How airline food helps Randy Jackson fight his Type-2 diabetes diagnosis


Randy Jackson says he shouldn’t have been surprised when he was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes years ago. All the signs were there: His body often felt hot; he was lethargic; he couldn’t quite quench his thirst.

“I didn’t listen to any of the pre-diabetes signs,” he said. “You’d think that with all the knowledge out there you would heed those warnings. It runs in my family and I should have been more careful.”

Instead, Jackson’s first inkling that something was awry came from a visit to his dentist, who told Jackson that, based on the health of his gums, he might have high blood sugar. A month later, Jackson ended up in a hospital emergency room, and was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes.


That was 18 years ago. Shortly afterward, the music producer and then-“American Idol” judge began working with a behavior modification therapist to help him understand why he ate the way he did. He underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost 120 pounds. He has kept the diabetes in check with a mix of medication, healthful eating and regular exercise. Nor has Jackson forgotten that visit to his dentist; he’s partnered with Colgate Total and the American Diabetes Assn. on a campaign to spotlight the connection between gum disease and diabetes, a condition which is diagnosed on average once every 21 seconds in the U.S.

Here, he shares his six tips for keeping off the weight and staying healthy — and why he models his meals after airline food.

1. You don’t have to hit the gym

I don’t go to the gym. I hate the idea of a trainer barking at me. Let me do my own thing. I love tennis. I started walking more every day. I like yoga and Pilates. Pilates is the best exercise ever invented because it strengthens your whole core.

2. Embrace drastic changes

My diet before diabetes was horrific. It was basically anything I wanted. If someone threw a doughnut party I’d have 14 doughnuts. Landing in the ER was a huge rude awakening but it had a silver lining because it forced me to get my life together. You have a choice — do you want to feel good or do you want to feel bad?


3. Do a deep dive into “why?”

Behavior modification therapy really helped me. I’m one of those addictive personalities that has to completely change the way I look at something to have it sit well in my life. I began to look at food as the nourishment I needed, not as a party.

4. Learn from airplane food

I’ve been vegan and vegetarian and tried all sorts of diets. To me, the airplane meal is the perfect meal because of the portion. You have a piece of meat the size of your palm. Everything is portioned out, and it’s a little bit of everything. You shouldn’t be eating more than that.

5. Aim for balanced meals

For breakfast, I try to get in some protein — maybe eggs with bacon. Lunch is salad and fish. I snack throughout the day on Vega protein bars and crisps, which are all plant-based.


6. Before you eat, stop and think

Ask yourself, “Why am I eating this bucket of ice cream?” We eat our feelings. We eat because we are anxious or disappointed or emotional. I had to learn to deal with feelings without using food.