The month of November ignites thoughts of buffet spreads of comfort food, planning the perfect outfit for the living room, and preparing witty responses to your aunt’s questions.
However, November is also National Diabetes Awareness Month, which is recognized to offer resources and highlight the effects of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is characterized as the lack of insulin production, while type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90-95 percent of all diabetes cases, is caused by the body’s ineffective use of insulin.
Dr. Colin Washington, MD/MPH, likened diabetes to a marathon over a sprint.
“Once on this journey, it is important to remember that lifestyle changes do not need to occur overnight, but we must continue to focus on ever-improving behaviors,” said Washington, an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Emory University.
The National Diabetes Statistics Report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2020 states that 32.4 million Americans, including children, have diabetes. African American adults are 60 percent more likely than Caucasian adults to be diagnosed with diabetes.
According to the World Health Organization, diabetes is a significant cause of kidney failure, blindness, heart attacks, strokes, and limb amputation.
“We must look [within the community] to learn how to manage our risk until a solution is found,” said Washington.
One necessity during this tempting holiday is having a support system of loved ones and medical practitioners.
“It is important to maintain a healthy sphere of influence around those with diabetes to allow for the best opportunity for their diabetes care to be a success,” said Washington. “It is also important for those caring [for others] with diabetes to remain in close contact with their healthcare providers.”
Several factors, including obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking, contribute to the overwhelming diagnosis of African Americans. This Thanksgiving, consider a vegetable medley instead of mashed potatoes or substituting fat-free broth for butter.
“As access to healthy foods becomes more difficult, we must continue to rely on our community to provide the tools to try [to] minimize the risk of developing diabetes,” said Washington.
Dr. Washington insists everyone remember that there is no hiatus for diabetes during the holiday season.
“Thanksgiving is a time for many to come together over a wonderful meal and celebrate all that we are grateful for,” Washington said. “But during this time, we must also remain grateful for our health and continue to do everything we can to preserve it.”
The following ten celebrities live with and advocate for diabetes:
While promoting her new film “Bruised” with Variety, Berry shared her concern of living through the pandemic with type 2 diabetes. The 55-year-old actress acknowledges she is at risk but practices social distancing and thoroughly cleanses items brought into her home. Majority of those items aid in her ketogenic diet. “Being diabetic for most of my life, I have always had to take food very seriously,” Berry said on Instagram. “The keto lifestyle offers so many benefits such as weight loss, appetite control, more energy and better mental performance. If you’re like me, you can possibly reverse type 2 diabetes, you’ll experience better physical endurance, better skin and also less acne if that’s an issue. It even helps control migraines!” Berry was diagnosed at age 19.
Daytime Emmy winner and actress, Sherri Shepherd, credits her son, Jeffrey Jr., and her diabetic diagnoses as her inspirations to pursue a healthier lifestyle, according to PEOPLE Health. Shepherd, 54, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007. The diagnosis changed her life, but she believes it was for the best. She has since educated herself on the illness, and its connection to nutrition and fitness resulting in her extreme weight loss. In 2013, the former The View co-host published a New York Times Bestseller, “Plan D: How to Lose Weight and Beat Diabetes (Even if You Don’t Have It),” emphasizing a program she created with her doctor to assist those who desire a healthier life.
Patti LaBelle introduced her line of desserts over five years ago despite being a type 2 diabetic. LaBelle learned of her diagnosis after the beloved soul singer and actress collapsed while on stage in 1995. According to Diabetes Digest, LaBelle’s blood glucose was 600 mg. In a recent livestreamin collaboration with The Hill, the cookbook author proposed that underserved communities receive more access to diabetic resources. After her unexpected diagnosis she now encourages her fans to visit their doctors regularly. Although her mother died from complications with diabetes, LaBelle admittedly told Diabetes Digest, “I’m one of those Black women who just doesn’t go to see doctors. Had I not passed out, I would have never suspected that I had diabetes.”
