My Diet Saved My Life

UPDATED 01/10/2011 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/10/2011 at 01:00 AM EST

Drew Carey has a goal. "I'd like to run the L.A. marathon," he says. Not long ago, that idea would have seemed implausible enough to be taken as one of the infamously hefty comedian's jokes. But today Carey believes that anything is possible.

Since November 2009, the 5'10" Carey has dropped 82 lbs. Once tipping the scales at 262, he is now a svelte 180. For Carey, the weight loss has not only changed how he looks, it has changed his whole perspective on life.

"I hated myself," says Carey, 52. "There was nothing about my life that I liked. I was miserable." The former sitcom star-who's been host of The Price Is Right since 2007-was seriously concerned about what effect his excess weight would have on the prospects for his career. "I looked terrible on-camera," he says. "I thought, 'They aren't going to hire me back when my contract is up. They'll find somebody better looking.' " He also had legitimate reasons to be worried about dying. Heart disease runs in his family, and last July Carey's older brother Neal died of a heart attack. Says Carey: "Neal was healthier than me, and he was gone at 64." Carey, too, was showing signs of having heart problems and had been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. "I took terrible care of myself," he says. "When I ate, I'd have cheeseburgers or patty melts with fries and a lot of salt. Four cups of coffee with tons of sugar. I did no exercise. I would always just say, 'Next Monday I'll start something.'"

Carey's "next Monday" finally came after a visit with his doctor. "We talked for about three hours," he recalls. "And the doctor laid it all out for me. He put together a comprehensive plan to get me back in shape. It sold me."

In the following months, Carey stuck to the plan fastidiously. No carbohydrates, but lots of vegetables and lean meat. Water instead of soda. Fruit rather than cupcakes or pie. "Before, the only strawberries I would eat were covered in chocolate," says Carey. He also started a six-days-a-week exercise regime of cardio workouts-mostly 45 to 60 minutes on an elliptical machine. "That really wore me out at first," he says. "I would be drenched in sweat to the point where I could wring the water out of my T-shirt. But after a while, I started feeling like a million bucks."

Carey also gave himself incentives to keep up the hard work. "First it was to get under 250 lbs.," he says. "That was a big deal to me. And once I got under 200, there was no looking back." In August Carey achieved something he hadn't attempted since his days as a young Marine reserve in the early 1980s: crossing the finish line in a 10K run.

Carey also watched his waistline shrink. "I was a 46," he says. "I'd have to go online to get pants because they wouldn't have a big enough size for me at the store." These days Carey is a 34 waist, "creeping up on a 32." Carey calls himself "Mr. Clothes Dude" now, often heading out to search for designer duds between tapings of his show.

Though Carey looks forward to the possibility of hitting the 170-lb. mark, that's not his primary goal. "I don't want to live with weight in my head," he says. "I just want to live healthy."

He also wants to keep taking advantage of the benefits of losing all those pounds. "It really is incredible," he says. "Work is better, sex is better, everything is better. It's not that I look like David Beckham. I still have a bit of a gut. But I feel great about myself."

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