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November 15th, 2011
07:29 AM ET

The Human Factor: Fat Joe 'drops a body'

In The Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle - injury, illness, or other hardship - they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week, rapper Fat Joe opens up to CNN Medical News Senior Producer Ben Tinker about his dramatic weight loss.

I was talking to my trainer the other day and he asked, "So when was the last time you were slim?" And I said, "I swear to God, when I was a month or two months old." That was it. I was Fat Joe ever since.

My parents are overweight and I think the biggest problem we have in America is a lack of education. The place to start is with parents and teaching them to cook healthier. They're eating rice, beans, fried chicken and lard. They'll still eating dessert every single night. They think they're doing the right thing, but they're not.

Like I used to love going to my Aunt Barbara's house. I opened the kitchen cabinet and they had every Oreo, every Twinkie. I never wanted to come out of her house. And you know, we're thinking that's love - but at the same time - that's what causing childhood obesity. That's what's causing diabetes and so on.

Diabetes is like a host to the VIP section. Whatever you thought you were going to die of, it's the express line. It takes you to heart disease, strokes, or "Right this way, let's lose some toes."

I'm addicted to food, so if you bring the cake and stuff to my house, I might walk by and take a swipe of icing and keep it moving. So what happens is I try to not keep it around.

Food is like a legal drug. You can take 50 cents and walk into the store and buy a Twinkie and get high. And it's killing people.

You know how they say a crackhead or drug addict hits rock bottom? I just hit rock bottom to where I just knew if I didn't make this lifestyle change, I was going to die.

Last year alone, I had six friends die of heart attacks. Most of them were younger than me, but they were my same size. So I had one friend who was funnier than me. He was cooler than me. Obviously God loved him and he still died. I couldn't believe that he died of a heart attack at 32/33 years old. He has a daughter my same age. And it was the weirdest thing. I went to his funeral. Not only was I sad, but I was just like, "This is me." I couldn't see a clearer picture of what's the difference between me and him - of me being in a casket and my daughter running around the funeral home - and you know, she doesn't have a dad anymore.

From that day on, I chose to change my lifestyle. That was the ultimate moment. Being that I always perform, I started working out with a trainer to get that endurance and stamina. Now, I guess you could call me a gym rat. It's interesting to me. No, it's incredible. Just the other day, I said "Yo, I think something's wrong. I feel something in here." My trainer starts laughing. "Yo, you've been lifting weight for eight months now. Maybe you've got a muscle in there."

I think I weighed about 450/460 at my heaviest. That's huge! That's Fat Joe. And you know, I always took pride in being fat. I represented big people, but I realized at a certain point all my big people were dying.

I love to eat. If I could eat everything in the world and still be healthy or wouldn't catch a heart attack or stroke, I'd eat everything. I just can't. So I got to watch my health and take care of my family.

To this day, I've lost more than 100 pounds. And I got ground-breaking news: You know, I was diabetic for 16 years, since I was 14. Being that I lost weight, no more diabetes. So I want to let kids know, "Hey, you don't have to be a diabetic." You don't have to lose your eyesight, cut off your toes, have a stroke, get kidney failure. You just just have to lose weight - you know - for most of the diabetes.

So to all the heavy people in the world, I say you don't have to go to the gym and lift weights. I do that now because I love it. But you can walk 20 minutes a day for your first month - then it's going to be nothing. Then walk 25 minutes a day the next month. The month after that, you're going to walk like 30 minutes a day at least five times a week. I stay active - and mostly - I enjoy what I'm eating.

If you want to stay around, you have to stay focused. I've studied and investigated it to a point where I'm like a scientist now, to be honest with you. So you know, if I did gain it all back, it would be totally my fault because I've got all the tools I need.

Watch The Human Factor weekly on "Sanjay Gupta MD," Saturday & Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET


soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. CJ

    That's very inspiring. Stay blessed and healthy! :D

    November 15, 2011 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Steve Fitzhugh

    After two years in the NFL at 198 pounds, I ballooned up to 300 pounds over the next 15 years. I had the same revelation Fat Joe had about my life and my future 4 years ago. Ironically I made the same changes and dropped over 100 pounds! I have a new life today! I am the same weight today as I was as a rookie in the NFL 25 years ago. (see: "How I Lost 50 Lbs. in 5 Seconds" the ebook)

    November 15, 2011 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RosaF

      Congrats, Steve! I'm also making similar changes in working out more and eating healthier (tracking calories has been the #1 results-getter for me), and it's my goal to eventually lose 100 pounds like you guys. :) So far, I'm somewhere between 75 and 80 pounds down. Like Fat Joe, I've finally got the tools to do this (thanks to my doctor and also the site I use to track exercise and calories, SparkPeople) and it's working, slowly but surely! It just takes patience and motivation. Good luck to everyone trying to lose weight – you CAN do it!

