Actor/comedian Anthony Anderson is perhaps best known for his work in the hilarious film 'Me, Myself & Irene,' where he played the role of Jim Carrey's son. Since then, Anderson's appeared in over 20 films, and starred in numerous TV shows, including 'Law & Order.'
Outside of acting accomplishments Anderson has achieved immense personal success in managing his type 2 diabetes. After his diagnosis seven years ago, Anderson took control of the disease by making major lifestyle changes.
This year, Anderson joined forces with the Lilly USA, LLC Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered (F.A.C.E.) Diabetes initiative. The goal of F.A.C.E. Diabetes is to foster behavioral, attitudinal and lifestyle changes in areas critical to success while living with diabetes, particularly as it relates to nutrition/cooking, physical activity, health and overall well-being.
The happily married father of two recently talked to Healthline about his diagnosis, his commitment to F.A.C.E, managing his condition and working with Jim Carrey.
We've spoken to a lot of people with type 2 diabetes, and many of them said that after they were diagnosed their first reaction was that of fear. Was that true for you?
It wasn't really so much that I was scared; I was more surprised by the diagnosis. There was no fear because I was born a conqueror and I knew that I wanted to live.
Then after I talked to my doctor and a nutritionist about type 2 diabetes, I sat back and I thought, "Ok, this is my own fault." And I sat there thinking back on all those years of living where I wasn't taking care of myself, and I blamed myself. This is all about lifestyle and the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle. So I thought about how I had myself to blame for this on many different levels. For one thing, I blame myself for not being educated on what being a glutton could do to your body in the long run. So I was mostly upset about that, you know? Upset that I never took the time to learn about consequences and be informed and seek out the knowledge about this condition.
Type 2 diabetes seems to be one of those conditions that very few people know a lot about. I think people think it's something that happens when we get older.
You're absolutely correct, and the African American community really needs to be educated on this, because it affects them greatly. I wanted be part of an organization that would help raise awareness to African Americans about this disease. Then I heard about the F.A.C.E campaign and boom – a light went on in my head because that's what I knew I wanted to do. I wanted to help educate the African American community; I want them to be aware that type 2 diabetes is not only an old persons' disease – which by the way, that's what I always thought it was. I used to think it was something people got in their twilight years.
What are the statistics for type 2 diabetes in general, and also in terms of the African American community?
Get this. By the year 2030, one out of every 10 people will be affected [this doesn't make sense... is this the word he used? I think he probably said afflicted] with diabetes. If you do the numbers, that's 500 million people that will be diagnosed with this disease on this planet.
Now, to give you some more numbers, every African American born today has a 50 percent chance of being diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. The numbers are staggering across the board, but when it comes to the African American community, the numbers are just off the charts. People need to become aware of this now because it all gets down to lifestyle.
You made news when you lost a lot of weight after making changes to your diet after your diagnosis, but the changes were gradual. How long was your transition time?
I made slight changes right after I was diagnosed, not big ones. I'd continue to think, 'Well, I can snack on this and what's the big deal if I eat that?' That was my mentality after I was diagnosed.
But after a while I realized my numbers weren't getting any better. They weren't getting any worse but they also weren't getting any better. And then when they did start to get worse, I was like, 'Whoa! I need to get control of this before it gets control of me.' Then it hit me; the light bulb finally went off in my head. I mean, I was still 265 pounds, I'd been diagnosed for a few years already and I thought, 'What am I doing?' That's when I realized I needed to start doing something, because I wanted to be around for my children, and for my children's children. I also knew that I wanted to have all 10 toes and all 10 fingers attached to my body, and I wanted to keep my legs! [Laughs].
Are there ever days where you wake up and think, 'Man, I'm just not in the mood to deal with my condition today?' and if so, how do you motivate yourself to get back on track?
I can honestly say that I've never had that thought and the reason why that's never happened is because I know one thing and that is this: You can live with this disease, or you can die from this disease. And I've chosen to live with this disease with the hope of conquering it. So I'm never going to let diabetes beat me.
All I have to do when I roll out of bed in the morning is just eat healthy and make the right choices. I know I cannot smother this food in gravy. I know that I cannot smother this food in syrup. I know that I cannot drink red Kool Aid. These are really simple choices, but if I don't make those choices wisely, I know I'm just going to get worse.
You spend a lot of time on film and TV sets. Is it difficult to manage your diabetes on set?
When I'm on set, that's when it's the easiest! Listen, it only takes 10 seconds to prick your finger and check your levels, so that's not a problem at all. In terms of food, I'll just go to the caterer and say, 'I'm a diabetic. So what's for lunch?' [Laughs]. All I have to do is tell the caterer what I need to eat, what time, and they prepare it for me. I mean, they're so cool about it, because I can be on set, someone yells, 'Cut' and next thing I know, someone's bringing a plate of vegetables to me!
It's when I'm home, or on the road or doing my personal things that my options are limited. Every four hours, I have to make sure I'm eating right. But listen, it's so doable; you just have to continue to make the right choices!
Wow, people are under the assumption that it's really hard to manage, but you're saying it's pretty easy – that's encouraging! What kind of advice would you give to someone who was just diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?
I'd tell them to do exactly what their doctor tells them to do and to do it right there in that instance. They shouldn't wait, they shouldn't put anything off, they need to listen to what the doctor says and do it immediately. I would tell them there's no time for a pity party and tell them not to wallow in it. Maybe most importantly, I'd tell them that whatever they do, they never, ever think, 'Ok, I'll do this tomorrow.' Because if they say they'll do it tomorrow, tomorrow will come and I can guarantee you that they'll want to put it off for another day, and trust me, no good will come from that.
If someone wants to be healthier and overcome diabetes, they should do exactly what their doctor says, and they will see a dramatic change right away. I'd also want them to know that there was a reason that they were diagnosed as diabetic. There was a pattern in their lives that led up to the diagnosis and it's time for them to break that pattern right away.
Let's end with Jim Carrey, who you worked with in 'Me, Myself & Irene.' You were just starting out at that point and he was huge. What was it like working with him?
When Jim and I filmed 'Me, Myself and Irene,' that was at the beginning of the peak of Jim Carrey. That was his first $20 million dollar movie, and I remember my first day on set, I just sat back and watched the man work and I was amazed at the specificity of how he worked. He does everything with a very precise and specific purpose and it was amazing to witness, and that was what makes his humor even more funny. To watch that man work – and with such ease – is remarkable.
And speaking of Jim, we may be working together again soon. There's a new film called, 'Burt Wonderstone,' and Jim and James Gandolfini play a sort of Penn and Teller type magician act in Las Vegas. I read the script, it's hilarious, and those two will be great in it. If I get the role, I'd also be playing a magician. Knock on wood that I get the call because I really want to work with Jim again!
Good luck with the role, and thanks, Anthony!