"American Idol" judge Randy Jackson says a new and healthier world opened up for him after he got the news he had diabetes.

Jackson told the Los Angeles Times his days of fried food and leisurely rounds of golf quickly gave way to workouts, tennis and lower-calories meals.

"I was eating like I was still in the South, like a crazy wild man, and I wasn't working out," Jackson recalled. "I was playing a lot of golf and I thought that was a workout, but if you're using the cart, with the hot dogs and the beer, it's not."

A trip to the emergency room nine years ago culminated with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes and doctors' orders to clean up his act through diet and exercise. "Like me, there are a lot of people walking around that don't know they have it," Jackson said. "I want to get the awareness out -- especially since diet and exercise are such big contributors to Type 2 diabetes."

Jackson said a key to moving into vigorous exercise and more vegetables is to take baby steps instead of trying to make a complete change all at once, especially because eating can often be an emotional response to stress. "It's hard for people to change habits -- it takes months to make them but years to break them," he said. "I would suggest people go to a psychologist, or sit down with somebody and talk about what happens before you dive into that bucket of ice cream."