Portia de Rossi Writes a Memoir About Her ED Past

FP_5689453_DeGeneres_Ellen_NYC_090710 - Portia de Rossi Writes a Memoir About Her ED Past

37 year-old Portia De Rossi (now Portia Lee James DeGeneres) is planning to launch a memoir called Unbearable Lightness this November – the actress opens up about her troubled past and life-long battle with anorexia and bulimia. Entertainment Weekly has the details:

Unbearable Lightness, de Rossi’s memoir of a lifetime of starving and bingeing and purging (as well as part of a lifetime hiding her sexuality), is at times so wrenching that it’s difficult to imagine how the author, now 37, has kept her misery hidden for so long. ”Since I was a twelve-year-old girl taking pictures in my front yard to submit to modeling agencies, I’d never known a day when my weight wasn’t the determining factor for my self-esteem,” she writes with weary honesty. At her most perilously anorexic, the publicly glamorous TV star weighed 82 pounds. Ten months later, in the depths of bulimic bingeing, she had doubled in size. As an autobiographer she reports this with a vivid eye for detail, particularly about foods devoured, foods refused, and the ways a woman can hide her self-destruction, particularly when posing under the searchlights of fame.

The blunt, pity-free matter-of-factness with which de Rossi shares secrets and lies about her eating disorders and her sexuality makes this forthright confessional story at once shocking and instructional, especially for younger women who may be secretly suffering on their own.

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31 thoughts on “Portia de Rossi Writes a Memoir About Her ED Past”

  1. From what is written here, it sounds like her book could be quite triggering for other ED sufferers. Mentioning weights, describing binges in detail, listing foods and methods – that sort of stuff – is not very helpful to other people, particularly those still in the grips of disordered behaviour, or those just beginning to recover.

    So whilst I don’t doubt the therapeutic value PdR gained from writing this book, I do worry about how it will be received. I say this based on the way that pro-ana and pro-mia groups have siezed upon Marya Hornbacher’s memoirs (parts of her books were written in that same subtly competitive way).

    Having said that, it sounds like she has had an awful struggle, and I admire the fact she’s finally being honest with herself and has faced up to her deamons. I hope she stays in recovery. She definitely seems a lot happier and healthier since she got together with EdG.

    • I would have to completely agree with this. Reading memoirs of people who have suffered with an ED for years (how long has she even been in recovery?) is VERY triggering and could definitely be used by the pro-ED community (people who embrace their ED and call it a lifestyle) as a tool. Bad call, Entertainment weekly.
      I remember my mother once sent me excerpts from Jane Fonda’s Autobiography where she described a binge-purge episode and it was so damn awful to read since I am a recovered bulimic. I didn’t understand why she would think something like that would make me feel better.

      • I agree with this as well. Maybe it will be helpful to some, trying to find comfort in knowing they’re not alone. But i’ve battled with ED as well, it was before i had ever heard of any pro-ED stuff, but i watched all the possible ED stories, diet programs, and read all things that had anything to do with losing weight or something, and no matter how much in a negative light it was all presented, i relished it and found huge, warped comfort and exitement in those stories.

    • I agree with you. But at the same time, one cannot control how others perceive their work. This memoir will bring about good things too, such as educating people about the real anorexia, and how it’s more than just being thin. Maybe it will teach them to detect disordered eating in others (and even themselves). Maybe it can bring solace to people who have lost family members to the disease and who are trying to understand why.

      I completely understand your concern, but we cannot screen things like this just because they have a potential to be misused by others. People who are naturally slim have been used as thinspo or pro-ana. Is it fair to ask them to gain weight just because there maybe be people out there suffering from a disorder who may use them as a “goal?”

      I think speaking out about it, even the details, is therapeutic in a way for Portia…to be heard, and to finally say what has made her suffer so badly and how she suffered. I don’t think it would be fair to deny her that right.

      • I don’t think anyone is trying to censor Portia. I think some of us just feel that this type of book shouldn’t be recommended to someone who has an ED or is in recovery, that’s all. When things have the potential to trigger someone going back to life threatening behaviors, they are best avoided.