      November 15, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
  3. Joey

    I've seen Joe around the neighborhood for years before he was famous he was big, after fame & fortune he doubled in size. Big Pun died b/c of his obesity so I'm glad to see he's made a lifestyle change.

    November 15, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Deb G

    Way to inspire Joe! Many young people look up to you because you're a musical star. You're leading by example which will allow you be around for a long time for your biggest fans – your family. I hope others follow your lead; keep up the good work both on stage and in the gym. Oh yeah, and you'll need to change the Fat to "PHAT"!

    November 15, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Mystic

    Inspiring. Just inspiring. Good for you Joe. This is a great message. I'm gonna post this story and berate people until they read it. Congrats Joe and keep staying healthy!!!

    November 15, 2011 at 15:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Poodles

    Ultimately, who cares? We all die.

    November 15, 2011 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joshua Ludd

      The folks who can't walk up a flight of stairs without breaking into a sweat and being short of breath. The people who develop diabetes from being overweight. The people who have heart attacks in their early 30s. Sure, we all die... but that doesn't mean we should trade a few years or decades for some junk food.

      November 15, 2011 at 21:26 | Report abuse |
    • Ozzi

      Sometimes we can change not only when we die but how we die. Maybe we can't stop death but if I have some choice, I will work that choice as best I can. Jus sayin.

      November 16, 2011 at 09:33 | Report abuse |
    • Nono

      What about quality of life? Some of us like to feel and look good. Most would prefer to not get sick all the time or rely on medications for survival. Yes, a meteor can hit one of us on the head tomorrow, but more than likely, an untimely death comes from poor behavioral choices, including lack of exercise and eating poorly.

      November 16, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
  7. Keirxi

    What a great article. Thanks for sharing your story!

    November 15, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Deborah

    @ Poodles yes we do all die but when? I used to say the same thing until I got so FAT I was in a wheelchair on a beach. Humilating
    I have losss 64 lbs. it's slow, I want to lose more. Don't you want to extend your life. You want to get diabetes and have your leg amputated and be dependent on others? Not me. I was digging my grave with my teeth.

    November 15, 2011 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. chuck

    I was 285 on Jan 1 of this year. I am not down to 218 and my goal is 195 for now. But I have done this by eating what I wish but controling how much I eat. I have never been a person to eat sweets but live lots of meat and potatos. I still eat meat and potatos but not as much and not as often. I have learned in my 64 yrs that diets do not work. You have to make a life change. I also go to the gym 3 to 5 times a week and I work between 1.5 and 3 miles a day 5 days a week at least.
    I spend my lunch time at work walking. I was on all kinds of meds for high blood pressure and my heart, and now I have been taken off all my meds. I enjoy eating now more than ever and I have learned to keep track of what I eat and my exercise with loseit.com. And I recommend it.

    November 15, 2011 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Mary Davis

    Dear Joe, Congratulations on your weight loss! Stay strong in who you are and want to be. Good luck and God Bless!

    November 15, 2011 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Ed

    Joe Torre did that 40 years ago & even won an MVP Award!

    November 15, 2011 at 23:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Mystic

    @Poodles: It's not about adding years to your life. It's about adding life to your years.

    People have said this for years, and still the Poodles of the world can't wrap their minds around it. A friend of mine has a mom who's obese, walks with a cane - slowly - needs assisted living vans to get to & from work, cannot walk a block without needing a rest. My mom, bless her soul, is 10 years OLDER than that lady, and walks the 2-3 miles to her friend's house easily. The other day she was in a hurry and I was amazed to see this near-70 yr old running, easily.

    Death is inevitable. But diabetes, obesity's struggles and their burden on your life, are not.

    November 16, 2011 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ed

    Nice going, Joe. I hope your story insprires at least a few kids to change their lifestyle.

