Welcome to Mondo Samu - Questions and Answers about my self-work.

Mondō: "questions and answers"; a recorded collection of dialogues between a pupil and teacher.
Samu: Work service; meditation in work.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Unbearable Lightness by Portia DeRossi

I recently heard about the new book by Portia DeRossi "Unbearable Lightness".  I used to watch Ally McBeal with my sister long ago.  It was the only thing she and I really did together, and I loved Portia DeRossi!  I'm also a big fan of Ellen Degeneres.  Not so much her comedy, though she's certainly funny, but mostly I find Ellen to be a very sincere and wonderful person, from what I have seen of her.  There's a sincerity that can't be faked, and she's got it.

Anyhow, with all of that in mind, I was astonished to hear that Portia DeRossi had once been anorexic, and suffered from eating disorders.  I don't recall her being so small as the pictures in the book show, I just remember her from the show.  I never followed the tabloids and such, so never was aware of the rest.

So when I heard of this, and of her book "Unbearable Lightness" I snagged it on my iPad and read it almost straight through!  First off, I love the title.  It says a lot of different things to me, and is a clever one.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

One reason I was interested in reading it is because I already knew it had a happy ending as anyone who has ever watched the Ellen show is aware that they are happily married.  And again, you can't hide or fake that kind of happiness I don't think.  Also, I felt that a lot of the things she went through were just the opposite side of the same weight loss coin we "fat" folks are on.

Whether you are too skinny, unhappy with yourself and trying to diet to get smaller or too heavy, unhappy with yourself and trying to get smaller, I think a lot of the feelings and challenges are the same.  Ultimately it's the exact same thing, and has little to do with the body, and lots to do with the brain.

I don't know squat about anorexia, nor do I know anything about depression as I was very fortunate to be blessed with a strong self esteem all my life.  I do know countless others who have struggled with depression that led to their eating issues.  I do know countless others, including myself, who got on the yo-yo diet train and descended further and further down it's track without success, which leads to more and more troubles with your health.

There isn't much I can tell you, after having read the book, that you either haven't heard already elsewhere or that will be any more insightful than any other review has been.  What I feel I can tell you is how this book might be useful to you if you are overweight or obese as opposed to anorexic or bulimic.

The first, and most striking, thing about the book to me was the overwhelming sadness and isolation that Portia DeRossi must have felt and gone through.  She strikes me as a very loving person from what little I know of her, and the sense of her self-imposed loneliness in this book was palpable.  When one binges and purges as she was, there is an automatic requirement for a lot of privacy.  And it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.  The more you do it, the more you recede from life.  The more you withdraw, the more you feel bad about yourself.  The worse you feel about yourself, the more you you binge and purge.  And the wheel keeps on turning.

Overweight people have the same cycle sometimes, just without the purging.  I know a lot of overweight people who hide in their cars or elsewhere to eat large quantities of food like she says she did in the book.  I know many who keep food stashed in hiding places so that others don't know they are eating so much.  They lie about the amount they eat, and feel compelled to tell you how little they are eating even though it's not true.  And it goes on and on.

The point being that I feel this book is a valuable look in to the life of someone who had as much problem keeping themselves tiny as many of us do in getting ourselves slimmed down from obesity.  If I were to boil the books message down to one short simple sentence, it would simply be to live mindfully and connected to the world and the rest will be ok.  At least that's what I took away from "Unbearable Lightness".

The book is sad, wry, scary and eye-opening.  I get the sense that Portia DeRossi has gained a lot of knowledge in her quest for health that would be useful and enjoyable to hear, but the book focuses primarily on the things she went through and only briefly talks, toward the end, about the positive things she did and does to stay in power over it.

Toward the end she discusses, a bit, the influence of Dr. Wayne Dyer (Whose movie, "The Shift", Portia starred in)  in her life, she gives a good bit about the influence of her horses, nature, Ellen and about Love and "Connectedness" more than anything.  This part of the book will ring a bell for any Buddhists out there, as what she is discussing is essentially mindful living and interbeing.

I particularly enjoyed this part most of all.  I feel that if she and Ellen ever released a book about their lives - such as their food, spirituality, beliefs, etc - it would be a great read.  I know them both to be animal lovers, non-meat eaters, spiritual and caring people who have access to people like Deepak Chopra and Dr. Wayne Dyer just to name a couple.  Anyone who has Wayne Dyer officiate their wedding has something going right in their life!

When you see Ellen's sparkling eyes and Portia's heart warming smile, there's no doubt these two have certainly found happiness despite anything else.

I'd like to share a quote Portia says in the book, toward the beginning.  She talks about some words her mother gave her as a girl.  Some of this may have not been good, but a line that she shared stuck out to me as being very true and spot on.

"After all, it's in the way an insult is received that makes it an insult.  You can't really give offense unless someone takes it."

I like that.  It's really a statement of mindfulness.  If you are mindful, and in the moment, then no off-hand comment can really hurt you because you are not a part of the reality that person is trying to place you in, you are firmly rooted in your own present moment where nothing anyone else says about you has any actual bearing on you yourself.  The insult is aimed for your ego, but living mindfully eliminates the ego.

Later in the book, toward the end, she shares this:

"Being sick allows you to check out of life.  Getting well again means you have to check back in.  It is absolutely crucial that you are ready to check back into life because you feel as though something has changed from the time before you were sick.  Whatever it was that made you feel insecure, less than, or pressured to live in a way that was uncomfortable to you has to change before you want to go back there and start life over."

That's very powerful, especially that last bit.

Lastly, I liked this part as well:

"It's important to find something other than your body image to be passionate about."

I firmly agree with this statement regardless of WHAT your predicament is.  I've mentioned that I never have really struggled with depression about my weight, and that I have always been lucky to have good self esteem.  I don't know if this is because of my parents, or myself, or because I'm lucky.  All I know is that I've always been able to recognize when I am starting to feel bad or depressed and I've been able to manually alter my mood direction.  So for me, depression has never hit full force, especially due to size.  I was always comfortable with my size, but it was when I recognized that I was getting TOO unhealthy and that the depression and problems were heading my way in a much more severe way, that I was able to do something about it, and do it quickly.  "Savor", for me, was the solution.  It allowed me to apply mindfulness to my life immediately and move on in the correct path.  For someone reading this, perhaps "Unbearable Lightness" will offer you the strength to do the same.

Whatever the case, I strongly recommend "Unbearable Lightness" by Portia DeRossi if you have ANY sort of weight or esteem issues.

Is there a book or person who has helped you solve the health issues you face?


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