Randy Jackson has literally transformed American pop culture over the last two decades, having paved the way for game shows and reality competitions to grace our televisions today. In turn, both American Idol and America’s Best Dance Crew fans have had the chance to watch his own journey to becoming an entertainment icon unfold — and, in the process, a glimpse at his own personal health revolution, too.
In 2002, in the midst of his second life-changing season as a judge on American Idol, the former musician and producer was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. At the time, he told the press he weighed upwards of 350 pounds and had spent most of his life eating his way through poor habits. He surprised audiences in 2003 after undergoing gastric bypass surgery, a procedure that minimizes your stomach and streamlines your digestive tract, and later showed off serious weight loss while appearing on American Idol. But the surgery was just an initial step towards Randy’s better health.
In a recent appearance on the Today show, the upcoming Name That Tune judge told anchors Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush-Hager that his health is still a work in progress. “I started on this health regimen many years ago while I was on American Idol… Lost a ton of weight, started gaining it back,” he explained, discussing his 100-pound-plus weight loss in the years after his surgery. “Then, [I] went on my own journey to try and discover, ‘How do I keep it off? What do I do?'”This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
The answer hasn’t always been clear for Randy, as he’s freely spoken about the challenges and obstacles he’s faced since 2003 — sometimes with managing his weight, other times with living with diabetes. He’s undoubtedly come a long way since that fateful diagnosis, though, telling Hoda and Jenna that his new outlook on health has been “a long time running, a long time coming.”
Below, we’re exploring how Randy has worked at revolutionizing his own outlook on health, plus how he’s managed his incredible weight loss, in his own words.
On his type 2 diabetes diagnosis:
The music industry titan has always credited his experience with the disease as the motivation for the necessary shift in his health. He opened up about his initial diagnosis in a self-help health guide he wrote in 2008, called Body With Soul — something that he referred to as “both a blessing and a curse.”
“It’s a curse to be saddled with a disease that’s life-threatening and that you can’t completely get rid of, though you can certainly manage it,” Randy wrote in the book. “But it’s a blessing to get that huge wake-up call. After that day in the ER, when my doctor burst the bubble I’d been living in, I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. Right then and there, I began my journey toward better health.”
After being diagnosed, Randy turned to doctors to learn everything he could about the disease, including potential side effects like heart disease, blindness or even nerve damage (and possible amputation) if left unchecked. “I realized a lot of things that can happen if you don’t manage it, which is why I encourage everyone to do so,” Randy told Health magazine in 2012.
On why fad diets don’t work on their own:
In writing his Body With Soul, Randy explained how he eventually landed in a space where he could break years of bad dietary habits — and it had a lot to do with his wake up call. “Diets, liquid fasts, weight-loss medications, you name it, and none of them ever worked for long. But when I wound up in the hospital, I had to face up to why all those methods failed,” he shared.
Randy later told WebMD that he also tried things like liquid fasts and may have even considered apitherapy, a controversial therapy involving bee stings, before he realized why short term solutions didn’t work out for him. “The problem is that those diets don’t work for people who have the disease of obesity,” he said in 2008.This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
For Randy, the complications surrounding type 2 diabetes and its potential side effects rattled his core, and helped him realize that his determination needed to change. “Not to be overly dramatic, but it had really come down to a matter of life and death… I had to figure out what would work for me, and ultimately I did.”
On keeping the weight off:
In the 19 years since he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Randy has told the press he’s managed to lose (and keep off!) 114 pounds in his new routine, People reports. But it wasn’t an immediate, easy change for Randy — he says that he struggled to adapt better dietary habits after undergoing gastric bypass surgery, and he actually gained some weight back after his procedure.
Restructuring his diet required a lot of effort on his behalf, as Randy told WebMD in 2008 that his life in television and music meant that it wasn’t always easy to eat healthily. “After the show, everybody hangs out and eats and drinks,” he explained. “There are all kinds of sandwiches plus chips, cheeses, cookies, cakes, candy, beer, wine.” Randy worked to completely change the foods he ate on a regular basis after his initial weight gain.
“You have to almost have a complete divorce break up … and start back bit by bit and find out the things that work with your body and you also find out the allergies and really pay attention to how you feel,” he told People in 2020.This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
On his favorite recipe makeovers:
As a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Randy had grown up on recipes that were decadent in nature — “I grew up in Louisiana, so my diet was rich southern fried foods,” he told Health — and his favorites included gumbo, sausage and grits, and plenty of jambalayas. He later shared in a WebMD profile that he didn’t give up all of these favorite meals entirely, but reinvented them with healthier swaps and substitutes. “It’s all about being aware of who you are, knowing your body, and accepting that,” he said.
On how he maintains moderation:
“Never say ‘I will never have another piece of chocolate’ because it won’t happen. And as soon as you say never, there is a binge coming,” Randy told WebMD, adding that he supercharged his own sweet tooth by balancing occasional chocolate with frozen yogurt. It seems that moderation is at the heart of Randy’s long-term commitment to health: He’ll allow himself to have, say, a full serving of one kind of potatoes at a holiday meal, but not two or more carb-heavy sides. This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
On beginning a fitness routine:
Before being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Randy shared with Health that he only exercised about 30 minutes each week (about two hours short of the minimum recommended amount of exercise). While exercise is necessary to help keep his weight and diabetes in check, Randy didn’t immediately throw himself into an intense gym routine — in fact, he began revolutionizing his fitness routine by simply walking every single day (even for just 10 minutes!). “I needed to start with something I could do that was simple,” he said.
Eventually, Randy made it over to the gym for a more focused workout. He usually starts his routine by hopping on a treadmill, which he keeps right next to his bed. “It’s right there staring at me, going, ‘Come here.’ You know you need this,” he shared with WebMD.
After 35 to 45 minutes of walking or light jogging, Randy also turns to yoga, which has benefits all its own. “I have become accustomed to yoga, and I love the stretching and how it makes my body feel better and looser.”