Sherri Shepherd On Finally Being In Control Of Her Diabetes, Water Keeping Her Youthful At 56 And Impressing Beyoncé


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Sherri Shepherd is living her dream. The host of an Emmy-nominated talk show she wanted for as long as she can remember, the star is on fire as she enjoys her second season — and she’s not letting letting diabetes slow her down.

Diagnosed in 2007, the host, comedienne and mom is in control now thanks to her Continuous Glucose Monitor from Abbott and a series of changes, including an increase in activity (she works out almost every day for an hour at 6 a.m.) and banishing sugar from her diet — again. And most importantly, true change has come from the fact that she watches the way she talks about her diabetes diagnosis. Instead of letting it bring her down, she says, “Diabetes is something that’s going to teach me how to be healthy.” And it certainly has. So for National Diabetes Awareness Month, and every day before and after this observance, Shepherd is helping other people not see their diagnosis as a death sentence, but rather, as an opportunity to change their lives for the better. It’s the ultimate reset.

We spoke with Shepherd while she was in NYC to partner with Abbott in debuting their latest campaign in the Oculus Center in Manhattan. “Countdown at a Crossroads” is an animated installation telling the stories of people impacted by the disease. During our meeting to chat, she opened up about the effort she puts in every day to stay away form sugar, how her fitness regimen has transformed her body and helped her manage her diabetes, and of course, we had to ask about her homage to Beyoncé for Halloween that went viral and what Queen B thought about it (hint: she was impressed!). Check out what the new queen of daytime talk had to say.

ESSENCE: I know that a few years ago, you did a no-sugar diet for a year that drastically changed your situation with diabetes. Where do things stand now and how are you feeling and faring with the condition in 2023?

Sherri Shepherd: I’m pretty much back on the no-sugar thing because I was off for, oh, it was more than a year, off sugar. It was a couple of years. It was more than a couple of years. But I was off, and I felt great. That was the best I had ever felt, being off sugar and processed sugars, being off Splenda and all of that stuff. But then the stress of losing my dog, she was a Labrador that I had for eight or nine years, devastated me. So I went back to eating candy to numb. Everything that I had learned just went out the window.

For a short time?

No, it just carried on because once you wean yourself off something and when you go back to it, it’s like crack. It’s very hard to wean yourself off again. I was hiding candy in the dishwasher, hiding Hershey’s Kisses in my shoes. I had to come to this place and look at my son. And I had my glucose monitor, which was going, “Hey, girl, hey, what’s happening?”

So I get myself back to the place of being at that crossroads, like what Abbott is doing, making people aware, and I thought, “Okay, Sherri, what are you going to do? It’s always a crossroad that you’re at. What are you going to do? You have diabetes, and you know where this road leads. And then you have that boy over there. How are you going to manage this? You got to pull up your big girl panties.” And the big girl panties said, “I want to live.” I don’t want to be this way, foggy and irritable. And eating candy feels good, but for a moment. So now, where am I now? I feel great. I feel really, really good. It’s not restrictive, but I know that sugar is not my friend. And it doesn’t do anything for my glucose levels, so I keep it out. I might have it every once in a while if I’m going out with friends, a little bite of something, but I even very rarely do that because I know my limitations, because you can’t have a little bit of crack.

So I try to do other things. I work on my substitutions. But this glucose monitor helps and it’s better than when I used to have, which was that big old bulky kit with the test control solution and needles pricking my finger. So this has really been a life-changer for me because I’ve had it for a few years now of being able to keep track of what I’m eating and going, “Okay, it’s steady, or the number is kind of high. Seven grapes? Not good. Now you probably need to walk to get your glucose level back down.”

So that’s what I’m passionate about, people being aware that something like this exists, that something like this can change your life, you can afford it, and partnering up with Abbott to bring the awareness, especially to our community. Our rates of death are double that of white people. And I didn’t know that every 23 seconds, somebody’s diagnosed with diabetes. So I want people to get to a crossroad. For me, a crossroad is like, how are you going to manage it? How are you going to look at diabetes? So for me, I look at it like, Sherri, this is saving your life. That’s what it is for me.

In addition to managing it in this way with your diet, I see you going hard in the gym with your strength training! How has that helped you in this journey, too?

Exercising and having diabetes go hand in hand because it stabilizes your glucose levels when you exercise, and so you feel better. That’s what I would tell people going to the gym. It’s so hard to start, but if you can get past the fear, if you can get past the, “Why am I here?” If you can get past all that and keep showing up, then all of a sudden you look in the mirror, you go, “I like what I’m seeing when I show up.”

And I’ve also changed my speech. I’ve also said, instead of, “Oh, I got to go to the gym. I hate going to the gym,” I change it and go, “I get to go to the gym. I get to go and work out my body and treat my body amazing so that I can feel better. I get to get on this thing and pull myself up. I know I’m tired, but boy, man, I feel so good.” It literally… That does work. It really works. You keep talking, you keep talking to your subconscious. The words that you speak, your subconscious moves around to meet whatever you are speaking. So instead of “I hate going to the gym,” let me turn that around. I’ll even say, “Okay, I got diabetes, but it is going to save my life.” It’s given me a whole different demeanor, instead of, “Yeah, girl. I got this, I got the sugar. My life going downhill after that.” I don’t speak those words. So I’m a big proponent of the way you speak to yourself, because your subconscious moves to meet whatever you have said.

