In early August of this year, Brain Cuban’s revealing memoir, Shattered Image: My Triumph over Body Dysmorphic Disorder, was released and it was nothing short of honest. If you read the introduction, you will quickly realize that Cuban is not going to hold back details about his struggles with addiction, depression, eating disorders, and body dysmorphic disorder. His brutal honesty makes the book a powerful vehicle for awareness, but it can spark some uncomfortable or unsettling feelings for readers have had or are having similar life experiences.
Cuban starts by taking us back to his childhood, which is filled with both fun outings to baseball games with his father and two brothers, and dark days of being bullied and teased at school because of his weight (and to think he grew up in an era without cyberbullying…..). But the hurtful comments about his weight did not stop at school, they continued when he got home and had to face verbal abuse from his mother, at a time when she was dealing with her own struggles. Cuban and his mother have reconciled and in no way is his book parent blaming. He reminds us that weight teasing and bullying during childhood can cause significant emotional distress that can be carried well into adulthood. Readers can easily follow how his depression set in at an early age and only intensified as he matured.
In order to combat his weight and gain acceptance from his peers, Cuban thought diet and exercise were the way to go. Unfortunately, Cuban was starting to exhibit symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which was a fairly unknown disorder back in the late 70s. BDD is marked by a persistent preoccupation with perceived deficits in physical appearance. Whatever changes in weight and appearance occurred because of his food restriction and extreme exercise, Cuban would never see. He would never look good enough in his own eyes.
This book is important because it helps to break stereotypes and bring awareness to the fact that men can and do suffer from eating disorders and BDD, and highlights how hard it often is for them to seek treatment. Cuban mentions that individuals with BDD are sometimes misperceived as a being vain or self-absorbed with their appearance. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is an obsessive aspect to BDD, and sufferers engage in repeated “tics” and body checks fueled by intense self-scrutiny and fear of judgment. BDD can drive sufferers into total isolation and make social situations excruciating. Cuban’s descent into rock bottom revealed the self-destructive side of eating disorders and BDD as he details his battles with binging and purging, never escaping the hopelessness he felt about his weight and shape. Not only did his disorders drain him emotionally, but they took a toll on his finances as well, as he was spending money on cosmetic procedures that he could not afford. When you put all the pieces together, you truly see how throughout his life, starting in childhood, he was trapped in several vicious cycles – ones that went beyond eating and exercise to also include alcohol, cocaine, and anabolic steroid addiction.
There is no question that this book is about honesty—honesty that for a long time he was never able to share with those who so desperately wanted to help him.
After finishing the book, I felt that Cuban’s history of being bullied revealed the book’s most significant message – mean and hurtful comments about peoples’ weight, shape, and appearance need to stop. No child or adult deserves to feel unloved or unaccepted because of how they look. Less teasing may not have solved all of Cuban’s problems, but at least it would have given him a head start. Think how many other children in today’s social media crazed society need that head start……
The Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders is excited to have Brian Cuban speak at our upcoming 10th anniversary symposium on October 5th. He will also be signing books at the event as well. In addition, he will be signing books at the Regulator Bookstore in Durham, North Carolina on the same day.