"Do my legs look good?" a beaming Mariah Carey asked as she posed for Us at NYC's Industria studios on November 4. Not that she needed reassurance. The first-time mom proudly showed off her toned gams and flat stomach the hard-earned results of losing 30 pounds after giving birth on April 30 to twins Moroccan and Monroe (with husband Nick Cannon). Getting her body back once seemed to be a, well, sweet fantasy for the star. After finally conceiving (Carey took what she called "excruciatingly painful" regular progesterone shots, a hormone often prescribed to boost fertility, then continued the shots for 10 weeks afterward to reduce the risk of miscarriage), the singer developed gestational diabetes, suffered a double hernia and was eventually put on extended bed rest before delivering "Roc" and "Roe" via C-section at 35 weeks. "I gained an enormous amount of weight. I was scared I was never going to walk again!" the Grammy winner confesses. "After carrying two 6-pound babies around, I had to relearn how to do it."
And did she ever. Not only was the hitmaker able to strut to her songs "Shake It Off" and "Fly Like a Bird" at the Us shoot, she also slid into size-6 shorts. Her secret? A nutrition and workout plan from Jenny (formerly Jenny Craig). Starting with a 1,500-calorie-a-day menu and thrice-weekly workouts in July, Carey began losing one to two pounds a week. As her advisers monitored her progress on the plan's at-home delivery service with weekly consultations and weigh-ins, she decreased to 1,200 calories a day a month later. Now the brand's ambassador, Carey opens up to Us about reclaiming her svelte figure.
You look amazing!
I feel incredible, but it was a long road! Being pregnant felt longer than it was. It was a huge blessing to be able to have the babies, but I felt trapped in my body because I couldn't move.
How much weight did you gain while pregnant?
The last time weighed myself was 1998! But I will say that I gained a lot of water weight.
Was it nice to eat whatever you wanted?
Truthfully, I wasn't that hungry because the babies were pressing on my stomach. But I was really into Big Gulps. Nick would always run to the store and get me icy, sugary drinks.
How did Nick feel about you gaining weight?
He was there for me every step of the way. He's the most generous guy. When I was pregnant and still able to swim, Nick would buy me maternity bathing suits. But when they didn't fit, it was the worst!
When did you realize you wanted to lose weight?
I have a picture from two days after I gave birth when our friend Reverend Al Sharpton came to bless the babies. I was so happy then that the babies had made it. But I looked at myself in the photo after and thought, Who on Earth is that? Mind you, I thought I looked good at the time!
When did you start your program?
I had to wait more than six weeks after I had the babies! At the beginning, I was breast-feeding, so I actually had to eat more than I normally would. It was frustrating.
Tell Us about the diet. Was it tough at first?
When I started, I got really strict with myself. Jenny and the American Heart Association, which I'm working with to raise health awareness, helped me understand that losing weight is about eating what you like, just in the appropriate portion sizes. I wouldn't say it was really hard, but it required focus and determination. In our society, we tend to just eat and eat because it's there. I'd love to sit around and eat whatever I want all day, but now I have to watch it.
Do you get to snack?
They have snacks that you actually want to eat, like popcorn and cheese curls. I've learned how to have just enough, like if you eat the popcorn slowly, you're good for the whole movie. And you can have one S'mores Bar, not five! When you're dieting, being able to eat things like that lifts you up. It's not a bleak thing where you say, "Ugh, I have to eat this now."
Do you feel deprived?
No, the program is so easy. You can grab something so you're not starving. I like the Tomato Florentine Soupitizer because it's low in calories and you're full!
Do you ever cheat with food not in the program?
I do cheat a little sometimes with ice cream. I'll have a small sundae, but I'll substitute frozen yogurt. And I still put the fudge on there because I'm not having a huge one!
And you exercise, right?
Working out made me feel like a whole person again! As soon as I could, I went to a friend's house in Palm Beach, Florida, that was like a private spa and had a gorgeous gym. I don't use weights because I'm big-boned, but I do a lot of cardio and aquatic workouts in the pool using my own weight for resistance. And I walk a lot. Even though my weight loss was mostly from dieting, I'm never going to stop working out. It releases stress. I'm really focused on my health now mind, body and soul.
Did the program help you find that focus?
The advising sessions felt almost therapeutic. Nutrition is important to me now. My health struggles over the past years have helped me realize how many people go through similar things and they have nobody to educate them. So doing that for others is my main motivation.
What body parts are you loving the most?
My legs! Normally, no matter how much weight I'd gained, they were the same, so I could look at them and be like, OK, I'm still me. But during the pregnancy, it was like two of them equaled one. Seeing my legs again and being able to wear skirts have been great. I also love my arms. I think it's been easier to tone them because my tolerance for pain has been greater.
Do you want to lose any more weight?
A lot of the people around me think I should stop. They say, "You're at your weight from the Honey video (in 1997). Stay there!" But I think I looked my best in "Touch My Body" (from 2008), so that's my goal now. I know I'm not going to look my thinnest every day, but I know how to get back there if I want to.
So what's next?
The studio is calling my name! Our babies are such an inspiration, and I can't help jotting down lyrics and singing new melodies every day. My fans have no idea how grateful I am to them for sticking with me through all of this, and I can't wait to give them another album. But for now, I'm just really glad to look like myself again.