How Randy Jackson Lost 100 Pounds

The American Idol judge tells WebMD his 9 top secrets for weight loss success.

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 04, 2008
7 min read

American Idol's beloved bassist Randy Jackson turned a lot of heads when he joined his legendary colleagues Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell at the judge's table in 2004. The Grammy Award-winning producer was looking a whole lot slimmer than he had in previous seasons of Fox's blockbuster talent search show. Four years later, he continues to keep off his impressive 100-plus pound loss, after peaking at a hefty 350 pounds.

Now hitting the scales at 220 pounds, Jackson admits that over the years he had tried as many diets as there have been Idol finalists. "Liquid fasts. Bee stings. Urine of pregnant women. You name it. I have tried it," Jackson, 55, tells WebMD today, only half kidding. "The problem is that those diets don't work for people who have the disease of obesity."

So what finally did the trick for the Dawg, as Jackson calls himself?

Getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2001 was the final straw. And although this set him on his current path, there were -- and still are -- some bumps along the way. "The struggle continues." he says. "It never ends."

In 2003, Jackson opted to undergo gastric bypass surgery, a procedure in which a surgeon creates a smaller stomach pouch to curb food intake by stapling a portion of the stomach, to energize his weight loss efforts and step on the path toward good health.

But weight loss surgery is not a magic bullet. Like many people who undergo gastric bypass, Jackson eventually started gaining weight back. That's why Jackson says he committed himself to eating the right foods and kick-starting his fitness routine. Neither of which was easy for this Louisiana boy who loves rich sauces and beignets. "I grew up in the South," he says, "where food and good times were king."

And it's this part of his journey that makes up the heart of his new book, Body with Soul: Slash Sugar, Cut Cholesterol, and Get a Jump on your Best Health Ever, in bookstores Dec. 2. (See below for two of Jackson's favorite slimmed-down recipes from the book.)

How did he do it? Jackson reveals to WebMD his top nine secrets for losing the weight --and keeping it off year after year.

1. Know your limits.

"I am very attuned to knowing when I have had enough," he says. "The signal to stop eating is going to come from your body, not an empty plate." Although it did take practice for the self-proclaimed foodie, Jackson eventually learned to pay attention to the signs that he was full -- and heed the call.

2. Never say never.

"Never say 'I will never have another piece of chocolate' because it won't happen. And as soon as you say never, there is a binge coming," says the confessed chocoholic, who now satisfies this sweet tooth with frozen yogurt and protein shakes.

3. Sample the goods.

Jackson will allow himself to try two or three things that he really loves at a dinner party -- as opposed diving into the whole smorgasbord. For example, it's sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes for Jackson at Thanksgiving, not both (unless, of course, they are both so irresistible that he needs just a few bites of each).

4. Don't arrive hungry.

"I never go anywhere when I am famished," Jackson says. This can be hard given his jam-packed American Idol schedule, so he always has a healthy snack at a meeting or a party -- especially during the holidays. He even keeps a little refrigerator his office that is stocked with healthy fare. Jacksons' private stash includes baked Cheetos, diet soda, and protein bars. If hunger still beckons and there are no healthy choices, Jackson chews a piece of gum or drinks water or chicken broth to curb his appetite until he can make a healthier choice.

5. Focus on the faces.

At parties, "you are not consuming calories that you are conscious of because you are meeting people and mingling," he says. "For the old Dawg, a holiday party was a chance to have something to eat, drink, and be merry, but now the new Randy does not drink or eat at these parties. I have a little mineral water with lime and am only merry."

6. Seek support.

Support is something Jackson, who is also the executive producer of MTV's America's Best Dance Crew, has in spades. His family, including Taylor, 17, (with ex-wife Elizabeth Jackson) and Zoe, 11, and Jordan, 9, with wife Erika Riker, are always right by his side cheering him on. In their own unique way, his Idol co-hosts help Jackson's efforts to keep his weight down. "Simon [Cowell] is always saying, 'We are ordering lunch, bring Randy a Dunkin' Donut and 12 milkshakes.'" he says. "We joke about it, but they are also very supportive."

