Tag Archive | "eating disorders"

When Should Advice Columnists Just Shut Up?

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When Should Advice Columnists Just Shut Up?


BrianCuban  10313386_10203712699568284_9077630497438978776_nIn her July 12, 2014 column, syndicated advice columnist “Ask Amy”, Amy gave advice to a teen who was worried both about her father having anorexia and her own increasing unhealthy thoughts about her weight. (Ask Amy: Daughter worries about dad’s unhealthy eating), Frequently, when a young person “Asks Amy”, or another columnist, for advice on a complicated medical topic, he/she is encouraged to seek further counsel and disclose the concern to a trusted adult. Instead, the response to this letter left the teen with no more information than when she wrote in (other than advice to protect the family’s pets from the food restriction which is a symptom of the father’s illness) and a directive to share her concerns with her parents then move on.

It is appropriate for any advice columnist to consult an expert when faced with a question that is outside his/her scope of knowledge, as this question seems to have been for Amy. Most people, not just advice columnists, assume they know what causes eating disorders. The research in the field of eating disorders is ever changing and has exploded in the past decade with the advent of new technologies such as functional MRIs and conventional wisdom has been turned on its head. It is unlikely that any layperson would be able to offer solid advice in this situation.  This is not the first time an eating disorder related question has been posed to Amy.  In a June 18th column, “Parents Undermine Eating Disorder Recovery” Amy did in fact reach out to someone with specialized knowledge in in the Eating Disorder field as part of her answer.  Why not this time before giving dismissive, and frankly ridiculous input about the effect on the pets.

If this daughter is correct, her father has anorexia, a biological, brain-based mental illness with a mortality rate in the neighborhood of 20%.  Eating disorders in themselves, have the highest mortality rate of any psychological illness. Not something in which advice should be given dismissively or without a specialized background. Sadly, eating disorders are often accompanied by anosonogsia, a medical term which means the sufferer doesn’t recognize that he/she is ill. Additionally, these illnesses have a strong genetic and psychosocial interface, so both her genetics and a childhood spent in an environment of disordered eating and other symptoms of anorexia increase her risk of developing an eating disorder exponentially.

In order to prevent giving out medical advice which is off the mark or potentially damaging to the point of terminal, standard practice for any advice columnist should be to consult an expert and disclose who they contacted.  If no expert is available, they should just shut up.

 

Brian Cuban

Eating Disorder Activist and survivor

Author: Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder

 

Jennifer Denise Ouellette

Mothers Against Eating Disorders

UCSD Eating Disorder Treatment Program Parent Advisory Committee

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Eating Disorders: The Men’s Issue No One Talks About and Why That Has to Change

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Eating Disorders: The Men’s Issue No One Talks About and Why That Has to Change


brian_cuban.ashxMy 27-year journey struggling with anorexia and bulimia started when I was 18 years old and a freshman at Penn State University. At 45,  recovery finally began. I know now that I was lucky to survive, but sadly that’s not true for many. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder — a fact that doesn’t surprise me after nearly taking my own life at age 44. I could no longer take looking in the mirror and seeing the image of a “fat, stupid child” born of fat shaming at home and weight teasing and bullying in school. So much has changed since then.

Read the rest of my Op-ed on Greatist.com

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Why I Speak Out On Male Eating Disorders And Body Image

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Why I Speak Out On Male Eating Disorders And Body Image


Brian-Cuban-8193-1As a backdrop, I was anorexic, then bulimic for twenty-seven years.  I am the author of Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  Below are a few of the reasons I have chosen to “out myself’ and speak out on eating disorder awareness.

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Sadly, this is just a small sampling of the neanderthal attitudes on male eating disorders. It becomes a Catch-22 when these stereotypes and this type of stigma are the main reason so few men seek treatment and even fewer out themselves publicly. On the flip-side, I owe each of these individuals a debt of gratitude for  providing the platform to illustrate the issue.   The hard fact are that over 800k men have suffered from bulimia at some point in their lives. Over 10 million males will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their lives. We need more men to come forward. There is incredible acceptance from both men and women despite those stuck in the stone age.  Awareness happens one person at a time. Join me.