    I got a wake up call not too long ago from my doctor. He told me I was on the road to becoming a diabetic. I started a diet and excersice plan a few weeks ago. So far i'm down almost 20 pounds! I'm really glad he was as blunt as he was about the whole issue. I feel like that's something that not only some doctors, but some people in general lack these days; the bravery and, frankly, the abrasiveness to tell a loved one that their lifestyle is killing them. I didn't take offense when my doctor told me I was too fat, in fact I took it as a wake up call. Being fat is not ok, no matter how hard you try and justify it. It took me a long time to realize that. I vow to never be at this weight ever again.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sehmus

      Instead of putting music up in , just place them on your phone diltcery and all of your songs will be available all the time, whether in the Underground or in Timbuktu. You needn't worry about making a special list. Come on, folks. You can't fit what you want to listen to on 16, 32 or 64gb of space? Streaming only uses more battery power anyhow.

      August 1, 2012 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
  14. cola421

    Way ta go Joe:) Keep up the great work......New look, New YOU!!!!!!

    November 16, 2011 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Daniela

      That's a funny excreienpe. I'm now thinking again about entering the arm wrestling event myself.A good resource about Cedar City is CedarPix. It contains photos and pictures of Cedar City, Utah.

      February 1, 2012 at 00:29 | Report abuse |
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      February 3, 2012 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
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      February 6, 2012 at 03:42 | Report abuse |
  15. dave

    My friend was a healthy person, wasn't anywhere near overweight. I'm 6'1" and weigh 161, not near overweight either, so unlike people who are overweight and can't see the difference I know the difference. Albert was not overweight but he had diabetes. Eventually though he had clogged arteries, did not eat right. He had a bypass and lost the little bit of weight he had after the operation, down to skin and bones. A shadow of what he was. He was 51 but looked 77. He refused to change his habits and eat right. We bought him diabetes cook books, offered to make his meals. He refused. He was one of the nicest people you could meet. Always had a smile or a joke. He died a violent death only a couple of years after his surgery. The death was from diabetes. No lost toes any anything like that. His aorta exploded in his chest. He bled out through the month. The room he died in was a ghastly site. It took a while, he experienced the whole thing. The cause was from diabetes. There is more then one way it's going to get you but make no mistake, change your lifestyle or it will get you, maybe sooner then you think.

    November 16, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ed

      Wow...what a horrendous way to go. If you're at all in a position to tell his story to others at risk, with his family's blessing of course, I would strongly encourage you to do so. People need to know how serious this really is. Personally I think people have become numb to the stories of lost limbs, I honestly didn't even know diabetes could cause something like this. Your friend's tale would surely open some eyes.

      November 16, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
  16. dave

    He bled out through the month. Misspelling, he bled out through his mouth.

    November 16, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RInkrat

    Wait, what? A twinky for fifty cents? All kidding aside, good story and true. It makes me insane when people complain that the First Lady is pushing healty diets. It's obvious people need that education so why not take it for free.

    November 16, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. frankie mozell

    After the unexpected death of Heavy D...and recent injuries. I decided to make a lifestyle change and LIVE. I was on a course to destruction. Fat Joe...keep it moving...and brother that is 'keepin it real'.

    November 16, 2011 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Jon

    I guess this makes him 'Average Joe'.

    November 16, 2011 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. TrekDesk

    Inspiring Joe. Keep it up and keep moving. While you really had to focus on reducing your food intake, the average American consumes the same amount of calories as they did in the 1960's. Back then 13% of adults were overweight, we have climbed up to 67% of adults now. The main reason is lack of activity. So keep walking America.

    November 16, 2011 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. LyleOrr

    Great story – very well stated. I had the same revelation this year and checked myself into Hilton Head Health for 4 weeks. Since Easter sunday where I weighed in at 373 pounds (at 5'6"), I have lost 112 pounds and still moving. Joe is right that this process becomes a passion and an addiction when you start feeling so much better. I think the comments to kids is great and badly needed. To think this generation of kids might be the first with a shorter life expectancy than their parents is a very scary and eye-opening statistic. KEEP IT UP JOE and I will do the same!

    November 17, 2011 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. yael

    "I couldn't believe that he died of a heart attack at 32/33 years old. He has a daughter my same age"

    Am I reading this right? His late friend's daughter was the same age as Fat Joe?

    November 17, 2011 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 6, 2012 at 03:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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      August 1, 2012 at 18:37 | Report abuse |

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.