DJ Khaled is the kind of guy who FaceTimes on the reg with Mark Wahlberg, screenshots the conversation, uploads the image to Instagram for his 15 million followers to like, comment, and share, and then shrugs it off like it’s no big deal.
“So [Wahlberg] calls me up and says, ‘I’m proud of you, I see what you’re doing, it’s working. Don’t stop,’” Khaled told Men’s Health over the phone. “He’s one of those guys that motivates me who will call me out of nowhere just to say he’s got love for me and he with me.”
Khaled has a knack for bringing smart, talented people like Wahlberg into his orbit. In fact, collaboration has been the baseline for his meteoric rise in the music industry, working with an enviable list of collaborators that reads like a dream roster for popular music in the past decade (Bieber, Cardi B, Beyoncé, and so on and so forth) who have helped him notch chart-topping single after chart-topping single.
And whether it’s hilariously chronicling jet ski misadventures on Snapchat or conquering the zeitgeist with a seemingly endless stream of motivational catchphrases, DJ Khaled has always been larger than life.
But until recently, the hip-hop multi-hyphenate was also larger—physically—than he wanted to be. Enter WW, the new Weight Watchers, who partnered with Khaled at the end of 2017 and began formally showcasing his weight loss journey as the company’s official social media ambassador on New Year’s Day 2018.
Khaled weighed 293 pounds at the start of the Freestyle program, which assigns different points to different foods and sets a daily points limit. Earlier this year, he shared on Instagram that after one year on the program, he’d dropped 43 pounds, bringing him down to his original goal of 250 pounds.
Khaled says his motivation to embrace a healthier lifestyle has less to do with him personally and are more about his family.
“I have to love myself to take care of the people that I love,” Khaled said. “It’s not a priority, it’s the only priority.”
Moderation is the major key when it comes to Khaled’s new lifestyle. He cut back dramatically on two foods that were “weakness” pre-diet: white rice and bread. Also, to hear Khaled tell it, when it came to sweets it was always “another one.”
“I love pumpkin pie, I love sweet potato pie. Who don’t? But I touch that and it still pleases my taste buds,” he said. “I’m not gonna eat it seven days a week now. I might eat it once a week and it’s like a celebration.”
He also says he’s blessed to have a personal chef, Melissa Zuniga, who lives with Khaled and his family full-time and whose culinary creations regularly pop up in his videos on social media.
Khaled spends a lot of the time road playing shows and promoting his various projects and businesses, which means he doesn’t always have Zuniga to fall back on when it’s time to eat. But he insists having a good foundation at home in terms of eating habits has translated to smarter eating on the road.
“If I go to a restaurant, I’ll order what I love,” Khaled said. “But I’m going to think about every time I order something, know what I’m sayin’? If I order a cappuccino, it’s—what’s that sugar called?—it’s “stevia” instead of sugar, know what I’m sayin’? I eat more fish and salad.”
The multi-platinum producer is also hitting the gym more frequently, working out 3 or 4 days a week.
“I don’t know how to pronounce this so I hope I say this correctly: ‘the ecliptical?’ That machine,” Khaled said. “I just go in a zone for 30 minutes and I listen to music. If I’m not listening to music, I’m on a conference call handling my business or running my company on my phone. It makes time go by faster.”
And while Khaled’s savviness on social media allowed him to better connect with fans of his music, sharing his weight loss journey online has been a major motivator, particularly for helping him feel like he’s a part of a greater WW community. He says he’s met countless people on the road who have asked him about his lifestyle change, and shared that it inspired their own.
Khaled maintains that the best part of this whole experience has been being able to teach healthy habits to his 2-year-old son, Asahd.
“My son loves working out with me. He loves to work out on his little toy bike right beside me,” Khaled said. “I feel like it’s my job as a parent and for the love of my son that I teach him everything correct.”
As Khaled prepares to release his 11th studio album, Father of Asahd, on Friday, he says he’s never been in a better state of mind, thanks in part to his new lifestyle.
“Healthy is not just eating good. Healthy’s being happy. Healthy’s having joy and love. That’s healthy,” Khaled said. “When you have all that connected in one, life is way better. It’s beautiful. You’re smiling, you’re laughing, you feel good, you love more.”