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patti labelle-1When award-winning singer Patti LaBelle learned she had diabetes after passing out onstage 15 years ago, the legendary singer said she thought that meant no more fun. No more fun with life. No more fun exercising whenever she wanted. And definitely no more fun in the kitchen where she loved to cook.

“The past few years, I’ve been paying attention to my health,” says singer Patti LaBelle. “I can live with this thing called diabetes. I sure can.”

Patti wasn’t always so sure of herself. Fifteen years ago, the rhythm-and-blues diva passed out on stage during a singing performance. That night, the doctor asked if she knew she had diabetes. “I didn’t have a clue,” Patti says. “I hadn’t gone to the doctor because nothing was hurting me.”

The diagnosis made her angry, even though she knew diabetes ran in her family. It had taken the lives of her aunt, her grandmother and her mother, whose legs were amputated before she died in her mid-60s.

“I knew a lot of things and ways of eating would have to go,” Patti says. Yet instead of taking charge of her disease, she spent the next four years ignoring it. “I’d make fried chicken for everybody, have a piece, and say it was OK.”

Eventually, the soul singer decided she needed a new attitude, just like the title of her 1985 chart topper. “I realized my blood glucose levels weren’t getting any better,” she says. “So I knew I had to stop playing around and get serious about this disease.”

Starting a regular exercise program wasn’t easy. “I’m not one of those people who loves to exercise. In fact, I hate it,” Patti says. “But I know for a better quality of life, I have to do it.”

“Instead of frying my fish, like I used to do, I sauté it. I spice everything,” says the singer, who also has a line of spice blends. “Because I can’t use butter, these days I am a fresh garlic fanatic.”

Now Patti varies her daily exercise routine. On the road, she works out with a trainer. At home in Philadelphia, she exercises in her pool, walks her dogs (four Rottweilers and two Cane Corsos) and builds stamina on an elliptical machine.

Resisting temptation is still tough for her, since she grew up on “stick-to-your-ribs” food. “For 14 years I’ve been restricted. It’s hard,” she says – while admitting to a few indulgences. “Every now and then if I see that piece of bacon or short rib, I’m gonna snatch it.”

“It’s hard for Patti LaBelle to exercise,” she says about herself. “But do I want to live another 60 years? Honey, yes, I do!”