So the Borders in the town where I live is going out of business. This makes me incredibly sad, as I like Borders better than B&N, and this Borders has always employed really decent, friendly, bright people, unlike my local B&N.
BF and I went there last weekend to take advantage of 20% off the entire store, and I gave in and bought a hardback that I’ve been wanting to read for some time now (since I read this): Portia de Rossi’s memoir Unbearable Lightness. I don’t like hardbacks, for a slew of reasons, and I didn’t really want to buy this one, but I badly wanted to read it instead of waiting a year for it to come out in paperback. Now that I’m a third of the way through, I am so glad that I caved.
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, this book is the story of Portia’s all-consuming eating disorder (interesting choice of words my brain gave me there) during the years she was on Ally McBeal. She had been coping with eating disorder behavior since she was about 12, but between 1998 and 2002, she shaved herself down to 82 pounds at her thinnest before the disorder was finished with her.
This is a fascinating book, thoroughly real, intelligently written, and as candid as you could possibly want a memoir to be. It’s given me a great deal to think about, in part because of my own long-ago struggle, in part because of what’s going on in my diet and life now, and in part because it’s just a doggone incredible piece of work.
What’s going on now is that my wedding is just over three months away, and I am not as skinny as I’d like to be. I feel loose everywhere, with a body that’s…undisciplined. Generally I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared for life in the last three months, and this means that my ability to make healthy meals at home has slipped, and I’ve been relying on frozen foods a lot. My psychological reserves are way down, and I can’t resist comfort foods, I can’t take the energy to count calories, I can’t make myself do much of anything that my mind is resisting.
I’ve been feeling angry at myself, lazy, undisiplined. But when I read about Portia’s ironclad discipline during these awful years, it makes me wonder what’s so great about being disciplined anyway, particularly about diet and exercise. At less than 100 pounds, at 300 calories per day, she still spent hours on the treadmill every morning. Her anxiety about her appearance led her to a kind of leveled-up self-discipline that I’m not sure I ever want to experience.
I joined Planet Fitness in January and I’ve been trying to make it there twice a week, to spend gradually increasing spells on the elliptical. I like the elliptical. It’s not as hollowing and jagged as running, and I still manage to work up a sweat. Ace of Base and Ke$ha keep me company, and I feel utterly satisfied when I get home.
I have been beating myself up that I haven’t set strict goals and met them, going there three or four times a week without fail and insisting on a certain amount of time on the machine at a certain level (or working my way up to running, which I don’t really like but burns more calories), but I just didn’t think that was the way to success for me. I thought if I aimed for twice a week and made it more about the memory of how good I feel when I’m done, I’d do better, dread it less, maybe even make it more often.
After reading about what Portia put herself through, I am much surer that this was the right way to go about it. If it weren’t for the wedding, I might abandon all of my concern about how my body looks and focus only on how it feels. I wish I had a more defined midsection and slimmer hips, arms and neck. But the more of this harrowing book I read, the more I think it might just not matter, maybe not at all, as long as I have a good brain, a good heart, and good health.
From the epilogue:
I’d still like thighs the size of my calves, but the difference is that I’m no longer willing to compromise my happiness to achieve it, or for the thought of my thighs to take up valuable space in my mind. It’s just not that important.