Anthony Anderson “Keeps It Real” About Overcoming Being Identified As The “Fat Funny Guy”
By Derrick Lane
Anderson started out in Hollywood as a self-proclaimed “fat, funny guy,” appearing alongside fellow comedic stars Jim Carrey and Martin Lawrence.
But offscreen, Anderson’s weight was anything but a laughing matter: He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2002 at the age of 32.
It took a few years, but eventually, Anderson realized he had to get serious, and so he committed to changing his eating habits and lifestyle. Around the same time, Anderson also made a conscious decision to shift the direction of his career, focusing on darker roles in movies, such as Hustle & Flow and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, and co-starring in television dramas like The Shield and K-Ville.
Inspired by his family history of the disease, Anderson recently became a spokesperson for FACE Diabetes, an initiative sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly that focuses on educating and empowering the African American community.
I was home in Los Angeles, close to eight years ago now. Out of the blue, I started feeling really lethargic and lazy, taking mid-afternoon naps, which is something I wouldn’t just do. I chalked it up to overworking. I just thought I was running myself ragged. But the turning point was one evening I drank, literally, a 5-gallon jug of water in the course of a couple of hours, and there was constant urination. I knew what the symptoms of diabetes were since my father was a diabetic, and I was like “Wow, I think I need to go to the doctor and get this checked out (okay, actually, my wife said that).” I went the next morning and found out that I had elevated glucose levels and the doctor said, “You know you’re a type 2 diabetic.”
My first reaction:
I didn’t change dramatically at first. Being a 32-year-old man, stubborn and all that, I was really just stuck in my ways and I thought, “I can beat this. I can handle this.” But after a while, it wasn’t getting better. Now, I’ve really changed my lifestyle. I’m eating differently, and I’m also incorporating exercise. I have a treadmill that was just collecting dust in my house, and I started to run 3 miles a day on it. When I get bored with that, I go outside and run around the golf course.
Recently, I met with Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser, and I said, “Bob, come on, give me a quick fix on how to lose some weight.” And he laughed and said, “Anthony, you know there’s no quick fix to that.” Then he said, “But, I’ll give you a tip: If you don’t do anything else, just cut your meal portions in half, and watch and see what happens. The weight will fall off of you.” I said, “That’s an easy fix,” and I just cut my meals in half and the weight did come off. This is the first time I’ve stuck with a regimen. As a result, since January 2009, I’ve lost close to 40 pounds and have kept it off…and plan on keeping it off.
My turning point:
I want to skydive, and one place I called told me you can’t weigh more than 235 pounds, because you do it in tandem with the instructor and all the equipment. And I said, I weigh 240 pounds. What can I do?” I was laughing over the phone, but, deadpan, the lady on the other end said, “Lose 5 pounds.” I was like, “Wow, OK.” Now I’m well below 235, and I’m going to jump out of a plane!
In all seriousness, I didn’t have a bad episode or anything. But I thought, “If I’m going to have this for any length of time, I want to be on top of it and in control.” Especially in case anything were to happen, or something was suddenly out of the ordinary with my blood sugar levels or the disease. I wanted to be able to say with a clear conscience, I did the best I could.
Once I talked to the nutritionists and my doctor, and they said, “Anthony, everything is fine in moderation; you can still eat certain things, you just can’t eat as much,” then it was OK. Once I wrapped my mind around that, I said, “I can have short ribs every now and then, just not every weekend like I was doing over the summer, and not steak every two days like I was doing, but maybe once a month, and fried chicken once a month.” I can still satisfy my cravings and urge for that. I just don’t feed it like I used to.
My treatment strategy:
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