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Portia de Rossi and Anorexia: How Love Saved her Life

Portia de Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres attend the 36th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on Aug. 30, 2009 in Los Angeles.)
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

By Cassandra Gunddry

NEW YORK (CBS) In her new memoir, "Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain," actress Portia de Rossi exposes her battle with secrets that nearly ended her life.

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The star of "Ally McBeal" and "Arrested Development" says she was rescued from a tragic end by her wife, talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres.

In the book, which hits stores Tuesday, de Rossi explains that it was her struggle to come to terms with her sexual identity that led her to an eating disorder in which she limited herself to fewer than 150 calories a day.

This diet, accompanied with constant exercise, had major implications on her overall well-being. At one stage, the 37 year-old actress recalls, she weighed only 82 pounds.

"I'd never known a day when my weight wasn't the determining factor for my self esteem," de Rossi is quoted as saying in Britain's Daily Mail. "The more effort I put into starving myself, the more satisfaction I would feel."

In 2001, the actress came face-to-face with the implications of this potentially fatal lifestyle. After fainting on the set of the film "Who is Cletis Tout?," she was told she was suffering from a handful of serious conditions: osteoporosis, organ failure, cirrhosis of the liver and the auto-immune disease lupus.

Then she went from one extreme to the other. With the hope of overcoming this disease, she began to binge. De Rossi eventually gained 85 pounds in 12 months, ending up heavier than she was when she began dieting.

At a concert for "Rock the Vote," de Rossi was introduced to Ellen DeGeneres, who eventually changed her whole perspective on life - for the better.

"Ellen saw a glimpse of my inner being from underneath the flesh and bone, reached in and pulled me out," de Rossi said.

DeGeneres, 52, and de Rossi married at their home in Beverly Hills on the Aug. 16, 2008. In a legally recognized ceremony, they exchanged vows in front of 19 of their closest friends and family.

In an interview with People magazine, De Rossi said that marriage has "completely changed her life."