      • That’s definitely true, Casey. And I wasn’t suggesting censorship at all. I think the book should be published, and I agree with the comment about the therapeutic value to PdR herself.

        I just meant that maybe PdR could adopt more of an awareness about how others will receive her work and tone down some of the “triggering” aspects accordingly. For example, Lucy Howard Taylor did this in her memoir “Biting Anorexia”. She didn’t mention weights and wrote her memoir with a strong emphasis on recovery, rather than indulging in this “I was sicker than anyone else” sort of competition that can be very triggering. That’s not to say that LHT glossed over the details or that she presented a santised version of the disorder – she didn’t at all. She managed to simultaneously present the horrible side to the disease but also focus on the way out.

        Having said that, I don’t even know if PdR’s book *would *be triggering, just that it sounds like it would from the blurb above.

        Hmm…I might not be doing a very good job of explaining. Sorry 🙂

        • Oh I’m sorry, I misunderstood you edith. 🙂

          I thought you meant that perhaps Portia should remove the details from her memoir because it may be triggering, which to me is censorship and I think that’s unfair to her.

          But now I get what you’re saying. I think maybe you’re asking for something like a disclaimer? Because I totally agree with that. I think this memoir should come with a disclaimer for those who suffer from eating disorders, because some people WOULD use the things described in it as pro-ana. It doesn’t even have to be intentional…it would just be things that would stick in their heads, like a certain diet thing that Portia may have done to keep her weight down.

          Point in case, does anyone remember those pictures a year back featuring a model and some celebrities photoshopped to literally flesh and bone? They were intended to show how ugly of a disease anorexia is, but they wound up having the opposite effect, because some anorexics actually began to use the images as thinspo. I think that’s why things like this memoir should come with a disclaimer, because I can see a lot of those with disordered eating habits purchasing it and reading it…not just out of familiarity, but also out of morbid curiosity.

    • I do hope this book doesnt become another cult anorexic/bulimic read like the book “wasted” – which seems to be somehow almost like inspiration to some women and girls with EDs like “the author of this book reached x weight and ate x amount of calories and threw up x amount of times a day – I can match that, maybe even go one step further” – its so damn explicit in its details its like a turn-on to their ED’s. Not saying I blame the author I know no one who had suffered an ED and nearly died from it would want to ever see others go down the same road, and maybe the book has helped some, I just know I have seen it been used as like…I dont know how to say it, like the text version of “thinspiration”.

      • I agree. And that’s what I meant about the competition aspect.

        I also think there’s the possibility that some people can read weights and things like that as “evidence” they aren’t really sick, i.e. help them to perpetuate the denial of their eating disorder. Like if someone who is 95 pounds reads that PdR got down to 86 pounds, it could make them feel like a failed anorexic or something.

        Of course, PdR isn’t responsible for how other people receive her work, but I think she has to have some level of awareness about the potential for misuse, and maybe minimise that as much as possible (like a disclaimer as Casey suggested).

  2. As a personal victim of an eating disorder, having gone through it for 5 years, i am looking forward to reading this book. Sometimes its good to feel that you’re not the only one going through something like this, and I admire her for speaking her mind on an issue that affects so many of us in many different levels.

  3. I am lucky enough not to have ever struggled with an ED – but I feel a lot of compassion for people who have or do currently struggle.
    I think it is sad when Portia says that she couldn’t remember a time when her weight wasn’t the determining factor in her self-esteem. A lot of women can identify with this, but it must be even harder when you are in an industry that continually validates your own dependence on your looks. I can only imagine what that must do to someone who already struggles with body image issues.
    I hope that her book helps others who are suffering or have suffered with ED’s – but I understand the concerns of some of the commenters above who think it may give some sufferers new ideas. Let’s hope that’s not the case – and I’m sure that’s not her intention!

