“I didn’t decide to become anorexic. It snuck up on me disguised as a healthy diet, a professional attitude. Although there was a certain glamour to anorexics, I didn’t want to be one. I just wanted to excel in dieting. And weighing in at 80 pounds on 300 calories a day, I was the best little dieter there ever was.”
In scalding, revelatory prose, Portia de Rossi reveals the pain and illness that haunted her for decades, from the time she was a 12 year-old girl working as a print and runway model in Australia, through her early rise to fame as a cast member of the hit shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development. All the while terrified that the truth of her sexuality would be revealed in the tabloids, Portia alternately starved herself and binged, putting her life in danger and lying to herself and everyone around her about the depth of her illness. Elaborate rituals around food came to dominate every hour of every day, to the exclusion of anything else.
“Dishes and utensils became an important part of the ritual. I would travel with them–wash them in hotel bathroom sinks, hide them away in a suitcase. My anxiety about eating was instantly allayed when I saw my little white bowl with the green flowers. I had to see the crack at the bottom of the bowl at all times. I ate every meal with chopsticks. I would rhythmically lift one grain of quinoa to my mouth at a time. My allotted 40-grain portion could take all day. Good for a Saturday.”
Portia takes the reader back to pivotal moments of her childhood and unearths the casual comments and subtle cues that set her on the road to anorexia. She reveals the heartache and fear that accompany a life lived in the closet, and is brutally honest about her own early relationships (including one failed marriage) and her first fumbling attempts to acknowledge the fact that she was a lesbian. All this is set against the bright lights and long hours of her acclaimed work on such popular television shows as Ally McBeal, Arrested Development, and Better Off Ted. Afraid to reveal much of herself around her fellow cast members, she cut herself off from them and sank deeper and deeper into a life that was dominated solely by her unrelenting desire to be ever thinner, ever more in control of her body.
“So how does it feel to be obsessed? Obsession isn’t a feeling like love, or disappointment, or fear–it is who you are. It is your identity. It removes all rational thought and replaces it with a single, repetitive thought. Sound awful? It isn’t. It’s lovely. To think of nothing but your next meal, the calories consumed already that day, the amount of time on the treadmill to take it all away. It’s true that you hate it at times, blame it for everything that’s bad in your life, but you’d be nothing without it. Without it, I literally wouldn’t have had a thought in my head.”
From her lowest point, Portia began the painful climb back to health and honesty, ultimately falling head over heels in love with Ellen DeGeneres, whom she married in 2008. Since then, Portia’s career has continued to flourish and she has emerged as an outspoken and articulate advocate for gay rights and the issues of women’s health. In this remarkable and landmark book, she is giving the world a story that inspires hope and nourishes the spirit.
Watch for appearances by Portia November 1st on Oprah and Ellen on November 4th. Unbearable Lightness is in bookstores November 1st.