November 20, 2010
Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain is a book that every girl needs to read. (Go on. Do it. I even provided the link for you to go buy it.) I will go so far as to say it was life-changing for me. In a world where a 14 year old, air-brushed Victoria's Secret model who hasn't even grown into curves yet is seen as 'the perfect woman', it's no wonder so many girls have self-confidence issues. Some girls have more serious confidence issues than others, but I'm willing to bet that no girl goes through life without feeling fat or ugly at some point in her life. The book is a personal account of Portia de Rossi's experiences with eating disorders and trying to be accepted in Hollywood, and it's completely heart-wrenching. She was brutally honest with the thoughts that ran through her head, and at times it left me realizing, 'I've thought that, too.'
Portia only weighed 82 pounds when she collapsed on set.
When I first started reading the book, I actually felt a bit of admiration for her perseverance. As an actress, Portia's job was (is) to look good. She ate well, exercised regularly, and started diligently counting her calories. Then you watch the diligence become an obsession, and you think, "well, maybe she's getting a bit out of hand..." By the end you're left nearly in tears at what this girl has done to herself, just to be accepted as 'beautiful'. She went to every length to hide who she was, both in terms of her real weight and her sexuality. What was both amazing and devastating to me was reading Portia's thought processes in big moments like a red carpet event or a photoshoot. On the outside, we watch a stunning woman walking down the red carpet, head held high, confidence radiating. On the inside, it's utter turmoil. "My thighs are too big; I look fat if I turn this way; the cameras won't even notice me; I'm nobody; I'm worthless; I don't deserve to be here." This fake confidence on the outside, complete with a panicked internal monologue that tells you you're worthless and can't do it, is something I've felt many times before. I'm sure a lot of girls have. I like to call it my pokerface.
Honestly, having a job where I sit down all day makes me very conscious about gaining weight. I sit down for a minimum of eight hours a day, and usually it's a lot more since my commute is so long. Eating right and exercising regularly has, indeed, become a bit of an obsession for me. Every day I force myself to exercise, and every day I watch my calories. The epilogue of Unbearable Lightness is the most important part of the book, and for me it was where the epiphanies happened.
Girls try so hard to be thin that they go so far as to throw up their food or go on an insane all-celery diet. In this they may achieve thinness, but they do not achieve healthiness. Being thin is a side-effect of being healthy. If you are healthy and happy, if you get outside and move around during the day and don't binge on junk food, you will be thin. You will be one of those 'lucky' people that just stays thin without trying. Your body has a natural weight that it will go to, and trying to push yourself to be thinner than that will only result in obsession and misery. "The key is to accept your body just as it is." This is something my mother has been trying to tell me for a couple years now, and I guess it took my reading such an emotional book for the message to really sink in. One line that particularly stood out to me in the epilogue was this: "I have noticed on my daily walk with my dogs that I rarely see an overweight person walking a dog, whereas I see many overweight people walking on treadmills in a gym." Yes, simply getting outside and making casual exercise a part of your everyday routine is enough to keep you thin and fit. You don't need to make a chore out of exercising. It's like what The Secret tries to tell us: if you obsess negatively about something, like your weight, you'll just bring more of that negativity/weight to you. Instead of obsessing about your weight, just be happy and healthy and accept that you already look good, and thinness will come to you.
Lately I've felt like there's a bit of a social revolution happening for females. It's starting with the pop stars. It's like everyone's message is to "be yourself" these days, and pop stars are dressing how they want and doing what they want and people are okay with it. They all have the same message: be yourself, take some risks, and have confidence because you are beautiful. In the last few months I've noticed that a lot of female celebrities out there are sporting curves rather than jutting hip bones. I even read an article that talked about how skinny is out, and curvy is in. It's a revolution, and I like it. Girls need to stop trying to be tiny waifs.
Unbearable Lightness got me thinking actively about all of this, but it does so much more than put perspective on an eating disorder. It's beautifully-written, yet blunt and personal, and for any girl who's ever felt insecure, it's a must-read.