Jerry Mathers, one of the most beloved childhood actors of all time, starred as Beaver Cleaver in the hit television show “Leave it to Beaver” from 1957 to 1963. When the show concluded in 1963, Mathers attended University of California, Berkeley, and then worked in real estate and catering. In the 1980’s, Mathers got back together with several “Leave it To Beaver” original cast members, and starred in “The New Leave it To Beaver,” which ran from 1982 to 1989. As Mathers puts it, he sort of “retired” after the series concluded, and from that point on, his life became sedentary. An ensuing weight gain of about five to seven pounds per year followed.
A friend of Mather’s, who happened to be a doctor, took note of Mather’s weight gain in early 1997, and persuaded him to get a physical examination. When Mathers did, he discovered that he had blood sugars in excess of 500 mg/dl.
Heck, Beav, You Have Diabetes
“My blood sugars were running around 540 mg/dl all of the time, and my blood pressure was running around 160 over 130 mmHG,” says Mathers, who was told by his doctor that he was on a collision course with death because of his condition. He was then put on oral antihyperglycemics and blood pressure medication, and was instructed to lose weight. “For the next three to five months, I tried everything. I weighed 230 pounds, and had a 44-inch waist size.”
Mathers says that at first, he wasn’t concerned about having type 2 diabetes. He figured he would just starve himself by not eating breakfast and lunch, and then have a little more for dinner.
“That, of course, is the worst thing to do,” he says. “You can maybe take off a few pounds that way, but it just comes right back because you have no discipline.”
A Swell Weight Loss Program
Mathers had a friend whose wife always had a weight problem. He noticed that she had lost a lot of weight and was keeping it off. Mathers asked what her method was, and the lady mentioned that she was in the Jenny Craig weight loss program. On May 8, 1997, Mathers went to his first meeting.
“I needed a regimented weight loss program, and they had a special diet for people with diabetes,” says Mathers. “They also had a plan I could follow and a person I could speak with. Instead of weighing myself every day and getting discouraged, I go in once a week, and they figure out what I am doing right or wrong.”
Mather’s diet includes granola, skim milk and grapefruit for breakfast. He usually eats a salad for lunch, and for dinner, he eats Jenny Craig meals that he can pop in the microwave and eat three minutes later.
“I also snack on carrots and raw broccoli during the day. Jenny Craig even has a special cheesecake and popcorn,” says Mathers, who mentions that the weight loss program also has a special hardbound cookbook for people with diabetes. “My big problem was never that I ate too much, it was portion control. I never understood what a portion should be for my weight and activity level.”
Mathers maintains his weight loss and blood sugar control by exercising every day. He does a half-hour jog every morning, followed by a 15-minute walking session. He does not run when he is traveling, but he always makes sure to walk around the town he is visiting.
“It’s gotten to the point where I don’t feel right if I don’t exercise.”
Gosh Mrs. Cleaver, Theodore is Controlling His Diabetes Quite Well
Mathers has gone from 230 pounds to 180 pounds, and his waist size has gone from a 44 to a 32. Within four months of enrolling in the Jenny Craig program, Mather’s blood sugars were stable at 120 mg/dl, and he has been taken off all oral type 2 medications.
“I don’t have to test before every meal anymore,” says Mathers, who still tests ever other day and sees his physician once a month.
Mathers recently appeared as a guest actor on several television shows, and last year, Putnam Publishing released his autobiography, “And Jerry Mathers as The Beaver.” He is also collaborating with his former “Leave it To Beaver” co-stars Tony (Wally) Dow and Ken (Eddie Haskell) Osmond to develop a new television series. Mathers hopes that his celebrity status will help other type 2s with weight problems take action to control their diabetes.
“People tend to think that if you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and you don’t take the weight off in the first month, then you never will. People then tend to give up and rely on their oral medications,” he says. “Since it took awhile to put on the weight, it’s going to take some time to lose it. Then, it’s going to be even harder to keep it off. You just have to gear yourself up and pace yourself for the long haul.”