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sherri shepherd

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As the glowing cover of PEOPLE‘s Summer/Fall Health 2021 Issue, Sherri Shepard recently opened up about how her son has been the driving force for weight loss and overall wellness journey.

After being diagnosed with diabetes back in 2007, the former host of The View told the outlet that thinking about her son’s future had really hit her with a reality check regarding her health.

“I had this vision of my son at 5 years old, holding his teddy bear, and he was crying because he was trying to figure out where heaven was, because that’s where everybody said mommy was,” Shepherd recalled. “And that woke me up. Anything about my son… I jolted up, and I said, ‘I’ve got to make a change, because I don’t want to die.'”

According to the actress and comedienne, her son Jeffery Jr., now 16 years old, is still what motivates her every day by reminding her to make healthy food choices and maintain her weight loss.

“So, he always encourages me. And I’m encouraged also because I get to do more things with him, and I have more energy,” Shepherd told PEOPLE.

“At 16, you need your brain. It’s a whole different thing dealing with a teenager. You’ve got to be two steps ahead of them, and you can’t do it when you’re in a fog,” she went onto say about her dynamic with Jeffery Jr. “And so, just keeping up with him, I have to have energy, and that motivates me as well.” The star also has a 6-year-old son named Lamar Jr.

Even though it’s been well over a decade since she was diagnosed with diabetes, Shepherd said that the condition “completely saved” her life.

“I don’t look at it like dying,” she said. “I look at it like it gave me life, because it made me educate myself about food choices. It made me educate myself about exercise and how exercise relates to my brain and the endorphins. I saw the mind/body connection from exercise.”

“Diabetes, that diagnosis, has made me live again,” she continued. “Because otherwise, I just would have been eating nonstop and not thinking.”

Thanks to her 35-pound weight loss, Shepherd shared she’s “peaking” and feels better than she ever has. As you may recall, she even strutted her stuff in a black catsuit before showing off some pole dancing moves on The Kelly Clarkson Show last month in honor of her 54th birthday.

“This is literally the best I’ve ever felt,” she told PEOPLE about the status of her health currently. “I feel better now than I did in my 20s, I really do.”

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