Backtalk with Randy Jackson

American Idol judge, executive producer for MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, and Grammy Award-winning musician Randy Jackson has recorded, produced, and toured with many well-known artists–including R&B diva and AI‘s newest judge Mariah Carey–during his 30-plus-year career. Now he is embarking on a different kind of venture. Jackson is touring the country with global healthcare leader Merck & Co. for the Taking Diabetes to Heart program ( Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2003, Jackson, now 56, will discuss how he manages his condition to help others understand the serious complications. Here, Jackson opens up about using his personal experience to “set the stage” for people to commit to a diabetes-friendly lifestyle.

How did you get involved with Taking Diabetes to Heart?
When I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003 and I went online there was not a lot of information. You could go to doctors–an endocrinologist, internist, or specialist–to find out stuff. I wanted to do an education outreach program and so did Merck. So we teamed up together. This program is about trying to help people better manage Type 2 diabetes. It is a detrimental disease, because people with Type 2 diabetes are two to four times more at risk of developing a stroke, heart disease, or other complications that could lead to death.

What changes have you made to your lifestyle?
I grew up in that lovable dirty, dirty, dirty South: Baton Rouge, Louisiana. So, eating food down there is the king and queen of it all. Everything has a ton of butter. The vegetables have sugar on them. It needs to taste good; you are supposed to worry about the calories and what it does to your body later. I had to get rid of all of that in my life. I was unhealthy. I had a sedentary lifestyle. I weighed 350 pounds. I worked with my doctors to come up with a treatment plan. I changed my diet. I exercised. I started simple–walking 15 to 20 minutes a day.

What is the biggest challenge in managing diabetes?
It doesn’t take a long time to create unhealthy habits, but it takes years sometimes to break them. Every January people sign up for the gym, but by March they don’t go anymore. When you have a busy lifestyle or you have job or family stress, it is easy to let things go. You always think that it is going to happen to someone else. My dad had diabetes. There are 26 million people living with diabetes in the U.S., and 90% are Type 2. It hits our community, African Americans, the hardest, along with the Latino community.

Besides diabetes–and music–what else are you passionate about?
I am a creative business guy. The Randy Jackson Eyewear collection is available in Pearle Vision, Sears, Walmart, and [boutique] stores across the country. That is something dear to me. I also have a line of watches on HSN. I am an entrepreneur at heart.