When Grammy Award-winning recording artist and Glen Cove native Ashanti Douglas’s 2003 album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, it launched her into the limelight. And just like that, Ashanti became part of the celebrity world where health and fitness are not just well meaning goals, but an essential part of the lifestyle.
To get ready for the beach scenes that dominated the music videos for her second album, Ashanti hired trainer Steven “Pit” Codrington of Queens, who introduced her to the foundation of the fitness principals she still follows today.
“Going into my first album, I was 19 or 20 and my metabolism was amazing,” said Ashanti, now 33, who released her newest album, Braveheart, on March 4.
She said Codrington guided her through a strenuous boxing-based regimen, which they referred to as E-Box. The letter "E" signified the shape made by the workout stations Ashanti would follow. The program’s core movements like jump roping and crunches are still tools she uses today.
“It was hard body training with boxing, medicine balls and weights,” Ashanti said. “We did a lot of heavy jump roping, leg presses and squats … lots of cardio, crunches and pushups. All the reps we did three times.”
Ashanti said the E-Box program was so powerful that she was “doing around 1,000 crunches a day.”
Over the years, Ashanti, who was named as one of Billboard‘s Top Females of the Decade from 2000-10, said the spotlight has continued to motivate her to stay in shape.
“Television puts 10 pounds on you,” she said. “If you weigh 125 pounds, on TV you weigh 135 pounds. If I see myself and I don’t like it, that motivates me.”
Even though she said she doesn’t follow a “strict diet,” Ashanti eliminated red meat, pork and fried foods -- and she does count calories.
“It’s not about what’s filling, it’s about what calories you eat,” she said. “I will not eat fast food, at all. I will starve before I eat fast food. It’s crucial and essential to eat healthy. For me, personally, it starts with what you put into your body.”
For the past two months, Ashanti’s been experimenting with a diet of green juices and healthy salads, created by the juice-cleanse brand Organic Avenue, and while on the road, she focuses on basic principles of healthy eating.
“When people are ordering pizza and pasta, I have to stay strong,” she said. “I try not to eat late. When you’re on the road sometimes it’s 2 or 3 in the morning before you get back. If I know I’m going to eat late, I try to make it a salad or turkey [sandwich] without the bread.”
A track and field star at Glen Cove High School, Ashanti said a healthy lifestyle was always the norm for her growing up, which is something she hopes to pass on to her own family.
“When I have a family and kids, all things considered, I want to have a lot of knowledge and [transfer] that knowledge into my choices [for them],” she said, who will host her new album’s release party tonight at Manhattan’s B.B. King Blues Club & Grill.
And apparently, even celebrities idolize celebrities: “I like who I am. But people like Halle Berry, J.Lo, Tina Turner, Cher -- they look amazing,” Ashanti said. “I hope I’m able to maintain that.”
Brian T. Dessart is a nationally accredited Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a New York State Critical Care Emergency Medical Technician and an FDNY firefighter. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter: @briandessart.