Twelve years after it began as a summer placeholder designed to keep Fox TV viewers hanging around until the fall season, “American Idol” has become one of this young century’s most renowned cultural phenomena. From the show’s modest beginning, record producer and musician Randy Jackson has been at its heart, the memorable judge who has popularized such greetings as “Dawg!” and such praises as “I believe she’s in it to win it!”
Jackson is the institutional glue that has held the show together as various judges, including “Idol” creator Simon Cowell, have come and gone. But beyond “Idol,” Randy Jackson has been an inspiration and force for immense good among people with type 2 diabetes-ever since his made his own diabetes public early in the show’s run.
Even though “American Idol” is in the middle of its latest season (it runs through May) Randy was kind enough to take some time and talk with me;
Nadia: When were you diagnosed with diabetes?
Randy: About 10 years ago.
Nadia: How did you feel about the diagnosis?
Randy: I was shocked because I thought I had a cold, or flu. I didn’t think anything serious was going on with my body. My dad had diabetes and it kind of ran in the family, but I never thought it was going to happen to me at all. It always happens to somebody else, right?
It was kind of the shock of my life. But, you know, for years my doctor had been telling me, “Diet, exercise, you gotta lose weight, you ought to do this.” I never adhered to that and, you know, here I am with an incurable disease. It’s like the biggest wake-up call you’ve ever had.
Nadia: Your father had diabetes. Did this influence you in any way?
Randy: I didn’t take heed to try and prevent it. That’s why I’m now working with Merck on an awareness campaign.
Nadia: What were your eating habits before your diagnosis and what are they now?
Randy: I grew up in the South, where we use lard for fried foods and veggies. But I can’t eat like that anymore. So, that was a huge change. If I look back on 10 years, everything’s changed.
Nadia: What motivated you to change? A lot of people get diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and don’t really change their habits.
Randy: I think for me I believe you have a choice. Do you want to feel good or do you want to feel bad? People with type 2 diabetes are at three or four times higher risk of developing heart disease or stroke. You have a choice on how you are going to take care of this. There’s no way out of it.
Nadia: Once you were diagnosed how did you decide how to manage your diabetes?
Randy: I got together with my doctor and came up with a treatment plan that really worked with diet and exercise. He also stressed that I should know my ABC’s: A was A1c for blood sugar; B was for blood pressure; and C was for cholesterol numbers.
Nadia: How long did it take for you to go through this process in terms of adopting and changing your habits?
Randy: On and off, a year to really settle in and find the right thing that was going to work and that I could adhere to. Also it’s about finding what’s going to work for you. Because there’s not one size that fits all in any of this.
Nadia: What advice would you give to type 2’s who are newly diagnosed?
Randy: Get with your doctor, your healthcare provider, and come up with a treatment plan that’s going to be perfect for you that you can really live with. The diet, the exercise, the whole thing. Also, really begin to become friends with your numbers and check your blood sugar regularly-knowing where those ABC’s are at.
I love the website that Merck and I we’re doing, www.takingdiabetestoheart.com. You’ll see a lot of helpful tips, insights, ideas, and recipes. Things like “How do I do this? How do I better manage this? How do I control that? What should my numbers really be?”
Ten years ago there weren’t a lot of ways that I knew of where you could go ask about diabetes or find out more about the disease if you had never had it.
Nadia: On the site you have tips for taking your diabetes to heart, including “Hit Your Notes,” “Tune Up Your Diet,” “Drop a Few Pounds.” Can you tell us more about them?
Randy: The purpose of my tips is to get people to take it a little bit at a time as opposed to trying to do too much at once. For example, January comes around after the holidays and everyone joins some gym or another. By the time March comes, they’ve never gone to the gym more than once or twice.
So it’s really taking baby steps and trying to make steps be fun. Using music, saying, “Hey, why don’t you just move?” Forget exercise, why don’t you just move? Just walk. Walk the mall four or five times a day.
Nadia: How did you come up with these tips? Are they things you do?
Randy: Yes, these are things that I’ve done to help myself along the way. Food can become a little bit boring, but you’ve got to expand your horizons. People say, “I hate eating broccoli. I’m tired of eating the cauliflower.” Well, there’s a ton of other veggies. But you have to expand your horizons and evolve in a different way. We know the foods that are bad for us. Let’s try to avoid them.
Nadia: How long did it take to develop these different tips?
Randy: It’s been going on since I was diagnosed 10 years ago. I mean you’re always learning new ways.
Nadia: Walk us through a day: You get up in the morning, what do you eat? Do you exercise one day and not another?
Randy: Almost every day it’s yogurt and blueberries for breakfast. Every day between 8 and 9 in the morning I work out, either playing tennis or getting on the treadmill. Or I go to the gym in my house or do yoga.
Nadia: How long do you usually exercise?
Randy: An hour. Tennis usually is about two hours. That starts my day. After that I usually have meetings. When it’s time for lunch, every day I’ll have some sort of salad with protein. Also, sometimes, a piece of fruit, a protein bar, or a shake.
Nadia: Do you try to low carb it ?
Randy: Low carb and low sugar.
Nadia: Thank you, Randy, for taking time out and sharing with our readers what helps you stay successful in managing your diabetes.