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How Randy Jackson Manages His Diabetes After Losing 120 Pounds


About 18 years ago, Randy Jackson was sitting in a dental chair getting work done on a tooth when the dentist told him that he should go see a doctor. The TV star’s gums were a major concern for the dentist — they raised a warning sign that Jackson’s blood sugar was getting too high. A month later, the American Idol judge found out that his dentist was right. He also learned that he had type 2 diabetes

“I wound up in the ER on a Saturday,” Jackson, now 62 years old, told “My blood sugar level was over 500.” (70 to 99 is typically considered normal after eight hours of not eating.)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with diabetes are two times more likely to develop gum disease than folks without the chronic illness. So it’s no wonder why Jackson’s dentist pleaded with him to get his gums checked out by another professional. Jackson admitted that he didn’t visit the doctor as soon as he should’ve, despite his dentist’s warning. He explained that perhaps like other people in denial, he simply didn’t want to hear the truth. 

“It was kind of crazy for me because it ran in my family, but you always think someone else is going to get it, never you,” Jackson said. “I got it.”

randy jackson before weight loss

Randy Jackson in 2002. (Photo Credit: Getty Images

After his life-changing diagnosis, Jackson couldn’t deny the problem any longer. So after his health scare, he decided it was time for him to make a lot of major lifestyle changes to get healthy. A big step forward? Losing a “ton” of weight, which he did successfully.

His total weight loss, which included a gastric bypass surgery back in 2003, amounted to about 120 pounds. But long after the medical procedure, it was up to Jackson to maintain his weight loss with assistance from his doctors. So Jackson decided to pick up an exercise he actually enjoyed — tennis. It allowed him to move around and be active without feeling like he was at the gym.

“Hate is a strong word, but I hate gyms,” he said. “I don’t want anybody looking at me, walking out, saying, ‘Can we talk? Can I talk to you?’ Oh, no, no, no, no.”

Since there’s still no medical cure for diabetes, Jackson also needs to manage the disease daily with his food intake. Over the years, he’s tried a wide variety of healthy diets, including a vegan eating plan, a vegetarian diet, and even his own form of ketosis back in the day. These days, he favors mostly plant-based meals, including veggies, legumes, and a little brown rice. 

These simple foods are a far cry from the elaborate, unhealthy meals Jackson used to eat. But his healthy swaps aren’t limited to what he actually puts on his plate. He also thinks deeply about what he’s eating and drinking. At the same time, he also considers his stress level and workload amount before digging in. 

Considering how well this shift in thinking has worked for him, Jackson encourages other people with diabetes to change not only their diets, but also their mindsets about altering their lifestyles in the first place. It may sound intimidating at first, but that doesn’t mean that anyone should have to go on a journey like this one all alone.

“I recommend therapy for everyone,” Jackson said. “Behavior modification is the therapy that helps people stop smoking, lose weight… Think about any big lifestyle change you just have to do, because you have to change the way you look at it. Because if you look at it the same way you always did, you’re always going to see it that way.”

Jackson also recommends that everyone visit to learn more about the importance of oral health, and how to keep the mouth — and the whole body — healthy. While continuing to raise awareness of diabetes during November (National Diabetes Month), Jackson has partnered with Colgate Total, which is the only FDA-approved toothpaste to reverse and prevent gingivitis.

As always, educating and informing yourself can make a huge difference. But for the folks who have been diagnosed with diabetes recently and are feeling scared, Jackson says they should stay close to their doctors and listen to what they say. He was surprised by how much better he felt when he did.

“I wish I would’ve listened to my doctor before,” he said. “I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble.”

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