Over the Christmas holidays, I read several books, and Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi was one of them. The book was an intimate journey through Portia’s battle with anorexia, and provided a chilling insight into the thought patterns that shape and inform this tragic disorder.
Having always been interested in food and health, which can sometimes be a way of exerting control, in my early years I had brushes with anorexia and bulimia but was lucky enough to never move into a full blown manifestation of these diseases. My flirtation with them was brief, and I moved into a more health conscious and balanced state as I learned and read more and more about food as medicine and healing. I also saw those problems as a part of the greater issue of low self-esteem and I was already doing a lot of personal development work to heal those demons in my head, which kept me from moving further into problems with food. Guidance that Portia desperately needed, but didn’t get in those formative developing years.
Unfortunately there are some similarities in the thought patterns of guilt and obsession that cross over into the health and raw food world. Being 100% raw can be an absolute healing gift for many people, but for some others it can become a dangerous obsession that takes them away from their friends, family and society and is a means of establishing control over themselves and gives a feeling of superiority via that control. That can be harmful and detrimental to health, no matter what type of good quality food is consumed.
One thing that I loved about this book, was that at the end when Portia was describing her recovery, she says “Managing the disorder – thinking about food to any degree other than something nutritious and enjoyable – is, to me, the very definition of disordered eating. I didn’t just want to maintain my weight, suppress the urge to purge, and still have a list of foods that were ‘safe’ to eat. I never wanted to think about food and weight ever again. For me, that’s the definition of recovered.”
She also describes how she never limits herself in regards to food, and how knowing that she can eat whatever she wants to, whenever she want to, led her to heal. She also credits this way of conscious eating with her natural move into becoming a vegan, as she listened to how her body felt when she ate different foods. This philosophy around food is very similar to that of Charles Eisenstein, the author of “The Yoga of Eating” (see my blog post Raw Vegan Obsessions) who also recovered his health through letting go of his obsession with “right” and “wrong” food, and developed the practice of mindful eating instead.
I found the book to be an honest and touching memoir, and it clearly highlights the absurdity of our media culture’s fixation on portraying anorexic bodies as the ideal of health. Let’s not fall for it.