Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of personal essays that explore what it’s like to live with various conditions and diseases.

I’ve been performing for more than 30 years, with much of that time spent on the road and in record studios. This led to bad eating habits like food on the go and not much of time for exercise.

In recent years, I was gaining more weight, which affected my health and performances. I was sluggish, often out of breath, and lethargic onstage. While on tour four years ago, I decided to visit the doctor for dehydration. This would eventually result in a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. It was a life-changing moment for me, and the first step toward a smarter lifestyle.

What most people don’t know about diabetes is that it doesn’t just affect people with weight problems. Artist Shepard Fairey is a slim guy, but inherited the disease when he was younger. So diabetics come in all shapes and sizes, which makes this a disease that can affect anyone. For people like myself, however, a better diet and consistent exercise routine are great preventative measures.

It’s important for me to self-motivate and make sure I am regularly monitoring blood sugar levels while on tour. With my platform as a rapper, DJ, and TV personality, I also try to educate others about diabetes and spread awareness for those dealing with the disease.

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The disease affects millions of people on a daily basis. Here are a few tips that might help other diabetics, whether they are new to the disease or have been dealing with it for awhile:

Instead of drinking (diet sodas) with artificial sweeteners, drink an all-natural alternative such as Zevia. My favorite flavor is Black Cherry, and I’ve been drinking it for years since it uses stevia as a sweetener instead of aspartame. [Editor’s note: Biz is a brand ambassador for Zevia.]

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Go for a walk, get on the treadmill, or play with your kids. Any exercise is important to make sure you’re staying fit and keeping a positive mindset.

Try cooking new foods and learning new recipes. It’s always fun to learn something new, particularity if it’s good for your health.

Find diabetics in your area to share advice and stories with. This is always good therapy to find like-minded people who can especially help during early days of having the disease.

For parents and others around young people, make sure you teach them good lessons about healthy eating and exercise. Much of the time, younger people are more at risk for diabetes if they consume too much sugary foods and drinks.

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I’ve lost 140 pounds and been able to maintain a better diet with smarter beverage/food alternatives, and a more balanced diet. It also helps that better food options are available at supermarkets and restaurants since I’m still touring a good part of the year. My role on Yo Gabba Gabba also allows me to interact with kids about better food and beverage choices, which hopefully has a good impact on them down the road.

While shocking at first, the diabetes diagnosis was a blessing in disguise that forced me to change some bad habits. Nowadays, I can perform with more energy and feel much better, inside and out.

Biz Markie has been making hip-hop history for more than 25 years. He is known worldwide from New York City to Japan for such catchy songs as 'Just a Friend,' 'The Vapors' and 'Make the Music (with your mouth)'. Recently he’s been featured in a regular segment, Biz's Beat of the Day, on the “Yo Gabba Gabba” television series, in which he teaches children to beatbox.