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

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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.