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The DX Diabetes Dish: Chaka Khan

Grammy Award–winning singer on love and living with T2

The DX regularly features The DX Diabetes Dish, a profile about life and life with diabetes. This month, we dish with ten-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Chaka Khan. Often called the “Queen of Funk,” with hits ranging from “I’m Every Woman” to “I Feel For You,” Khan announced that she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last year. She has since shed more than seventy pounds by following a careful diet and developing an exercise routine that she follows even while traveling the world, performing for her legion of die-hard fans.

What is your state of mind today?

I’m still trying to catch up – I just got back from a three-week tour in Europe. So I hit the ground running when I returned, and I’m finally taking a moment to look out the window.

What three words would you use to describe who you are?

Busy, busy, busy.

What do you want to tell people about your experience with type 2 diabetes?

That I’m handling it. I lost seventy pounds in a year. I want people to know that it’s possible to handle type 2 diabetes, but you have to put yourself in the right mindset. You can’t be wishy-washy, you have to become proactive – whatever it takes. First, after the weight loss I really got more energy. I used to love lying in bed and watching TV – the bed was my husband and the TV was my boyfriend! I still don’t have a boyfriend, and I still have my television near my bed, but I don’t visit it as often. I work out – I started with a trainer and then once I got the gist of it, I applied the lessons on my own. It’s great because working out doesn’t have to involve going to a gym. I also get my cardiovascular activity when I walk through airports, which I do a lot. Otherwise I do a lot of toning exercises with bungee ropes, using my body’s own resistance.

What continues to inspire you to do what you do in music?

It’s hard – there’s a lot of traveling and stress and strain on the body just to get to a far-away venue to do ninety minutes of performing. But it’s my sanity. When I’m singing, that’s how I meditate. That’s my therapy.

What do you appreciate most in your friends and family?

Well, I appreciate that most of them are still here. And I’m raising my ten-year-old granddaughter – which was another one of my big incentives to get myself together, because I plan to be here as she grows up.

What would you pack for your favorite vacation?

A nightgown, cosmetics, my bath salts and candles, scarves to drape over lamps, and my sage. I don’t need a lot of clothes – it’s mostly comfort stuff.

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

Almond milk, fruits, and vegetables. I have a lot of frozen fruit because I make fruit smoothies every morning. I have a couple of leftovers, like a spaghetti dish with quinoa noodles and wonton soup.

What is your favorite way to relieve stress?

I used to do yoga. Now, I do breathing exercises – I breathe in for four counts and exhale for eight counts. I do that four times a day, and that, along with my little toning program, it helps keep me relaxed.

What is your idea of happiness?

Children make me happy.  I love kids. I love growing plants and growing children. I love being with a group of kids more than a group of guys.

What do you most dislike?

Adults who are whiners – people who come to me saying, “wah, wah, wah” about something. Usually, my immediate response is, “At least you’re not in Africa somewhere with your legs blown off by a landmine, and at least you know where your next meal is coming from.”

What words do you try to live by?

“Integrity.” I am a human of my word. If you don’t have that, at the end of the day you have nothing. Also, “patience.”

What is your greatest fear?

Not being able to help if someone, or anyone, needs me. It hurts me a great deal when I see homeless people on the street, for example.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I’m real simple – I’m what you call a cheap date. I don’t require a lot. But I’m an herbalist, I gather herbs and stuff like that. I take a lot of them on the road – people call me Dr. Khan! So I have a lot of books – real books – as well as candles. I’m coming out with my own fragrance line this holiday season called Khana Sutra, which will have candles, bath salts, oil, and stuff for kids.

On what occasion do you lie?

I can’t lie. I’m the worst liar – I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. However, I might withhold information from kids to protect them.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

You can’t change people. They have to change themselves. One thing I would like is to see some of my family members change themselves for the better.

Who are your heroes?

Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Quincy Jones. Oh, and Joni Mitchell – she’s one of my prophets.

What would you choose for your last meal?

Maybe a good lobster bisque. All I eat on the road, really, is soup or eggs. They are easier to digest and I can recognize them … an egg is an egg.

All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the interviewee and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2012 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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