“Shattered Image”: An Interview with Brian Cuban
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
Weight Stigma Awareness week just passed and Laura joined her iaedp NY team at NEDA’s walk for eating disorder awareness this past Sunday. To continue raising awareness, here at EALM we are sharing a very honest and intimate interview with Brian Cuban, lawyer, author of Shattered Image, and brave individual who is sharing his own story of body dysmorphia.
1) How old were you when you realized that you suffered from BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder)? And could you describe what BDD is, from a patient’s perspective?
I was in my 40’s before I knew [BDD] had a name. While the disorder has been around for 100 years, BDD has really only been studied “mainstream” in the last decade. From my personal perspective, it was exaggerating the size of my stomach, love handles and the loss of hair on my head to the point where it affected my ability to function and caused me to engage in self-destructive behaviors.
2) The documented number of men with eating disorders is increasing. Why do you think this is? Do you think our society and the field is offering more resources for men to seek support?
I think it’s because more men are coming forward and being diagnosed because of increased awareness. The increase in awareness makes it easier for a guy to not be consumed by gender stereotypes and stigma and be honest with his treatment provider or other trusted person. There are absolutely more resources. When I first started going through it in the early eighties there was virtually no awareness nor were there resources. I didn’t even know the words anorexia or bulimia existed.
3) Where does bullying fit in the “eating disorder and BDD spectrum”? Would you say bullying was a trigger for your EDO and BDD? Or is there a way to describe to readers how all of these: EDO, BDD, and Poly-substance abuse are all likely to fall in the same bucket?
Bullying is definitely one of the things that played a major role in the development of my eating disorder, especially when that bullying was related to appearance. It was certainly that way for me. Can I say it was the only reason? No. There was also fat shaming at home. I was also a very shy and withdrawn child genetically. It is possible there was a pre-disposition to such behavior for me.
I started with a distorted image in the mirror. In my mind, if I could change that image to what, I equated, as something that would cause me to be accepted, then everything would be ok. For me, that was being thin at first. When eating behaviors did not work to change the image, I cycled into alcohol and drug abuse, and, eventually, steroid addiction. I call it a “BDD Behavior Wheel” -constantly spinning with no end game until I addressed the core issues of the fat shaming and bullying I experienced as a child.
4) As a man who has suffered from an eating disorder, in what ways could an eating disorder impact a man’s life that may differ from a woman? (If any).
Gender specific health issues aside, I think the impact is probably the same from a social and day-to-day standpoint. Shame, isolation, health, and impaired achievement affect both men and women with eating disorders. It is society that views them differently. From a male’s “going through it’ standpoint, I suspect much is the same for both sexes.
5) Do you have any advice for moms and dads raising boys or what to look for in terms of signs that their son may be developing a negative relationship with food and body?
I try not to take the role of a treatment provider since I am not one. I can only speak for my behaviors. These are the behaviors I engaged in: trips to the bathroom with water and/or the shower turned on to hide purging, evidence of purging in the bathroom, scraped/bruised finger joints from purging, and eating tiny portions. I was eating less, staying below a specific number of calories per day. Depression, isolation and social withdrawal are big ones. Children don’t isolate themselves without a reason, something is wrong.
6) In addition to genetics and other environmental stimuli, what role do you think nutrition played in the development of your eating disorder and BDD? Was there a message of health versus thin in your house and if so how do you think this affected the ED/BDD?
Nutrition played a role in that it was something I had no context for. Healthy eating was not really something that was a huge topic of discussion in the early 1970’s. I honestly can’t remember whether it was a topic of discussion in my home. I think my parents did the best they could to provide a healthy food environment within the constraints of awareness of that era. I can say that I tended to not eat healthy because it soothed my loneliness and depression in the moment. This typically occurred during lunch and during the day.
7) In terms of eating – do you now practice intuitive eating, mindful eating and/or how would you generally describe your nutrition intake?
Currently I would say that I practice intuitive eating but, I have to admit, I go through yo-yo phases like many others. I actually consulted a nutritionist about a year or so ago and did pretty well with it, but I have gotten away from healthy/balanced eating more than I would like recently. It’s nothing that ties into my disorder in itself, its just life although when I gain weight because of it that can have an effect on how my BDD thoughts play out.
8) Do you have any words of wisdom to share with adolescents who may be struggling with similar issues?
You are not alone and you are loved. Find a trusted person you can confide in. There is an end game of recovery and a great life if you can drop the wall of shame and self protection for one second and take one tiny step forward by confiding in those who love and care about you. Don’t wait 27 years like I did. Do it now.
One of our lucky subscribers will receive a free copy of Brian’s book, Shattered Image!
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Giveaway ends on Sunday, October 20th, 2013 at 6:00PM EST.