The Real-Life Diet of Shaquille O’Neal, Who Got a Wake-Up Call at His Last Checkup

My vote’s for you. I read that you just went to the doctor for the first time in a long time. How did that change your views on health?

Let me clarify. When you play, you go to the doctor to get checked and a physical, right? But I ain’t played in 11, years so if I’m not playing, what would I go to the doctor for, right? 

So when I went back to the doctor there was some stuff I never even knew. They give you those certain words: “Hey man, you got sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can cause hypertension or strokes, you could die.” I said, “What?” “You could die.” So now I’ve got to sleep with a sleep machine. 

Then, “All those painkillers you were taking, bro? Your kidneys are kind of weak. No more painkillers.” I was dependent upon painkillers—not addicted. Certain days when I couldn’t move, I just popped one or two, just to get me going. But I’m off that now. 

I had to really get checked out. When they hit you with that three letter word that starts with D and ends with E, it changes stuff up.

What’s your recovery routine like? What do you do to actually feel better?

Hot tub. I got this hot tub. I’ve got this machine that I put on my legs, a Normatec. That’s what I do. Whenever I get tired, or my legs start to swell after I fly, I just sit in my Normatec and I get in the hot tub and I just try to stretch. I’m not even a real stretcher. I just go down, go to the left, go to the right, floor, try to touch my toes. Basics.

You’re big on helping people recover too—you’ve gone viral for your charity. Whether it’s a Boys and Girls Club, it’s why you started your sneaker line, it’s what you do for improving children’s health. I know for you it’s not going viral, but I’m just interested to know: Why is giving back so important to you? Because it’s not for everyone.

I don’t really consider it giving back. One, it is what my mother always taught me to do. It’s just helping people in need. I didn’t feel it was necessary for me to continue to sell my shoes for $150. My contract is already guaranteed, right? That’s the money part. I’m getting paid. So you sell a certain amount, you get residuals but like, O.K., I already got the big check, right? If I sell a lot of expensive shoes, it would be another big check, but I’m not going to do that to nobody’s baby. So I’m gonna still continue to get paid, but I’m gonna make it to where these babies can afford their shoes. I always just wanted to have fair pricing for people, ’cause I couldn’t even go to my Dad’s office and ask him for $100 for no shoes. “Boy, are you crazy? You know how many chickens and steak dinners and you know how many school supplies I can get you with $100?”

I know you’re also worldwide in terms of your music, as “DJ Diesel.”For a quick, 5-song workout playlist, what are you giving me? 

“Skywalker” by Miguel 

“Eazy” by The Game and Kanye West

“Brooklyn We Go Hard” by Jay Z featuring Santigold

“I Believe I Can Fly,” off the Space Jam Soundtrack

“Protect Ya Neck” Wu Tang Clan

You also go by The Big Aristotle, so I need some wisdom: Anybody that wants to get inspired on their fitness journey, what do you tell them?

 I tell them to imagine how you wanna look, then get all the necessary information, and really understand and focus. It’s all about the diet. Because even now, if I do 500 sit-ups a day, my six pack ain’t right like how I want it, ’cause it’s all about the diet. So diet, preparation, focus, and belief. You just have to stick to your routine. That’s it.

“Everyone wants to get into all these modalities and fancy gadgets, but taking a nap is literally the greatest thing you can do for your body to recover.”

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