Portia De Rossi Discusses Anorexia Battle on Oprah

Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi
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Actors and actresses often take extreme physical measures for their craft. Some purposefully gain weight to play a particular role, such as George Clooney in the film Syriana or Renee Zellweger for her popular Bridget Jones movies, while some undergo a drastic weight loss (Christian Bale in The Machinist or 50 Cent for Things Fall Apart). Some television actresses in particular feel pressure to maintain a certain body weight day in and day out. Portia De Rossi is one that is now publicly speaking about her battle with anorexia, which almost took her life.

Anorexia nervosa is a serious, sometimes chronic condition defined by a refusal to maintain a minimal body weight within 15% of ideal. Other features include an intense fear of gaining weight, a distorted body image, and the denial of the seriousness of the illness. Although the precise cause of anorexia is unknown, it is believed to be from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Read: Cause Of Anorexia Linked To Brain Circuitry

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The 37-year-old actress, born Amanda Lee Rogers in Victoria Australia, first felt pressure when she played lawyer Nelle Porter on the hit series Ally McBeal. In order to stay thin for the role, she took 20 laxatives a day, consumed less than 300 calories and constantly exercised. The 5’8” actress weighed an all time low of 82 pounds – a body mass index of only 12.5 (below 18.5 is considered underweight).

"I'd never known a day when my weight wasn't the determining factor for my self esteem," De Rossi is quoted as saying. "The more effort I put into starving myself, the more satisfaction I would feel." She believed that weight loss made her “powerful and in control.”

In 2001, the actress collapsed on the set of the film “Who is Cletis Tout?” and doctors diagnosed her with osteoporosis due to nutritional deprivation, cirrhosis of the liver, organ failure, and lupus.

Read: Family Involvement in Anorexia Treatment More Beneficial

Ms. De Rossi, now legally Portia DeGeneres after taking her wife’s last name in September 2010, today weighs 168 pounds (BMI 25.5). She has chronicled her battle with anorexia in her new book “Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain” which hits the shelves November 1st. She appears today on The Oprah Winfrey show to promote her book and to help bring awareness to anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder which is estimated to affect around 1% of females in the United States.

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