Why Sherri Shepherd says diabetes ‘changed my life for the better’

When Sherri Shepherd was diagnosed with diabetes in 2007, it wasn’t out of nowhere. “Prior to that, I was warned many, many times by doctors,” she tells Yahoo Life. “I was something called prediabetic. And prediabetes meant to me, ‘Can I still eat it? Okay, I'm not diabetic, right?’ So I could still eat, you know?”

Shepherd, who is the new co-host of Dish Nation on Fox, says she was regularly warned that her prediabetes could develop into diabetes but “that didn’t mean anything to me.” But, when she was finally diagnosed with diabetes, she says she had a “no nonsense” doctor who made it clear to her how serious her condition was.

I learned that I knew nothing about diabetes. Sherri Shepherd

“My doctor said, ‘You love wearing those stiletto heels?...Well, you won't be wearing them if you gotta get your foot cut off,’” Shepherd recalls. But Shepherd says the seriousness of her diagnosis still didn’t sink in. After her diagnosis, she says had a “full stack” of buttermilk pancakes. “And I had then went home and made a bowl of pesto pasta, which is my favorite,” she says. “I was sitting on the stairs nodding off because by that time my blood sugar had spiked so high. And I learned that I knew nothing about diabetes.”

Shepherd says that was a wake-up call. “In the African American community, we call [diabetes] ‘the sugar,’” she says. “So it’s nothing that seems deadly.” But Shepherd’s mom died of complications from diabetes, and the disease is common on her mother’s side of the family.

In the African American community, we call [diabetes] ‘the sugar.' So it’s nothing that seems deadly. Sherri Shepherd

So, she started learning more about the disease and changed her lifestyle. Diabetes is a disease where your blood sugar, aka glucose, is too high, explains the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Blood glucose is your body’s main source of energy. Insulin, which is a hormone made by your pancreas, helps glucose get from the food you eat into the cells in your body, where it can be used for energy. But, when your body doesn’t make enough insulin or any insulin, glucose stays in your blood and doesn’t make it to your cells. Over time, having uncontrolled diabetes and high blood sugar levels can lead to serious complications like heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, and foot problems, the NIDDK says.

Now, Shepherd focuses on eating well.

She lost 40 pounds the year she was diagnosed. Now, even though Shepherd is busy working on Dish Nation, acting, and doing “Two Funny Mamas,” her self-produced podcast with comedian Kym Whitley on Youtube, she strives to eat healthy at every meal. “Having diabetes, you have to plan a little bit,” she says. “I will make my breakfast at nighttime. I started making oatmeal banana muffins with a little bit of banana, cranberry, raisins, and blueberries. I don’t do processed sugar. The only sugar I get is from fruit.”

Having diabetes, you have to plan a little bit. Sherri Shepherd

For lunch and dinner, she focuses on having vegetables and protein. “I just started putting vegetables on a skewer and grilling them,” she says. “You drizzle those babies with some lemon juice and olive oil.” She’s also big into Brussels sprouts, which she says is a huge departure from how she used to eat. “This is not the girl back in 2007. I never ate vegetables unless it had a lot of cheese with it,” she says.

Dinner for her might include Brussels sprouts with garlic, roasted butternut squash with thyme, and chicken wings. Protein is important, she says, because then “your blood sugar doesn’t spike as high.”

Shepherd says she also educated the craft services crew when she started working on the set of her Netflix show, Mr. Iglesias, asking them to offer up more protein and vegetables.

While she eats well, Shepherd tries to keep her meals fun. “There are so many things that you can do. You just got to liven it up,” she says.

She also exercises regularly.

“Exercise is not an option,” Shepherd says. “I like to check my blood sugar after I work out hard to see the difference in my blood sugar levels. Once I saw that I was like, ‘OK, working out is good for me, it is really, really good for me.’”

Shepherd was so inspired by the change in her health that she wrote the book, Plan D: How to Lose Weight and Beat Diabetes (Even When You Don’t Have It). “I really wanted to write my book because I wanted to educate people,” she says. “So many people get scared so they don’t go into the doctor. Diabetes saved my life. It literally changed my live for the better.”

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