Although he was already a highly successful hip-hop record producer, there was a time when Tim Mosley -- better known in the music business as Timbaland -- had a hard time showing his face in his artists' videos and at industry parties. When confronted with the presence of unstoppably fit colleagues and rivals, such as LL Cool J, 50 Cent, and Eminem, Timbaland couldn't help but find his own "body of work" a bit lacking. But that's what drove the industry heavyweight to face the music--and to get in the best shape of his life.

In 2002, at the age of 31, Timbaland had already orchestrated monster hits such as Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River" and Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'," making him one of the biggest music producers in the world. But the distinction was true in more ways than one. At 5'9" and a blimpy 331 pounds, Timbaland could barely fit into the recording studio. Originally from Norfolk, Va. (though now living in Miami), the southern man had grown up on foods high in sodium and trans-fats. Even worse, he would binge eat or -- due to his hectic schedule -- go hours without eating at all. "Sometimes I just didn't eat enough" he says. "And when you don't eat, your body stores more fat to compensate."

Timbaland knew carrying such a heavy load would only act as deadweight on his career, preventing him from raising his profile in music. As well as being heard, he wanted to be seen -- but not as the fat guy in his artists' videos. More than vanity, however, was on the line. By 2004, Timbaland's bad habits had caught up to him. "I was having problems with simple things like getting up" he says, "and I couldn't maintain energy throughout the day" A visit to his doctor confirmed his worst fears -- he had developed type-2 diabetes.

Not long after he got the bad news, however, a chance conversation with one of hip-hop's buffest bodies helped him finally turn things around. "LL Cool J is an inspiration," says Timbaland. "We were hanging out. He didn't know what I meant by it at the time, but when we finished talking, I told him that the next time I saw him, I would be right there with him." Intent on giving his friend a run for his money fitness-wise, Timbaland immediately hired Miami trainer Jose Garcia Jr. "Garcia told me to give him six weeks of my life and I'd definitely see results," says Timbaland. "And all I know is that it worked."

[pagebreak]

When the workouts began, the pair kick-started Timbaland's metabolism by making sure he had a constant supply of high-quality fuel, provided by six meals a day that were loaded with protein and fresh vegetables. Instead of greasy, trans-fat-laden eats, Timbaland got his fat fix from heart-friendly sources such as almonds. In the gym, his training was marked by hour-long cardio sessions (slow runs--a safer alternative for a man his size than fast-paced work) and additional hour-long weight-training workouts at least five days a week.

"I alternated heavy days and high-rep days," Timbaland says. This helped keep his metabolism at top speed, ensuring his body burned maximum fat. By the six-week point, the producer was already starting to look like a new man, and by April 2005, he was down to 210 pounds -- a 121-pound loss! At that point, his diabetic symptoms had ceased, and his doctor said he was in the clear.

"When I went out in public, people had to think twice about who I was," he says. "They remembered seeing me as a big fat dude, but now I could stand side-by-side with LL and not look so bad." Today, Timbaland is a stronger force than ever, both in music and onscreen. (He can even be seen putting the moves on Nelly Furtado -- in a tank top -- in the video for her hit single "Promiscuous" which he also produced.)

But more than the improvements in how he looks and feels, Timbaland values the increased self-confidence and discipline he gained from sticking with the program. "when people know you've been fat all your life and then see you have the determination to change yourself, they believe that you can do the stuff you say you will, because you've shown you have willpower." And that's something to rap about.

Gym Jams

Timbaland picks the top songs (all of which, coincidentally, he produced) you need to rock out during your next workout.

FOR CARDIO

"Get Ur Freak On," by Missy Elliot

"Is That Your Chick," by Memphis Bleek

"Promiscuous," by Nelly Furtado

FOR WEIGHTS

"Headsprung," by LL Cool J

"Ugly," by Bubba Sparxxx

"Big Pimpin'," by Jay-Z