Award-winning actor, Anthony Anderson, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2002 at age 31. Anderson partnered with pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, to create the “Get Real About Diabetes”awareness campaign. As part of his efforts to bring awareness to the disease, the comedian shared his diagnosis with his character, Andre Johnson, on Black-ish. In a Q&A with Get Real About Diabetes, Anderson assured that his fame does not guarantee him an easier life with diabetes. “Truth is, there’s no secret to managing diabetes, it just takes commitment and resolve every day,” said Anderson. “Changing what food you eat, consistently being active, and taking an injectable medicine may seem a bit daunting at first, but just give it a shot, pun intended. It all gets so much easier over time, as it all turns to habit.”
The comedic icon, Tracy Morgan, 53, has been vocal about his medical history and his mismanagement of his diabetes. Morgan was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1996. His excessive use of alcohol and diabetes complications led to a kidney transplant in 2010 while being a series regular on 30 Rock. After an amputation scare from a doctor, he began taking his illness more seriously, Morgan told TIMES magazine. Morgan proudly displayed his Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor on the 2015 Emmy’s red carpet.
Vanessa Williams has many titles. The actress, singer, fashion designer, and former Miss America prevailed despite her type 1 diagnosis. Williams credits her mother for her healthy lifestyle. As a child, Williams’ mother lived an active lifestyle and fed her family fresh produce. Despite her mother’s teachings, Williams indulges in many snacks. She shared her almost daily favorites of ice cream, Skinny Pop popcorn, kale salad, and Coco-Magic Bars with SHAPE. However, Williams has enjoyed exercising since an early age. “I really enjoy moving my body, whether it's Tae Bo, going to a salsa club, or doing weight training with a trainer,” Williams said to WebMD.
After his diagnosis in 2003, Randy Jackson completely turned his life around losing 114 pounds. The 65-year-old discovered his type 2 diagnosis after his blood sugar levels were abnormal, according to Woman’s World. Jackson attributes his weight loss to his gastric bypass surgery in 2003 and incorporating fitness and a healthy diet into his routine. The Grammy-winning musician and television personality authored two “Body with Soul” books to encourage healthy transformations by highlighting ways to prevent hypertension and diabetes. Also, Jackson partnered with nutritionists to form Unify Health Labs, which produces holistic dietary supplements to “help you live the healthiest, happiest life possible.”
James Earl Jones
Like many, James Earl Jones, the distinct voice of Mufasa in Lion King and Darth Vader in Star Wars, discovered he was a type 2 diabetic by accident. After starting a new workout regimen and diet, Jones fell asleep on the gymnasium bench. His doctor informed him that this behavior was unusual. Jones told Good Housekeeping, “[The diagnosis] hit me like a thunderbolt.” That was over 20 years ago. The now 90-year-old icon has since partnered with Invokana, a prescription medicine for adults with type 2 diabetes to lower blood sugar and reduce the risk of kidney disease and cardiovascular events. Along with medicine, Jones attributes his health over the years to his supporting family, a balanced diet and fitness regime, and maintaining his mental health.
Gabourey Sidibe, 38, the breakout actress was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and decided weight loss surgery would ease her fears. “I truly didn’t want to worry about all the effects that go along with diabetes,” Sidibe said in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE. “I genuinely [would] worry all the time about losing my toes.” Her laparoscopic bariatric surgery in 2016 was only the beginning of her new lifestyle. Sidibe has since transformed her health by working with a nutritionist and hired a personal trainer. The NAACP Image Award winner openly speaks about her diagnosis in her memoir, “This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare,”which received high praise from Roxane Gay and the New York Times.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a teen, Damon “Dame” Dash, 50, is now the ambassador for Afrezza, a rapid-acting inhaled insulin. The entrepreneur is the self-proclaimed “OG of Diabetes” because when he began taking insulin a syringe was involved, he shared in an interview with Essence. His journey with diabetes led him to launch the Dame Diabetes Network in 2017. The platform consists of videos that highlight diabetic friendly recipes, wellness tips, and include interviews and discussions with doctors and his peers. “Diabetes is not a weakness,” Dash said in a video detailing his history with diabetes. “It’s a place to showcase your strength.”