How Mariah Got Her Groove Back

A year after having twins, the pop diva looks (and feels) better than ever. Here, she opens up about weight loss, wellness, and Whitney.

Shape Magazine by George Holz

Shape (US) May 2012. Text by Claire Connors. Photography by George Holz.

Every year since their surprise nuptials in 2008, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon have renewed their vows on April 30. And 2012 will be no different. Except this time around, the couple will also be commemorating the first birthday of their twins, son Moroccan and daughter Monroe (or Roc and Roe, as the proud mother calls them). While the multiplatinum singer — she's sold more than 200 million records worldwide — is keeping the details of their combo celebration under wraps, she will say, "It's going to be big and fun!"

The party will mark the end of a year filled with physical and emotional challenges — a difficult pregnancy, Nick's diagnosis of lupus nephritus, and the loss of her dear friend Whitney Houston, with whom she recorded the chart-topper "When You Believe" in 1998. What helped Mariah get through the turmoil was focusing on her health. And it shows! Three months after giving birth, she started on the Jenny Craig program — which includes a personalized diet and workout plan — that helped her drop a whopping 30 pounds in six months.

Besides becoming Jenny Craig's new brand ambassador, Mariah has also joined forces with the American Heart Association to bring an important message to the masses: "I want to spread the word that you can live longer and better if you eat well and move more," she says. "I'm hoping people are inspired by my own journey and start taking the right steps toward being healthier."

To hear the latest about her family life and how she whipped her body into shape, read on.

Nick was hospitalized in January with kidney failure and then again in February with blood clots related to his autoimmune disease. How's he doing now?
It was really frightening, but he's feeling much stronger and is definitely on the right track. He's taking better care of himself, eating a diet low in sodium and sugar, and getting more sleep.

He was still in the hospital when you heard the shocking news about Whitney. How have you been coping with her passing?
I'm heartbroken and sad and still have trouble talking about it. I will say I loved her very much and was inspired by her. She was a beautiful human being whose legacy will live on for eternity.

Speaking of beautiful human beings... carrying those babies really put stress on your body.
It did! Pregnancy was probably the best and the hardest thing I'll ever go through. I know for a lot of women, it can be wonderful and relatively easy. But for me, it was like, "Okay, honey, do you have to do everything hard way?" I felt like I was nine months pregnant the whole time I carried them. The coolest part was feeling these four arms and legs moving around inside me. But then I developed toxemia, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes, and it became really intense — to the point where I was put on complete bed rest.

How much weight did you gain?
I put on around 70 pounds, but if you look at photos of me when I was pregnant, you'd say, "Wow, she gained 9,000 pounds!" A lot of it was water weight because I pretty much had head-to-toe edema, which is very painful. Luckily, all the swelling went away fairly quickly after the babies were born. Then I had about 30 more pounds to drop. I have such empathy for people who need to lose a lot of weight, because I know what they're going through. I remember thinking at the time, I'll never look or feel the same again."

What made you pick Jenny Craig to help shed the weight?
I've been on other diets before — my weight has fluctuated 15 to 20 pounds over the years. But I liked the structure of Jenny Craig and that I can prepare my own food along with eating the company's meals and snacks. For example, tonight I'm making grilled swordfish with steamed vegetables and a salad.

That sounds very sensible. Do you work out too?
I used to be able to slim down just by exercising more, but that's changed. Since having the babies, I realize that 90 percent of losing weight is my diet. Today my workout routine is more about getting and staying toned. And for me, that means either taking hour-long walks a few times a week or jumping in the pool three or four days a week to do 45 minutes of aquatic exercises.
How long did you wait to start exercising again?
When you have a C-section, you're not supposed to do anything for at least six weeks. But because I was on bed rest for the last few months of the pregnancy, it took a couple of extra weeks for me to really start training. When I finally did, I was so off-kilter, I practically had to relearn how to walk in the pool. But once I got the hang of it, I realized I'm much stronger than I thought I was.

Were you always a swimmer?
Yes, swimming is my favorite form of exercise, which is surprising since I almost drowned in the ocean when I was 6. It was scary, but it didn't traumatize me or deter me from going in again. My mother just put me back in the water and told me it would be fine. And it was.

Since we're on the subject of fears, you recently performed in public for the first time in a year. Were you nervous?
I had to put everything on hold while I was pregnant, so I was a little anxious. But it was a lot of fun to get back on stage. I felt like I'd never left. One interesting thing was that all the hormonal changes seemed to have made my voice stronger. At one point during my pregnancy, I recorded with Tony Bennett for his Duets II album. He wanted a long, belted-out note at the end, and I wasn't sure I could do it, but then I did! Afterward he said, "I'm not used to singing with a trio."

Having twins is double the work. Are you able to sleep?
My schedule has always been the opposite of most people's. I sleep during the day and wake up at 10 at night, which is why I've been able to adapt to the babies' schedule so well. I'm actually sitting here debating whether I should do a 10 p.m. or a 4 a.m. workout today. If I exercise in the morning, I'll be able to purée some pears and feed them breakfast.

You really sound like a hands-on mom.
I'm lucky because I have a nanny, but caring for the twins is something I take seriously. I don't just sweep into the nursery and go "Hello!" Well, actually I do do that sometimes. They like it when I swirl in, singing "Always Be My Baby." It's their song. They expect a performance from me.

So they're already music fans?
They are! Roc and Roe have been listening to gospel and hip-hop since they were in my belly. My song "Fantasy" was playing when they were born. Now when they hear it, they smile.

On that note, when will we hear new music from you?
I've started writing songs for a new album, which I hope will come out in 2012. Getting back in the studio and making music again-which I truly love doing — is the best way to end this crazy year.