By Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDE
Meet Charles Mattocks. He’s a chef, an actor, an author, a filmmaker, a dad. He’s a diabetes advocate. And he just happens to have type 2 diabetes. Charles has been drawing upon his own experience with having diabetes to help others. You might say that he’s a man on a mission. Get to know Charles and how he is transforming how diabetes is perceived and managed.
Charles was born in New York and at a young age, was set on a career in music (music runs in his blood — his uncle is the late, great Bob Marley). After performing with rapper LL Cool J and even cutting his own single, Charles shifted his talents to acting, where he played the role of Ben Tyler in the Emmy-nominated 1996 movie The Summer of Ben Tyler.
With a young son to support, Charles morphed his career yet again, this time with the focus on food. The Poor Chef launched with the aim to help people learn how to prepare healthy, tasty meals that didn’t break the bank. Charles was featured on the Today show, Martha Stewart, CNN and Dr. Oz. He started blogging for Dr. Oz’s show and even authored a cookbook, Eat Cheap but Eat Well.
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Charles Mattocks’ life changed yet again in 2011, when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. As many people can attest, being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes — or any chronic condition, for that matter — can be devastating. “I thought I was going to die,” shares Charles. “I know that may seem extreme, but I knew nothing about diabetes. I was just in shock, and I was scared.”
And like many people in this day and age, Charles turned to Google to learn about diabetes. Why Google? Not surprisingly, his doctor didn’t give Charles any information or suggestions about his diabetes, nor was he referred to a diabetes educator or a dietitian to learn how to manage his condition. Yet he persevered and started reading up on everything diabetes to learn what he needed to do. And with his goal of helping others and spreading awareness always in the forefront, Charles decided to create a documentary, The Diabetic You, to chronicle his quest to learn about type 2 diabetes.
Charles had choices when he was diagnosed with diabetes. He could have succumbed to the diagnosis, sat back and felt sorry for himself. But that’s not who Charles is. Instead, he chose to use his diabetes as a springboard to spread the word that diabetes is manageable. As he puts it, “I immediately knew I could use my story to inspire others. As someone who thought they were healthy and eating healthy, I felt I needed to use myself as an example.”
Passion and perseverance led Charles down a path of personal transformation. His first step was to literally take a long, hard look at himself in the mirror and get down to the business of losing about 20 pounds. How? Charles backed off a bit on the weight lifting and started to do cardio exercise. He then turned his focus on his food intake and began to follow “God’s plan:” a lot of vegetables, fruit, lean meat and water. Out went the sugar and processed foods. “I felt that if I could do this, then anyone could. I started to record this and tell my story. I had no idea this could have taken me this far, but I was motivated to win this.”
Having diabetes spurred Charles on to reach other people who had it. In addition to chronicling his diabetes journey, he jumped into the advocacy limelight by giving TEDx talks, becoming a dLife Diabetes Champion and a Blue Circle Champion for the International Diabetes Federation, and also by publishing a diabetes cookbook, entitled, The Budget-Friendly Fresh and Local Diabetes Cookbook, published by the American Diabetes Association.
Despite tirelessly giving of himself to reach as many people with diabetes as he could, Charles realized that there were so many people he wasn’t reaching. He also knew that not everyone has access to viable health care and diabetes education. What would be the best way to reach the masses? And then it came to him: television. Here’s how Charles describes his “aha” moment.
“I felt that if I could find people in their homes as they sat down for dinner, there could be hundreds of thousands that could find education and inspiration from the show. Many with diabetes don’t see all the experts that they should; many will never see a dietitian or a diabetes educator. So I felt if we brought all of these together in one house then they could learn from the people on the show.”
Charles’ vision for his reality television show called Reversed was to inspire people to take their own diabetes journey to transform their lives, to chart a different course for themselves and start anew. The show, which aired on the Discovery Life channel in 2017, focused on the lives of people who have diabetes in the lush setting of Jamaica. There, they spent 10 days interacting with Charles, each other and experts in medicine, nutrition and exercise, learning more about diabetes — and themselves. The focus of Reversed is not to literally reverse diabetes, but rather, to reverse lives and hope through education (and a little entertainment, too!).
Charles is proud of Reversed, and rightly so. But he admits that he wanted the show to reach even more people. He believes that season two will do that, thanks to some celebrity guests and experts who will, as he puts it, “take it to the next level.” Overall, though, he’s pleased with season one. “I learned that this program is just what I knew it would be. We saved the lives of a few people on the show.” Indeed, Charles mentions that some of the guests keep in touch with him every month, thanking him for giving them back their lives.
Being on a reality television show may seem like a pipe dream to some, but the experiences, lessons learned and relationships forged on this show can translate in some way to anyone who has diabetes. Support is key for helping you manage your condition. As Charles puts it, “Find people who care and people who are willing to work with you.” He goes on to advise, “Use your diagnosis to even be a change or inspiration for others.” Charles is really all about hope — he’s a firm believer in how lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, along with knowing your diabetes numbers can help you to live a healthy life, even if you have to “dig down deep” and fight each day for your future.
In the true spirit of advocacy, hope and compassion, Charles remains tireless in his journey to transform diabetes while encouraging people with diabetes to help others, as well. “The work we have done has been good, and that’s what it’s all about, leaving a legacy for others from your works and passions.”
Want to learn more about Charles Mattocks, his diabetes advocacy and his diabetes-friendly recipes? Read “Review of Reversed: A New Diabetes Reality Show,” “Holiday Recipes From Top Chefs” and “Charles Mattocks: Type 2 Diabetes and Healthy Eating.”
Source URL: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/managing-diabetes/getting-to-know-you/charles-mattocks-diabetes-champion/
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