating disorder (cycles of binging, purging, and starving, but always staying at about the same weight) to extremely, morbidly anorexic.
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99 of 125 people found the following review helpful By J. Lee TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this after seeing Portia with Oprah then on Ellen. Here were the ups and downs (no weight pun intended) of the book to me - to help you decide if it's for you.

- She's an interesting enigma - and an articulate, honest writer.

Before I read this I found Portia a little fascinating. I think a lot of good-will has been generated to her from just being associated with Ellen whom many people adore. Yet, despite her stints on TV shows - she's really not that well known or remembered outside of her attachment to Ellen nowadays. So, it's an interesting look at a sort of enigma, told straight and with far more honesty than one would expect.

- But, the period of her life the bulk of book is devoted towards - is a time of being a self-absorbed, emotionally unstable and rather stereotypically insecure Hollywood actress - which gets a little wearing at times. Sometimes, I found it seemed more like someone doing their journals for some self psychoanalysis, eating disorder project than actually trying to get a fuller tale across.

The main focus is her descent into an extreme eating disorder, as she obsesses over how she'll look in any given scene and whether she'll ever be "perfect enough". While it's interesting to hear how someone that had it pretty much all in Hollywood terms (the money, looks, shows, etc.) is so self-loathing and insecure inside, it gets harder to care as she goes along what she's eating and not eating, how much she exercises and how the only thing that interests her is herself. The other aspect of her fear of being "found out" as a lesbian is more interesting, but wasn't so much a focus of that time for her.
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