Brian Cuban

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PANTSED!-A Shattered Image Excerpt

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PANTSED!-A Shattered Image Excerpt


943226_10151634657043028_1943166013_n This is an excerpt of my book  “Shattered Image”.  Shattered Image is the story of my struggle with, and recovery from, a compulsive behavior clinically known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). That struggle has included recovery from bulimia, anorexia, alcoholism, and addiction to cocaine and steroids. I also suffer from clinical depression. For decades, I engaged in self-destructive behavior with the single goal of correcting a terribly distorted sense of self-image, a self-image rooted in early life experiences.  Release date is August 2013  See what people are saying about Shattered Image!   

When I was thirteen years old, I was “pantsed” by kids I thought were my friends. Or should I say, I was pantsed by kids who I was pretending were my friends in a vain attempt to feel accepted. It was the most humiliating experience of my young life. In reality, it was a physical assault.

While I was walking home from junior high with these classmates, they started making fun of my shiny gold pants my brother Mark had given me, commenting on how tight they were on my fat body. They started pulling at them. One kid yanked them down over my underwear and tore them off me. The rest joined in ripping them into rags that they threw into the street. I was laughed at and taunted about having to walk the mile home on a busy street in my underwear. Many drivers passed and gawked but no one stopped. I gathered up the remaining shreds that were lying on the pavement and tried cover myself up for the walk home—a cross country trek of shame. The message from my “friends” was loud and clear. I was not one of them. The last thing I remember hearing as I stood there in my underwear letting them build some distance from me was, “Hey Cuban, when you get some new pants, get a bra while you’re at it.”

What happened that day was not posted onto YouTube. No Facebook page was created. No one tweeted about it. There was no Facebook. There was no Internet. There was no such thing as cyber-bullying in 1974. It never went beyond the group involved and whomever they told to boast of their deeds. If bullying went “viral” it spread through the lunchroom and classroom. After the incident, kids would come up to me in the lunch line and ask me how I liked walking home in my underwear. I could feel the derisive looks and smirks. How did I handle it? I did not fight back as I had done in summer camp. Instead, I used my tried and true technique of self-deprecating humor and self-degradation. A coping skill I would take with me into adulthood. Ha, they really got me good didn’t they . . . Instead of fighting back or getting angry, it seemed easier to make fun of myself and try to be everyone’s friend, even if they continued to bully me.

I never stood up for myself so nothing happened. I could have fought back. I could have gone to my parents. I could have gone to the school. I did none of those things. Thinking back, the reasons that resonate over forty years later is that I was ashamed. I was ashamed of my body. I agreed with the kids who were humiliating me. I felt I should be humiliated by my inability to control my body. To “fix it.” What I saw in the mirror was a mass of grotesque imperfection, and the bullies had done me the favor of confirming that my thoughts about myself were accurate.

For some kids, the Episode of the Gold Pants might seem like a typical rite of passage, an act of mortification that they might even laugh about as adults. But for me the walk of shame and the public gossip that followed it altered the way I thought about myself for many long years. How is that possible? Why did this one act of bullying have such an outsized impact on my psyche? Bullying is a hot topic in the media now, with new book releases every season about the deleterious effects of bullying culture in the country. We all read reports in the news about children pushed to acts of self-harm by elaborately orchestrated bullying campaigns. The subject has been covered so extensively lately, that there’s even a sort of backlash: a few writers point out that some of what we label “bullying” is an inevitable part of the fabric of childhood and that over-diagnosing the problem is counterproductive.

What some of these conversations miss, however, is that all bullies and their victims are individuals with rich and complex personalities, not just generic social actors. To every experience, we all bring unique innate tendencies along with a network of past experiences. In my case, I already had an innate tendency toward obsessive behavior and shyness, a growing sense of social isolation in a new school environment, and—perhaps as significant as anything—a home life increasingly characterized by discord and verbal abuse from my mom. At school, I badly wanted to fit in, and I lived in constant fear that I’d hear from my peers words that echoed those I’d hear from my mother at home: We don’t accept fat pigs and dumb bunnies into our group.

 

 

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