You’ve partnered with Abbott for National Diabetes Awareness Month. What advice would you offer to others? I know you’ve spoken so well here about positive self-talk, about just really being honest with yourself, like, “This is diabetes and you know where this could lead.” What advice would you offer to other people who are really having trouble, both mentally coping with just everything that comes with this condition, but also just physically trying to have control?

I think that when you first get this diagnosis, sometimes it can send you into a depression because you’re like… It’s so overwhelming, it seems. “What do I not eat anymore? How much do I have to change?” And again, looking at it like it’s not a death sentence, because you’re still alive. This is just like a reset.

I always tell people, just start working on substitutions, little things. If you do little things and you’re consistent at doing little changes, you will look up in a year and have big results. I only do tea and water. That’s been for the last nine, 10 some years. And again, I drink water a lot because I tell people, “Your skin be jammin’. Water is the elixir of life. It is so great and it’s serving me well because when people say, “Oh, you don’t look your age,” that’s the damn water. It lightens up your skin, it make your skin glow. I always tell people, “If you like drinking soda, have that can of soda and then make sure you drink a whole 16 ounces of water every time you have it, and then keep increasing. You like potato chips? Grab that celery. Doesn’t taste like potato chips now, but it’s the crunch that you’re craving.”

So little substitutions. And then working with Abbott and bringing the awareness of those glucose monitors. I would say look at the way you have to change your paradigm, because you can have diabetes, but you can live a healthy life. And we have a purpose, and so much of our purpose is tied into what legacy you’re leaving. Even if you don’t have kids, nieces and nephews, cousins, somebody is dependent on you. Somebody is looking up to you to show them something. And if you’re not here, then who is that person? So don’t let diabetes derail you. For me, it saved my life because it makes me make conscious choices, and if I’m making conscious choices, then I’m in control. You’re empowered and confident. So I would say don’t let it be a death sentence. You truly can live a really great life.

Nice. I only have one question left, but I have to ask you about this whole Renaissance Halloween. The budget was budgeting!

I’m going to have to do a GoFundMe now.

[Laughs] You have to tell me how that came together and if Mama Tina put the word out to Beyoncé.

Beyoncé was very happy! When I asked them to do it, because they have to really work on this stuff, the initial thoughts from the top was no, because everybody’s going to be doing Beyoncé . And thank goodness for my glam team, because they were like, “But they’re not going to do it like you would.” My gift is laughter. So that’s the way it started of making people feel good.

Then once creative got involved, we got a showrunner, Frenita, who I love, she’s a sistah. Once she said, “Okay, we’re going to do Renaissance.” And then our big picture is always…the big get is Beyoncé. So it’s like, let’s honor her in a way that she’s never been honored before. And it just so happened that Jawn [Murray] was at a party with Beyoncé’s publicist [Yvette Noel-Schure], and he let her know how we were doing it. She said, “That’s intriguing.” They got us Miss Tina. Everybody going to be watching the show. So it was then that it got to be exciting. And then Willie Sinclair came in with his creativity of, “If we going to do this, let’s do it.” Willie Sinclair, we created all the iconic looks.

Everybody was committed to it. And when they said, “We’re sending her publicist live updates of what’s going on, and she’s very happy,” I was just like, “Please don’t tell me no more. I’m about to pass out.” And being able to get Miss Tina to just talk about her experience. It was so much fun and it just came together so beautifully. But we worked really hard. So this was something that, when we did it, I said, “Yeah, we worked hard and I am confident because we put the work in.” So that’s how it came about. And when we saw it I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” It felt great. I mean, we got a horse from Wayfair, and our set designer did a phenomenal job in the small space that we had of, how can we transform this into a party? I was proud of everybody who came together, who got behind me on my vision. And I think we set the bar for all of the talk shows. So I don’t know how we’re going to do next year. I have no idea. We did Bridgerton as vampires last year. We did Beyoncé. I don’t know what is going to happen. Maybe we’ll all be naked Lenny Kravitz, I don’t know.

I’m so happy for you, because I know your story and just wanting a talk show and to be able to be doing it and having the fun you’re having, I think it’s amazing.

And being able to use the platform to inspire people is important too, because I wear this glucose monitor everywhere so that people can see it when I’m wearing it on TV and they go, “What is that?” In my comments I’ll get that, if I’m on stage doing standup, because I don’t want people to be embarrassed or ashamed because there’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s like, if we’re alive and we’re above ground and we get this diagnosis, then it means it’s just a reset in our bodies, that we have to do a reset of the way we look at life. And it’s a reset of getting back to our purpose and our legacy. And if it’s something like this, go on, go ahead, and make other people aware of it too.

For more information about the Countdown at a Crossroads campaign, visit


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