I recently finished reading Portia de Rossi’s memoir, Unbearable Lightness, and can’t stop thinking about it for a number of reasons. First of all, she recounts, in excruciating detail, the absolute horror of her struggle with anorexia and bulimia, and the pain of keeping secret the fact that she was gay until 2005, when she was in her early 30s. It was such a stark reminder that you can never judge a book by its cover, and even though people may seem to have it all on the outside (as she did, with her success on Ally McBeal and Arrested Development), they may be facing a very private, very painful, very different reality on the inside. Spoiler alert – the book has a very satisfying ending with de Rossi overcoming her eating disorder and finding love with Ellen DeGeneres.
It’s also very interesting to hear her describe how she was able to overcome her eating disorder. She appeared on Oprah to discuss her new book and shared her recovery on the show.
Oprah: “What’s your diet and exercise like now?”
Portia: “Well, exercise is an interesting word. I don’t like to use it and I don’t like to do it. But let me qualify that statement. I live a very active lifestyle. I love walking my dogs around the neighbourhood, I do it every day.”
“The only way I recovered from my eating disorder, and from chromic dieting, was to never ever restrict any kind of food, not even portion size. And that really is the only way that food loses its power over you. If you can have something every day, as much as you want, you tend not want it as much anymore. And after a period of time you actually eat what your body needs, you eat what makes you happy, and you don’t think about food ever again.”
You can see the whole Oprah interview, in four parts, on YouTube.
As Portia detailed her recovery it reminded me of another book I read a few months ago by Geneen Roth called Women Food and God. Roth – who has also appeared on Oprah – says, “If you pay attention to when you are hungry, what your body wants, what you are eating, when you’ve had enough, you end the obsession because obsessions and awareness cannot coexist. When you pay attention to yourself, you notice the difference between being tired and being hungry. Between being satisfied and being full. Between wanting to scream and wanting to eat.”
One of my best friends has a very sensible attitude towards food and it just so happens that she also has one of the most amazing physiques I’ve ever seen. When I first met her, I thought she must be one of those girls that obsessively counts calories, weighs and measures herself. She had to, I thought, she was so lean. But, it turns out that she marches to the beat of the same drum as de Rossi and Roth, she pays attention to what her body wants and doesn’t restrict any kind of food. And the result is a confident, self-assured, healthy, content and inspiring woman.