Award-winning actor and comedian Anthony Anderson was in Atlanta to share his personal type 2 diabetes story, focusing on how he took control of his health and his disease. As a spokesperson for Eli Lilly and Company’s Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered (F.A.C.E.) Diabetes initiative, Anderson participated in the American Diabetes Association’s Victory Over Diabetes on August 20. This event featured educational workshops, free health screenings and resources designed to encourage African Americans to take control of their health and better manage their type 2 diabetes.
You may recognize Anderson from his performances in The Back-Up Plan, Scary Movie 3, Hustle and Flow and most recently on Law & Order. Here, Anderson shares his personal story about how he is living with type 2 diabetes.
Best Self Atlanta: How did you first find out that you had type 2 diabetes?
Anthony Anderson: I knew what the symptoms were and I had all of them. I was lethargic and fatigued all the time. I was taking mid-day naps. At first, I just thought I was just overworked. We were moving at the time, building a new home and I was working on two different projects. I truly just thought I was fatigued from work until one night, I drank a five gallon drum of water. And I was taking constant trips to the restroom. My wife said, ‘I think you might have diabetes.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t want to claim that, but I think you’re right.’ So, we went to the doctor the next morning and I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes that day.
BSA: What was your initial reaction?
AA: I felt a little bit of concern and then acceptance. And then it was like, how are we going to beat this disease? Because, I know, you can live with it, or you can die from it. And I chose to live with it with the attitude of eventually conquering it and not letting it conquer me.
BSA: What changes have you made in your life to empower/education yourself about diabetes?
AA: I started a different eating program, got a nutritionist, sought out an endocrinologist and started to exercise. Also, I have a lot of friends with diabetes. So we band together to share advice and information, which is really what the F.A.C.E. (Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered) Diabetes initiative is all about. It’s about empowering the African American to fearlessly face this condition by supporting one another.
BSA: Leading such a busy lifestyle, have you had to change your habits? If so, how?
AA: Well, I got an assistant that picked up on my lifestyle changes. I had my assistant talk to catering so when they prepared their meals, there was always chicken or fish around so I would have them grill me chicken or broil me some fish as opposed to the other things that they had on the sets. And, every couple of hours I’d plan to have a salad or a plate of berries in the morning or to have a sandwich ready throughout the day. So it wasn’t difficult at all. It was a matter of just planning. And if you plan properly, everything is good.
BSA: What is the most important step someone can take when they find out they have diabetes?
AA: First, I would encourage them to check out the F.A.C.E. Diabetes website to learn as much as they can about the disease: what it is and how to successfully manage it. Then I’d say that it’s really the small things that make a big difference. I was told if you don’t do anything else, if you don’t exercise, if you don’t do anything, eat half of what you normally do. And so, that’s what I started to do to better manage my diabetes. As opposed to eating a whole sandwich, I’d eat half a sandwich. And I would change what I would eat on it. I would cut out the mayonnaise and just eat mustard. I would eat whole grain bread as opposed white bread. I just changed what I was putting in my body and eating less of it. Then, I started exercising with light weights or hopping on the treadmill. But really, again, it’s getting outside, taking a walk, playing sports with my kids, just staying active. Those small things really make a difference.
BSA: What have you learned about yourself since you first found out you had this disease?
AA: Man, you know what? I live my dream every day! Acting is all I ever wanted to do since I was nine years old and I get to do it every day with great people. And on top of that, now that I’ve teamed up with Lilly’s F.A.C.E. Campaign, I get to bring awareness to a disease that’s been crippling our community and will continue to do it unless we have people like myself and those before me stand up and talk about it. So, I am happy. It’s a new chapter in my life, and I’m ready to write it.
BSA: What is the best piece of advice you have for people who battle Type 2 diabetes?
AA: Statistics show that 50 percent of African Americans born today will be diagnosed with diabetes. They say by the year 2050, that it will be an epidemic among African-American males. That’s not an epidemic; that’s a pandemic as far as I’m concerned. Please visit the F.A.C.E. Diabetes website to find out more information about ways you, your family, and our community can manage this disease. Because, I know, you can live with it, or you can die from it. And I chose to live with it.