Five Questions: Randy Jackson on Type 2 diabetes

Randy Jackson is known for providing measured critiques to aspiring singers on Fox’s “American Idol,” but in his private life, he’s had to analyze something entirely different: After a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes nine years ago, the music industry veteran needed to reevaluate his diet and lifestyle.

Jackson went from piling his plates high with fried food and counting riding in a golf cart as exercise to eating veggies with every meal and working out every day. He talked to us about how his diagnosis changed his life and how he hopes to help others.

What made you decide to go public with your story?

There wasn’t a lot of information readily available when I was diagnosed — I didn’t know I had diabetes, I thought I had a cold or flu or something.

Like me, there are a lot of people walking around that don’t know they have it, so I want to get the awareness out — especially since diet and exercise are such big contributors to Type 2 diabetes. The website for a program I’ve partnered with, Taking Diabetes to Heart,, is chock full of information.

What have you changed about your lifestyle since your diagnosis?

Everything! I was eating like I was still in the South, like a crazy wild man, and I wasn’t working out. I was playing a lot of golf and I thought that was a workout, but if you’re using the cart, with the hot dogs and the beer, it’s not.

So I looked at my whole diet and the things I was doing in excess, and bread was a huge culprit — bread and rice. I’d take both at a time, because in the South, everything has rice with it. So eventually I had to really try to get just one of those at a time.

I also learned along the way to make small incremental changes as opposed to big sweeping changes. For instance, I learned to love spaghetti squash. I’m eating more broccoli and cauliflower that I never thought I would.

I’m exercising too — I do yoga, Pilates, I have a gym at my house, and I play tennis.

People have a really hard time making lifestyle changes for diabetes. What motivated you?

Being in the emergency room when I got my diagnosis and the doctor saying, “There’s no cure, but you can live a healthy, full life if you manage it and control it and contain it.” That kind of stops you in your tracks.

Tell me the No. 1 tip you would give to a person struggling with a new diabetes diagnosis.

I wrote a book some years ago, and in it I talked to a behavioral psychologist, because when you talk about diet, you need to change your habits. It’s hard for people to change habits — it takes months to make them but years to break them.

So I would suggest people go to a psychologist, or sit down with somebody and talk about what happens before you dive into that bucket of ice cream, or you have that cake, or you’re drinking eight glasses of wine. Diet is tied to emotion as well.

The music industry isn’t necessarily known for its commitment to health. How do you stay on track when there’s temptation around?

I’m not surrounded by that much temptation anymore. You know — on the “Idol” set everybody’s on some fresh juice fast all the time.

But it’s a change of mind and a change of heart — I had to change the way that I look at food. I have to say, “Wait a minute, I can’t be eating the cake and the muffins and the pies and hope that I don’t get sick.” That’s not an option for me.