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Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain Paperback – Bargain Price, July 5, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 537 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006QS0PF0
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (537 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,108,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I selected this book because I like Portia De Rossi. Especially in the last couple years, she comes across as very warm and approachable in interviews. The book tells why that is -- after years of self-loathing and deception, she can be her authentic self. The book is not celebrity gossip and her focus is on her own struggles and obsessions, because I think for a very long time that's all she could see. Very few stories of Alley McBeal, other than how the pressure to fit her wardrobe or look good in her undies exacerbated her weight issues. No stories about Arrested Development other than she was at a point in her life where she wasn't hiding her love of women and told the producers she was gay right away. This book will absolutely not work for you if you want this to be more than the diary of a woman with eating disorders. That's the focus and remains the focus.

She asks Ellen to read the manuscript she'd written, the one the reader just will have just read, and Ellen does and says, "Baby, you were crazy," and the reader can only nod along. The book makes it clear that Portia's thinking was distorted for a good 14 years and the book is a diary of that. If you happen to own Ally McBeal, you have only to watch the second season when Portia appears and is whippet thin and imagine her hating herself for not being thinner. The episode that really sent her into a tailspin is the one where she seduces Cage while wearing a bra and panties, ribs clearly visible, and with a figure that would make most women weep with joy and become nudists. All Portia could see was an unattractive woman who had to keep fooling people into thinking she was thin, beautiful, and worthy.

What I enjoyed was Portia's efforts to bring you into her mind at this time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
She says exactly what every anorexic does not want you to hear. She says what we all were thinking. And she shows us that if there's a will, there's a way...out of it. That it takes time, and a lot of work, but the light at the end of the tunnel soons becomes a reality. And she tells it in a way that allowed me to laugh, cry and cringe the whole way trough. This book has helped me, I can honostly say, maybe it seems that it helped me more given my current location on the path to recovery. I cannot say that it would help a person who is curretly in the throws of the disorder (where the romance has only just begun, and it's very hard to see any other way than the way of the voice), but to someone who is certainly willing to bid ED farewell, this book really shows you that you are not alone and that you CAN over come. It also inspired me to give to my loved ones, to shed a little light on the darkness that was going on inside my head, throughout the period where my disorder had it's firmest grip. I have never read the articulation of my thoughts, and I am grateful that Portia was brave enough to give them life on a page.
**That said, if you are someone who knows a person suffering from this disease, I caution that you don't recommend this book, at least not right now...think it through. As I can only speak from experience, I know that when I was just beginning the "love affair" with my disorder, books like this gave "great tips" that I would put in to practice to feed the beast. Someone who is in such the frame of mind that they can't seperate autobiographical facts from a "how to" book, should not be reading this. That would be the only reason I mark is 4 out of 5...it can be dangerous to the fragile, but definitely an asset to the open minded and the strong willed ones who wish to recover,and family/friends that wish to understand.
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