Fear can be a powerful motivator, at least at first. Actor and comedian Anthony Anderson understands that sticking to an exercise regimen and improving eating habits takes more than a disquieting conversation with a physician to sustain motivation.
I'm married to a family physician, and she laments how many patients ignore the "if you don't change you're going to die" warning. But Anthony changed, and it's because he learned that feeling a sense of duty to his family and becoming passionate about healthful living are the secrets to ditching years of bad habits, losing weight, decreasing his risk of heart attack and getting his Type 2 diabetes under control.
Were you active growing up?
I played every sport except lacrosse and hockey. I loved football and basketball but also played baseball and did a bunch of track and field.
I was always a husky kid, slightly overweight, but that didn't stop me from being active. It was pretty impressive for a guy of my size to be 200-plus pounds and 5 foot 10 and be able to dunk a basketball. I've always been able to wear the weight well.
Tell me about the path that led to your health issues and being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
The extra weight started when I was in college and I was living on my own. I was still active playing basketball but not as much as I was in high school. I was cooking and eating when I wanted, and there was alcohol too. I mean, it was college.
I was working and burning the candle at both ends when I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 11 years ago. The symptoms I had I attributed to being overworked, doing two movies at once and developing a television show and doing press and moving my family to a new home. I just thought I was working too hard. Being lethargic hit me first. The second wave was unquenchable thirst. The third wave was constant urination. I wasn't putting any of this together at the time. One night I drank 5 gallons of water in an hour and a half, and that's when I knew I had to go to the doctor.
How did things go with the doctor?
I hit the trifecta: Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I was put on three different medications, but they stressed the importance of exercise. They told me it could be reversed and the drug dosages could be dramatically dropped, but I had to make sacrifices and put in the work.
I didn't make as drastic changes as I needed to. I thought I was doing well; I lost a few pounds. One day I just decided that I could be doing better, and I say that because my father was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic and he never went to the hospital. By the time they diagnosed him, his quality of life was really bad. So I watched my dad slowly die from this disease, and I vowed never to let that happen to my wife and children, and it jump-started me into becoming healthier. And then my mother was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and I wanted to be an example for her.
Tell me about the changes you made.
Al Roker is a friend of mine, and he turned me onto his nutritionist. She got me into eating healthier and cleaner, and that kick-started exercise. I bought a bike and would ride it everywhere. I would do this big loop around Manhattan. I came home to Los Angeles in the spring and had a treadmill and would run three miles a day. I lost so much weight that when I came back to "Law & Order," production had to buy a new wardrobe for me. Back in L.A., I joined a gym, got a trainer and worked out three times a week lifting weights, and I kept up the treadmill as well. I weigh 222 now, that's 46 pounds of weight loss, and my blood sugars are getting better and some of my medications have been reduced.
What has been your secret for sticking to it?
I enjoy it now. I post pictures on Twitter and Facebook when I'm all sweaty after running. I started an exercise club online with some Facebook friends, called Weight No More, for people who are struggling with their weight, to be an inspiration to them to talk about the problems and cravings that they're having.
My wife's become an avid gym rat, and she inspires me. My children are fit too and also help me keep going.