7. Hit the kitchen.

Growing up in New Orleans, Jackson developed a taste for all things rich and decadent, including gumbo, Andouille sausage and grits, and jambalaya. Although most of these foods no longer fit into his current Los Angeles lifestyle, Jackson has learned to create and eat healthier versions of the foods he grew up loving like low fat sweet potato pie or Cajun spice bread (see below).

8. Trick yourself into working out.

Jackson keeps a big, bulky treadmill next to his bed, which may not do much for decor, but he has to pass it each morning when he rolls out of bed. "It's right there staring at me, going, 'Come here. You know you need this' [and] that makes the ugliness worth it," he says. Jackson usually walks on the treadmill for 35 to 45 minutes a day. But that's not all. The Dawg also maneuvers his 5-foot-11 frame into downward dog or other yoga positions. "I have become accustomed to yoga, and I love the stretching and how it makes my body feel better and looser," he says of his morning routine.

9. Focus on your health.

Jackson's diabetes is at bay for now. His blood sugar is controlled by diet and exercise alone, and he no longer has to take medications. "I go to the doctor four times a year to see where my sugars are," he says. "It's a good thing to stay on top of body because health is the biggest wealth we can have in the world."

Adapted from WebMD the Magazine's November/December 2008 issue. Read the complete story here.

In his new book, Body with Soul: Slash Sugar, Cut Cholesterol, and Get a Jump on your Best Health Ever, in bookstores Dec. 2, Jackson shares the healthy and delicious recipes that he developed with celebrity chef Jeff Parker.

This Thanksgiving, don't deny yourself sweet potato pie because that will set you up for a binge. Instead, try Jackson's recipes.

Low Fat Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Crust



1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup Grape-Nuts

3 tablespoons orange juice


2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup evaporated skim milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Finely chop the pecans in a food processor. Add graham crackers and Grape-Nuts. With the machine running, slowly add the orange juice until the mixture begins to come together (add 1 additional tablespoon orange juice if needed).

Press crumbs evenly into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 16 minutes, or until dry. Set aside to cool.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Stir together pie filling ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined. Pour into crust and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted 1-inch off-center comes away clean. Cool for 2 hours before slicing.

Serves 8

Per serving: 244 calories; 5 g fat (17% calories from fat); 5 g protein; 46 g carbohydrate; 2 g dietary fiber.

Chicken Etouffee

"I used to be a huge crawfish etouffee guy," Jackson says of this rich New Orleans classic, but years in Los Angeles as well as efforts to keep his weight down have limited his access to the crawfish version, but not his enthusiasm for its zesty flavor. Now the Dawg keeps it real, but also low cal and low fat. Here's how:


6 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons salt-free Cajun spice blend

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon canola oil

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion

1 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped

3/4 cup finely chopped celery

2 cups fat-free chicken broth

Salt and pepper, to taste


Toast flour in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Watch flour carefully so that it doesn't burn. Frequently shake pan and stir until the flour turns a dark nut color; about 10 to 15 minutes. Sift flour into a bowl; set aside.

Combine Cajun and poultry seasoning and toss with chicken until evenly coated. Add oil and butter to a large skillet over medium-high heat. When butter has melted, add chicken and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add vegetables to pan and sweat until softened, about 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle flour over vegetables a little at a time, stirring between additions. Once flour has been added, slowly stir in broth until well combined. Return chicken to pan and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. If sauce becomes too thick, add water 1 tablespoon at a time to loosen. If sodium is not an issue, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve hot over cooked white or brown rice.

Serves 4

Per serving: 303 calories; 5 g fat (15.9% calories from fat); 47 g protein; 18 g carbohydrate; 3 g dietary fiber; 104 mg cholesterol; 383 mg sodium.