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Chaz Bono Fights Food Addiction

Cher's son talks about his battle to lose weight after beating drug and alcohol addiction.

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By May Wilkerson

03/21/13

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Chaz Bono may be familiar with the "Whac-A-Mole" phenomenon: you whack one addiction, and another pops up. The LGBT activist and son of Cher and Sonny Bono says he has struggled with his weight throughout his life, but his food issues were triggered after he quit painkillers, drinking and cigarettes. “I think for me the weight was the last thing I was holding on to after letting of go of drugs, drinking, and smoking,” says Bono. “That was a lot to let go of. Eating and dinner became this big event in my life because those other things were gone, and food became the only thing of pleasure I still had in my mind. And I’m Italian.” Bono also attributes his weight gain to a hormonal imbalance, partially caused by his long-term addiction to opiate painkillers like Vicodin and Percodan, which he finally quit in 2004. Hormone specialist Dr. Eva Cwynar, who is helping develop a weight loss plan for Bono, says years of opiate abuse contributed to his weight gain, and have made it harder for him to lose the pounds. “Those drugs wreak havoc on the pituitary gland, and that upsets the body’s hormonal harmony, which impact your weight,” she says, “Those are the issues we had to go in and fix with Chaz.”

As a transgendered man, Bono says he's had a "distorted body image" since childhood. “I remember seeing this cartoon that showed a woman looking in a mirror and seeing herself as big and fat when she wasn’t in reality,” he recalls. “On the reverse the man saw a body builder in the mirror, when he looked nothing like that in reality. He was totally out of shape. That always stuck with me as to how I thought.” His weight issues were also exacerbated by growing up in the spotlight. Bono says his mother, Cher, put him on diets when he was a kid, "but it wasn’t talked about.” After reaching an unhealthy weight prior to his gender reconstruction surgery in 2010, he is now tackling the issue through diet, exercise, and hormone therapy—but he says the greatest hurdles are psychological. “I knew I had to change my mind-set if I wanted to lose the amount of weight I needed to this time around," he says, "I’d have to really commit to whatever it took to get it off and keep it off because of the toll it was taking on my health.”

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