Brian Cuban, the brother of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, looks like a man who has it all: An athletic 6-foot-2 guy, Cuban exudes a steely self-confidence one would expect from a successful attorney and activist.
But beneath the smooth exterior, Cuban hid a harrowing 27-year battle with anorexia, bulimia and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
In an exclusive interview Feb. 19, Cuban revealed how deep-rooted body insecurities fueled a downward spiral into binge-eating, purging, and alcohol, drug and steroid addiction.
Cuban detailed his incredible road to recovery in his unforgettable memoir, Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
Cuban, 53, said his body dysmorphia began as a child, when he was repeatedly fat-shamed by his mother. Cuban's mom often commented on his weight, remarking, "If you keep eating like that, you're going to turn into a fat pig."
Brian's mom had been fat-shamed by her mother, so she was repeating a vicious cycle of verbal abuse she had experienced herself. Cuban said his brothers didn't struggle with the same issues because they all had very different personalities.
I suffered from the classic 'Middle Child Syndrome.' My older brother Mark was very outgoing and confident, and my younger brother Jeff was a wild child and a jock. I was very shy and just wanted acceptance."
Brian said his introverted personality made him an easy target for weight bullying at school. Cuban, who tipped the scales at 275 pounds by age 11, was mercilessly fat-shamed by classmates, causing deep emotional wounds that would take decades to heal.
Those hurtful fat jabs haunted Brian until he went to Penn State University, where he lost a dramatic amount of weight by starving himself, purging whenever he did eat, and running up to 100 miles a week.
Looking back, Cuban realizes he had suffered from body dysmorphic disorder, which is an obsessive preoccupation with a minor or nonexistent physical flaw. Cuban said he had a neurotic fixation with his stomach. "I gotta get rid of this fat stomach, I gotta get rid of this fat stomach," he repeated to himself over and over again.
'You Are Not Alone'
While people think of body-image issues as a woman's problem, research shows it affects men and women equally. But it's rarely reported in the media because men are shamed into silence because they don't realize that many other men suffer from the same issues.
Cuban wants to change all that by shining a spotlight on the damaging impact BDD has on men. Like other men who struggle with anorexia and bulimia, Brian suffered in silence until his eating disorders mushroomed into a dangerous drug and alcohol addiction. Cuban drank to excess and did cocaine and other drugs to numb his pain until he could no longer take it.
In 2005, a suicidal Cuban was planning to shoot himself to death but was stopped by his brothers, who checked him into a psychiatric facility. There, Brian sought treatment for his substance abuse, body dysmorphia and eating disorders, and has been doing well ever since. Intense talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy slowly helped him overcome his addictions.
Brian admits the road to recovery was bumpy, but he hasn't relapsed on any of his conditions since 2007. Cuban said the key to successful recovery is to take it one day a time. "I treat every day as its own lifetime," he said.
Cuban has received countless e-mails from men revealing their own struggles with BDD and how his story inspired them to come to grips with their issues.
Through his book Shattered Image, Cuban hopes to change society's views about BDD and inspire the media to expand its focus of BDD and eating disorders to include men. Above all, Cuban wants those suffering in silence to realize there are others like them, and they, too, can overcome their personal demons just like he did.
"No matter how alone you feel, there is someone out there who loves you and wants to help you," he said. "You are not alone."
Cuban is a lawyer and activist specializing in First Amendment issues and hate speech. Based in Dallas, Texas, he also hosts “Brian Cuban’s Legal Briefs” on EyeOpenerTV. He shares his advocacy in the fight against child and teen bullying on his blog, TheCubanRevolution.