A couple weekends ago when I was feeling under the weather, I picked up the book Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi.
(Ok, ok I also bought a new mug…busted!! haha)
In Unbearable Lightness, Portia talks very candidly about her struggles with an eating disorder, being a ‘closet’ lesbian, and the pressure she felt from the modeling and acting world to have the perfect body. The book is beautifully written, heartfelt, and honest. I ended up reading the book cover to cover in one evening. It completely sucked me in and I found myself crying, smiling, or laughing right along with Portia. I commend her bravery for sharing her story in such an honest way. I know she will help many women.
My only small complaint was that Portia didn’t go into her recovery as much as I hoped she would. In just a small chapter at the end of the book, she talked about some of the things that helped her recover- such as horse-riding or her relationship with Ellen. I finished the book wanting to know much more about her recovery. I really hope that she writes a second book as a follow up!
I also think the book could be triggering for some people who are currently struggling with an eating disorder. Portia is very specific and detailed about numbers and behaviours while she was suffering. This book is definitely a read at your own risk. I personally was not triggered by the material, but if I had read this book 3 years ago, it would have been another story.
Given that it is Eating Disorder Awareness week in the US, I thought it would be a good time to share some of my favourite RECOVERY quotes from the book. The last chapter is so inspiring and I found myself highlighting much of what Portia wrote.
"Do I love myself the way I am? Yes. (Well, I’m working on it!) But that doesn’t mean I love my body just the way it is. People who recover from eating disorders can’t be expected to have higher standards than the rest of society, most of whom would like to alter a body part or two. The difference now is that I’m no longer willing to compromise my health to achieve that. I’m not even willing to compromise my happiness to achieve it, or for the thought of my thighs to take up valuable space in my mind. It’s just not that important.
“I’m very grateful for what [my body] does. I thank my thighs for being strong and allowing me to walk my dogs around my neighbourhood and ride my horses."
"I find that if I can concentrate on getting better at something, rather than getting fitter or looking better, I accomplish all three things- the latter two being happy by-products of the original goal.”
"The fact that I stopped restricting food made it less appealing. I began tasting food and listening to my internal nutritionist as it told me that I truly wanted to eat a crispy salad rather than fries. When it told me that fries were what I was craving, it said, ‘Eat as many as you want knowing that you can always have them again tomorrow.’ So I’d eat just a few or I’d rat the whole damn serving until I couldn’t eat anything else on my plate."
"I stopped weighing myself. I simply didn’t care about weight anymore because it was always a comfortable good weight for my body. As I listened to my internal nutritionist, I stopped wanting to eat eggs, meat, and dairy. While I have never felt more healthy and energized, the most important thing that happened to me when I stopped eating animals was a sense of connectedness. When I was suffering from an eating disorder, my life was solely about me. I was living through my ego. My decision not to eat animals anymore was paramount to my growth as a spiritual person. It made me feel like I was contributing to making the world better and that I was connected to everything around me. Healing comes from love. And loving every living thing in turn helps you love yourself."
"I made the mistake of thinking that what I look like is more important that who I am- that what I weigh is more important than what I think or what I do. I was ashamed of being gay, and so I only heard the voices that said that being gay is shameful."
"Ellen taught me to not care about other people’s opinions. She taught me to be truthful. She taught me to be free. I began to live my life in love and complete acceptance. For the first time I had truly accepted myself."
"I met Ellen when I was [at my heaviest] and she loved me. She didn’t see that I was heavy; she only saw the person inside. My two greatest fears, being fat and being gay, when realized, led to my greatest joy. It’s ironic, really, when all I’ve ever wanted is to be loved for my true self, and yet I tried so hard to present myself as anything other than who I am."
I get chills reading those quotes…many of them really ring true for me.
It is long overdue as women, we start embracing our bodies instead of holding them up to some unattainable ideal. A big part of the battle is learning how to re-frame our negative thoughts.
Instead of cursing my thighs, I now thank them for being strong, powerful, and for helping me run in races.
For me, happiness and self-acceptance does not always come easy. The difference between now and then is that I am now willing to put in the effort if it leads me in a positive direction, rather than a negative one.
There is no ‘happiness finish line’ in my world. It’s an on-going effort requiring daily work, love, and attention. I know if I put that effort in each day, I will be in a good place.
Thankfully, I’ve never minded a good challenge.