The wait is over. Mary J. Blige's hotly anticipated new album, Growing
Pains, has hit the stores and the airways. Aptly titled, the R&B
queen and hip-hop soul's eighth release is forthright about Blige's fight with
her demons -- including depression, cocaine, excess alcohol, and out-of-control
anger -- and her strategies for conquering them.
(Hear Mary J. get real about these challenges and more on her
By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
Weeks before the album dropped, the six-time Grammy Award-winning artist sat
down with WebMD, after a rigorous workout designed to whip her body into
concert-tour shape (she kicked off an eight-concert tour in South Africa and
Japan in mid-October), and let us in on the back story, the secrets behind the
lyrics. Endearingly honest during the hours-long interview (read it in the
January/February 2008 issue of WebMD the
Magazine), the star admits to many mistakes and reveals how her
dramatic turnaround is unfolding.
Even her cleanest-living, most upbeat, cellulite-free fans are bound to
identify with at least some of these lyrics, reflecting Blige's down times and
her get-up-and-get-back-out-there attitude. The lyrics are real-life -- born of
sweat, tears, fears, and prayers.
Getting real with herself and taking charge of her life -- physically,
mentally, spiritually -- is an ongoing effort, she admits. Blige is the first
to tell you she's still a work in progress. But she's learned to pat herself on
the back at least a little and to share what she's learned along the way.
The music superstar offers these six strategies for improving your body
image, your workout, and your life this new year:
Embrace exercise, even if you hate it. "I do not love it,"
Blige says. "I appreciate what it does for me. And I wish there was a pill
you could take that could do everything that is in that gym." But she finds
that putting in her time on a hard cardio workout pays off later on stage with
better endurance and stamina. "All that stuff that you hate that you do, it
pushes you further," she says. "It makes me feel like a rocket,
Set realistic goals. Blige dropped 9 pounds in three months and is
trying to lose another 10 to get her 5'5'' frame down to 125, which she thinks
is her ideal weight. To get there, she sets a daily calorie limit of 1,500 and
tries to work out five times a week. That's a very realistic goal, and a
realistic calorie total for someone as active as Blige, says Bonnie Taub-Dix,
RD, a New York dietitian who often helps celebrities deal with weight issues.
"She's avoiding the mistake many people make, dropping calories below
1,200, which makes it next to impossible to fulfill your nutritional
needs," Taub-Dix says.
Celebrate small victories. To motivate herself, Blige bought a pair
of too-small size 28 jeans and dubbed them her "goal jeans." She'd try
them on, and they wouldn't fit. She admits to feeling disgusted with herself.
Blige promised herself, "If I can't fit in those jeans soon, I am giving
them away." But she didn't give up. And within a few months, they fit.
"I was so happy!" she says. "Goal" clothing is good motivation,
Taub-Dix says. She tells clients to hang that too-tight dress they are dying to
get into in plain view. "If you live by yourself, hang it in the kitchen,
near the refrigerator."
Inspire yourself. Blige's personal trainer is Gregg Miele, a New
York City-based personal trainer who's also worked with artist Shawn
"Jay-Z" Carter, actor Chloe Sevigny, Sports Illustrated model
Lujan Fernandez, and other celebrities trying to fit a regular exercise routine
into a hectic, globe-trotting schedule. Miele posts motivational sayings in
front of Blige's treadmill so she can read them as she works out. Her favorite:
"What you eat in private shows up in public." Miele has other tricks,
including giving his clients a black wristband stamped with "self
discipline." His clients see them constantly throughout their day and are
reminded to follow good health habits, whether that means saying no to dessert
or making it to the gym.
Acknowledge your weaknesses. And focus on your strengths,she adds.
Blige loves salt and also has a wicked sweet tooth. "The only sweets I hate
are black jelly beans and black licorice." But thankfully, she also loves
vegetables --cucumbers, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, okra, corn, zucchini,
spinach, and cabbage. "Raw, cooked, it doesn't matter." And she makes
sure to drink plenty of water. She also tries hard to not get down on herself.
Her trainer helps her see weaknesses in a whole new light when he tells her and
other clients, "Weaknesses are goals to work on in the
Appreciate your uniqueness. On Blige's new album, one song is called
"Work That." The premise, she says, is this: "Whatever I have, I am
going to make it work for me. I don't have what everyone else has, but whatever
I have I am going to make it work." Miele heartily agrees this is a
good attitude when working out, too. Because he works often with celebrities,
he sometimes hears from other clients that they want so-and-so's great arms or
another star's awesome abs. He advises them, as Blige has learned, to focus on
their great or unique body parts -- and make improving the other parts
What gets Mary J. moving in her workout routines? Listen to "Work
That" and other songs from her
new album, Growing Pains.