I first picked up Portia de Rossi’s book when I was struggling with my self-image. I was hoping for insight into how disordered eating comes about and reassurance that my eating habits weren’t disordered. Instead, I found a scared young girl who was falling quickly into an eating disorder.
I’ve never actually been diagnosed with an ED but, I recognise now that my eating habits were definitely disordered. I would go a day without eating and then binge the next because I couldn’t stand the feeling of my stomach eating itself. There were times that I would order an entire pizza and chicken wings, eat one slice and throw the rest out. The voice in my head kept telling me that I wasn’t skinny enough, that I had to be skinny to be liked and berate me for not being regimented enough to have an eating disorder.
Over the years, I’ve reread Unbearable Lightness numerous times. Sometimes it was because I needed a wake up call. Other times, it was to get tips and tricks on losing weight. Those times were particularly bad. But no matter the reason for picking up this book, I end up in tears. I cry for the girl in the book who whittled herself down to 82 pounds because of the pressure of society. I cry for the girl staring at me in the mirror who still feels like weighing 100 pounds is the be-all and end-all. And I cry because a part of me feels so close to losing the battle.
I won’t lie. I struggle every single day. I try to eat healthy but, I still order pizza and eat burritos and drink calorific alcohol. I also still have days where I don’t want to eat at all. I can stare at my body in the mirror for an hour pointing out my belly and the way my thighs touch and the extra fat on my arms.
But I no longer allow the voice in my head to tell me I’m not enough. Because maybe I’m not 100 pounds and maybe I’ll never be again. But I shouldn’t be. That would be unhealthy, put me underweight, and I would be killing myself to get there.
In the epilogue, Portia talks about anorexia being her first love. The good things that Ana did for her. And then all the bad. And when I read that passage, all I can think is “Thank God I never went that far”. Eating disorders come out of nowhere. One day you’re restricting and the next day, it has taken over your life. Anorexia or any other eating disorder will never be my first love. I won’t let it.