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Mary J. Blige Resolves to Be Healthy

The R&B and hip-hop soul sensation reveals the inspiring fitness, food, and anger-management lessons that are driving her on a powerful journey of personal and professional transformation.

Mary J. Makes Fitness a Priority continued...

About 10 treadmill minutes later, Miele leads Blige through flexibility exercises on the floor and some resistance exercises for the arms. So far, everyone’s all smiles. But then the trainer hands her the jump rope, and Blige’s face hardens. She frowns. “I hate this rope,” she says.

Miele doesn’t seem surprised; clearly, it’s a protest he has heard before. And the look on his face makes it clear: The jump rope is not optional. So, Blige follows his instructions to skip for 45 seconds -- a time that seems brief only if you are not the one skipping.

Blige’s renewed dedication to her fitness regime -- along with a resolve to clean up her diet and tone down the rage that she says used to be her “default” mode -- reflects her new attitude and new lifestyle plan. She’s kicked the bad habits, excess alcohol and drugs among them, and is embracing healthier ones, despite a grade-A sweet tooth.

Mary J. Blige is learning to love living with a whole lot less drama.

The 411 on the New Mary J.

Her resolve to be healthy -- physically, mentally, spiritually -- didn’t occur overnight, acknowledges Blige after her workout. She is relaxing on a wheat-colored chaise in a grassy corner of her backyard.

Nor did the problems that led to the need for the overhaul pop up suddenly. Blige grew up in the Bronx, overcoming a childhood filled with poverty and witnessing violence to become a top-billed singer, songwriter, producer, and actress. Her albums have sold more than 35 million copies worldwide since her career debut in 1992 with her smash hit, “What’s the 411?”

As Blige’s rags-to-riches success story unfolded, so did the news that she could be difficult and temperamental, and suddenly fly into a rage. She admits to past struggles, including drinking too much, abusing cocaine, and being depressed. The out-of-control anger, Blige says, was programmed into her as a child -- the way nearly everyone around her responded to life’s disappointments.

“That’s all I ever saw, people reacting to things that way,” she tells WebMD. “When someone disappoints you -- bang! You automatically default back to that stuff.”

Over the years, the shame that followed her temper tantrums convinced her that she needed to change. Finally she said to herself: “You can’t keep doing this all the time -- screaming, throwing stuff, breaking things, kicking windows.”

She credits her husband, music industry exec Kendu Isaacs, 40, whom she married three years ago, with much of her resolve to improve herself. He has encouraged her to turn off the “old stuff” and begin anew. “He’s committed to me, his job, his children [her three stepchildren], himself,” she says. “He tries very hard. In some areas he is stronger than in others, and that’s where I come in to help. We balance each other well.”

Lessons learned from the past few years of self-improvement are packed into Growing Pains. Listeners hear the story of Mary, her work in progress, and perhaps, she hopes, their own unfolding tales.

One other new rule, Blige reveals: She surrounds herself only with positive people -- besides her husband, she says, people like her trainer. And Miele’s steady nature and constant support are evident. If she lags even a tiny bit during the hour-long sweat session, he’s right there: “Four more,” he says in an encouraging tone. “One more.”

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