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Portia de Rossi Talks Anorexia in Book, People Magazine

By admin Published: November 4, 2010

People has excerpts from de Rossi's book in its new issue, arriving tomorrow. Here's the magazine's announcement and highlights: In her brutally honest memoir, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain, actress Portia de Rossi reveals in an exclusive excerpt in this week’s issue of PEOPLE the harrowing details about her battle with anorexia and bulimia, the years she spent starving herself, and how the love of talk show host Ellen DeGeneres helped save her life.

It’s emotional for de Rossi, 37, to remember her battle with these eating disorders – a struggle that intensified after she won a role on the hit TV series Ally McBeal in 1998. It was a dream come true, but one that, in her mind, required her to be someone she was not: sexy, thin and straight. She felt pressure to hide the fact that she was gay. The stress had begun taking a toll even before she set foot on-set.

Now, gone are the days of icing her arms so the veins wouldn’t protrude, or sprinting in the garage of a shopping mall after “bingeing” on sugarless gum. “I struggled with self-acceptance my entire life,” says the 5’6” actress, who at her lowest weighed 82 pounds. Now recovered (“I accept the way my body is”) and married to DeGeneres, 52, she is sharing her experience. “The book just poured out of me,” says de Rossi, who came out publicly in 2004. “It was cathartic.” These days, when she looks in the mirror, “I see the person that I was always supposed to be,” she says. Portia de Rossi opens up to PEOPLE about her journey, with portions of the exclusive book excerpt [after the jump].

With the continued success of Ally McBeal, de Rossi began appearing in magazines. Her weight yo-yoed. After the second season, she was signed to be a L’Oréal spokeswoman. She met with stylists to be fitted for a commercial shoot.

I went into the dressing room and tried on jacket and skirts as they were handed to me. They were all size 4…I tried on suit after suit. They didn’t fit…There was an awful silence, then the stylist said, “Nobody told me she was a size 8.”

Down to 95 lbs. by December 1999 – “a cushion” in case she regained – de Rossi was excited to show off her figure to her family in Australia.

Lying in bed Christmas morning I felt thin. I could feel my hip bones and my ribs. I felt as though I could get on that scale and give myself the Christmas present of a good number, a number that would congratulate me for dieting successfully for eight months. The number would determine whether I had a happy Christmas or a miserable one. I looked down. 89. “Merry Christmas, Portia.”

Her family and friends grew more concerned. Finally, her brother Michael confronted her.
When he turned around, I could see that he was crying. I was shocked. “I’m just really worried about you. I can’t believe how thin you are…You’re gonna die.”

Her weight had dropped to 82 lbs. She blacked out on a film set in Toronto in 2000.
After collapsing in Toronto, I had no choice but to get help…Recovery didn’t feel like I was doing something good; it felt like giving up…Just because I had stopped starving didn’t mean I didn’t still have an eating disorder.

With months of outpatient treatment, she slowly recovered. Now a vegan, she eats three meals a day plus snacks and never steps on a scale.
I met Ellen when I was 168 pounds and she loved me. She only saw the person inside. My two greatest fears, being fat and being gay, when realized, led to my greatest joy…Ellen saw a glimpse of my inner being underneath the flesh and bone, reached in and pulled me out.

More of Portia de Rossi’s book excerpt is in the Nov. 15, 2010 issue of PEOPLE (on newsstands Friday, Nov. 5, 2010).

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