Comedian Sherri Shepherd, co-host of The View, says type 2 diabetes could have killed her, but instead it saved her life.
“If I didn’t have diabetes, I would probably be at the International House of Pancakes eating a stack of pancakes with butter and syrup,” says Shepherd, 46. “I would probably be 250 pounds. I would not be going to the doctor. I probably wouldn’t be married to my husband, Lamar Sally. I wouldn’t be healthy for my son, Jeffrey.”
At 5-foot-1, she now weighs 157 pounds, down from 197 pounds several years ago. Once she was taking three medications for diabetes, but now that she’s eating healthier, exercising regularly and keeping her blood sugar in the right range, the doctor has taken her off all medications for the disease.
Shepherd details her struggles with diabetes and the changes she made in her life in her new book, Plan D: How to Lose Weight and Beat Diabetes (Even If You Don’t Have It), written with Billie Fitzpatrick.
Almost 26 million U.S. adults and children have diabetes, in which the body does not make enough of the hormone insulin, or doesn’t use it properly. Insulin helps glucose (sugar) get into cells, where it is used for energy. If there’s an insulin problem, sugar builds up in the blood, damaging nerves and blood vessels. There are two major forms: type 1 and type 2. In adults, type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include thirst, hunger, tiredness, blurry vision, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, healing problems and frequent urination. The disease may lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, foot and leg amputations and blindness.
Shepherd has a family history of type 2 diabetes — both of her sisters have it and her mother died at age 41 from complications of the disease.
Shepherd says she was in denial after she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. “That said to me I’m not diabetic so I can eat the way I want” including barbecue, mac and cheese, pasta, pancakes and waffles, she says.
But then in 2007, she was formally diagnosed. At the time, she says, she had no energy, had numbness in her feet, had blurred vision, was thirsty all the time and had to go to the bathroom frequently. Her blood sugar was way too high.
She says her doctor was blunt. “She said, ‘Sherri, you love wearing those shoes, don’t you?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do’. She said, ‘You won’t be wearing them with your foot cut off, because if you keep eating the way you are eating, that’s where you’re headed.’ “
But even after she was diagnosed with what she calls “the big D,” Shepherd went out and had a stack of pancakes and enough “pesto pasta to feed a family of four people. I can down some food. I love food. Girl, it was complete denial. I figured if I didn’t talk about it, it was going to go away.”
The doctor put Shepherd on medication. “I was scared,” she says. Then she realized that she had to turn her life around or she might not live to raise her son. “I was going through a nasty divorce at the time, and I thought, I’ll be damned if my husband’s girlfriend is going to raise my son.” A friend, the Oscar-winning actress and comedian Mo’Nique, said to her, “We keep saying we would die for the people we love. Are you willing to live for the people you love?”
She says she remade her eating and exercise habits and changed her relationship with food. “I learned how to eat. I learned how to get rid of the white foods — the pasta, pancakes, cereal, anything loaded with sugar.” She began to enjoy grilled fish and chicken, instead of fried. She started reading food labels. She started eating more vegetables — those “green, yellow and red lovelies” that make your body happy.
“I never liked vegetables before. Now I’m a kale freak because one day we got kale and my husband sauteed it with green peppers, olive oil and garlic.” Her husband does most of the cooking, she says: “He’s my personal chef, but I gotta sleep with him.”
Shepherd exercises regularly, going to a boot-camp workout classes (intense cardio and weight training) three days a week and then to the gym a couple of times a week, often working out on the elliptical.
“I do have a trainer who teaches me stuff that I can do on my own at home. And when I have the time, I will go work out with her to have someone hold me accountable, but for the most part I do it on my own.”
She also works exercise into her everyday life. “I have learned to turn my house into a gym. I do lunges when going to the laundry with my basket. When cooking, I do push-ups against the kitchen counter. I do toilet squats. My behind has not touched a toilet seat in years. I am an Olympic squatter.”
She says she runs races with her son and even climbs the monkey bars with him. She loves dancing and does the salsa at home with her husband or son. “I feel really healthy,” she says. “I have so much energy. I want to live and I’m going to beat this thing. I feel so blessed.”
Risk factors for diabetes:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with the following risk factors are more likely to develop prediabetes and type 2 diabetes:
• 45 years of age or older.
• Have a parent with diabetes.
• Have a sister or brother with diabetes.
• Family background is African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander.
• Developed diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes), or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more.
• Physically active less than three times a week.
article by Nanci Hellmich via usatoday.com