As I’ve stated many times before, books were instrumental in recovering from my eating disorder. Not only did I read self-help books, but I was inspired by other people’s experience and stories of recovery.
I recently had the pleasure of reading “Unbearable Lightness” by Portia de Rossi.
I’ve read many memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies on people who’ve suffered eating disorders, and I can honestly say that “Unbearable Lightness” is one of the best books written on the topic. Her story is detailed and candid. What sets this book apart from others is that she was a grown woman when her illness took hold, not a young girl. I also appreciated her story because I could relate to it more. She went through a period of extreme restriction to a period of extreme binging and purging which was a similar experience to mine.
I’ve always been a perfectionist, and I’ve always strived to be exceptional. This drive towards success and perfection is often a characteristic in people with eating disorders (although there are plenty of eating disorder suffers who do not relate to this!). De Rossi describes her drive towards perfection extensively in “Unbearable Lightness” stating,
“Even when I took first prize, topped the class, won the race, I never really won anything. I was merely avoiding the embarrassment of losing.”
“Average. It was the worst, most disgusting word in the English language. Nothing meaningful or worthwhile ever came from that word.”
These quotes really hit home with me. Whenever I won an award in high school, it was never enough. I always wanted more. I wanted the highest test scores, the most awards, and most of all, I wanted recognition. I needed external validation to assure myself that I was worthy. In high school, I often received this validation. I got special treatment from my teachers. Everyone thought I was brilliant. I was my class valedictorian. In college though, I become one tiny fish in a huge pond. No one cared about what I did in high school. No one knew. I stopped feeling special. I felt so normal. Normal was not something I could accept at the time.
However, after a lot of hard work in the self-love department, I’ve realized that no one’s opinions of me matter except for my own opinion of myself. I know what I am capable of. I set goals. I am proud of my accomplishments, and I learn from my failures. The best way to live is to be the only judge of yourself.
De Rossi’s thoughts on dieting:
“I finally understood that by being on a perpetual diet, I had practiced a “disordered” form of eating my whole life. I restricted when I was hungry and in need of nutrition and binged when I was so grotesquely full I couldn’t be comfortable in any position by lying down. Diets that tell people what to eat or when to eat are the practices inbetween. And dieting, I discovered, was another form of disordered eating, just as anorexia and bulimia similarly disrupt the natural order of eating.”
I hate diets. Why? Because they don’t work. How can someone else tell you what your body needs? They can’t! De Rossi describes why dieting doesn’t work by stating:
“Restriction generates yearning. You want what you cannot have.”
When you tell yourself you need to diet, you are essentially saying you are not worthy of eating the foods your body desires. You want what you are forbidden to have. Then when you eat a bite of forbidden food, you figure you’ve blown your whole diet so you might as well just finish off the rest of the bowl/pan/cake/etc. I’ve learned from experience that for every diet, there is an equal and opposite binge just waiting to happen. When you eat whatever you want when your hungry, your body will settle at it’s natural weight. We have to learn to listen to our bodies, and appreciate them no matter what size or shape they are.