  4. I am fortunate not to have ever struggled with an eating disorder – but I feel a lot of compassion for people who have (or are).
    It’s really sad that she felt the determining factor in her self esteem was her weight – but I have the feeling that this is true for quite a few women. It must be particularly hard in the entertainment industry to have that sort of body image issue, as the pressure to be thin is such a big part of the industry anyway.
    I hope that the commenters above are wrong about the details in the book giving some ED sufferers new ideas – but I can understand their concerns. I am sure that was not her intention and she would have thought about the consequences of writing in such detail.
    I hope the book helps some women feel less alone with their disorders and also helps those of us who don’t suffer with an ED to understand better the people who do.

  5. Sorry about the double post versus. The first time it didn’t show up, so I wrote a different version – that didn’t show up either and now they are both here!

  6. I struggled with eating problems for years and continue to during stressful periods of my life,when they tend to ”flare”.

    I like to read that other people have felt similarly to me,it makes me feel not so alone and it shows there is hope for significant recovery and happiness.

    I guess people can’t really understand that fully unless they’ve been there,done that etc. I think it’s great for Portia that she can share this information and reach so many people in the process.

  7. I can definitely identify with these responses. I find numbers and methods triggering but that is because of skewed thinking as a result of an ed but we have to remember that the probably thew majority of people who read the book won’t have suffered and a detailed recollection could be extremely poignant for those people and may raise more awareness of the terror caused by an ed. I have recently started cognitive behaviour therapy to deal wit obsessive compulsive disorder and it has also been very helpful in overcomming my ed problems to. I really recomend it to all of you who are suffering or who have suffered. If the therapy works for you books like portias won’t be triggering at all.

  8. I really don’t want this to be something that people post angry responses to but…

    by the responses here it seems that there are a few people visiting this site who have suffered from ed.

    do we really think we have survived it if we are still feeding (pardon the pun) insecurities with images like many of the ones featured on this site? Constantly commenting about weight, diets, cellulite, etc?

    Just wondering.

    • You have a point. Certainly for people who have suffered/are suffering an ED this site may feed insecurities – but it may also help to connect with others who have similar problems. Most of us, no matter how healthy, have some kind of obsession with looks in today’s world – we are products of our largely superficial society.

      There is no harm in making comments on how celebs look as long as we realise that nobody is perfect and we shouldn’t take it too seriously. Hopefully most people who visit and comment on this site know the difference between a healthy body and lifestyle and an unhealthy one and don’t take the criticisms and comments they read about celebs to heart.
      I know I don’t. I see it as a bit of harmless distraction – and sometimes you get to read some interesting points of view and learn something new. Other times people have distorted perceptions of what is healthy (or are just mean-spirited in their comments) and that’s a little more worrying. But I would say that’s the exception here, not the rule.

      • I won’t lie, sometimes the (disordered) comments on here really get to me. Not all of them, but a remark here or there about what x body part should look like can be triggering… temporarily. I try to stop myself from commenting at times so that I don’t contribute to that.

    • A lot of people with EDs don’t have them because of skinny media images. It’s an internal problem(s) manifested into an obsession with their weight or food. Photos of celebrities and models don’t make me want to relapse or go on a diet or anything. I can’t speak for the girls who have suffered other EDs beside bulimia though. Each ED is different and even that can vary per individual.

      Skinny vs. Curvy because of it’s body diversity and site owner actually makes me feel more normal than not. Some of those other sites are way more critical if a celeb gains a freaking pound, even if it’s muscle (!!!!!!!) and then all these girls start calling celebs that choose to weigh a normal, healthy weight, fatties…it’s really messed up, especially when you’ve had an ED that makes you gain weight, not get skinny. I try to avoid those sites.

  9. I’m in the midst of an eating disorder. I’m able to rational about food and weight, as long as it isn’t mine. I wish I could apply my own common sense to myself.

    I’m not sure there is a way to write about this kind of thing without including some detail.

    • It is absolutely none of my business Lisa – but perhaps you should spend some time away from sites like this and try to focus on aspects of life which do not revolve around physical appearance…

      I apologize if this comes off as an intrusion or condescending.. I sincerely hope you all the best in your recovery.

      • Thanks, Charlie. No worries. As I said in another comment, it depends on my mood: a lot of the time, I can come on here and not take anything to heart. This site isn’t all bad. Some of the comments here have actually been helpful in a healthy way. 🙂

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