Sherri Shepherd Explains How Son Jeffrey Jr. 'Woke Me Up' About Her Diabetes: 'I Don't Want to Die'

Sherri Shepherd tells PEOPLE Health that her 16-year-old son Jeffrey Jr. "motivates me every day" to eat better and exercise, after she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007

Sherri Shepherd has a new outlook on her health after living with diabetes for more than a decade.

The Daytime Emmy winner, 54, explains to PEOPLE Health how her now-16-year-old son Jeffrey Jr. pushed her to take her health seriously after she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007.

"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 recounts. "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.'"

She adds that her son "motivates me every day," helping her eat healthy and maintain her fitness. "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 says.

Sherri Shepherd
Ari and Louise

"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 continues. "And so, just keeping up with him, I have to have energy, and that motivates me as well."

Shepherd co-parents Jeffrey Jr. with her first husband Jeffrey Tarpley, 54, and she shares 6-year-old son Lamar Jr. with ex Lamar Sally.

The View alum also reveals how diabetes "completely saved my life. I don't look at it like dying, 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."

For more on Sherri Shepherd's health journey, look for a copy of PEOPLE Health at your doctor's office beginning July 31

"Diabetes, that diagnosis, has made me live again, because otherwise, I just would have been eating nonstop and not thinking," Shepherd adds.

After her recent weight loss and her 54th birthday, Shepherd says she's "peaking," as she feels better than ever. "This is literally the best I've ever felt," she muses. "I feel better now than I did in my 20s, I really do."

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