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AJ McLean opens up about the small changes that helped him get sober, transform his body

The Backstreet Boys' singer is one-year sober and feeling stronger than ever.
/ Source: TODAY

Backstreet Boys' AJ McLean is back — with a vengeance. The singer, who has been in and out of rehab since 2001, is celebrating being one-year sober and an impressive body transformation. He's feeling strong on the inside, too. 

“Drinking caused weight gain, but it also weighed down my mental state,” McLean, 44, told TODAY

McLean, who said he is “in the best shape” of his life, started by making small diet changes. The first two things to go were alcohol and fast food. It wasn’t easy, and McLean struggled in the beginning. In those tough moments, he said he'd ask himself a series of questions, including, do I want to feel good about myself? Do I want to inspire others?

"I'd tell myself, 'I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this. I am going to be the best version of myself,'" he recalled.

McLean, a long-time sloucher, now walks tall with his shoulders back, and his chest out. 

“I’m proud,” he declared.

What worked for McLean — a former “yo-yo dieter” — was matching his body weight to the amount of protein he takes in a day.

“It’s a lot of protein — I’m taking in 140 grams,” McLean shared. Breakfast typically consists of egg whites and oatmeal or grain-free pancakes. Lunch is a big salad with grilled chicken and for dinner, he’ll have a steak or a burger in a lettuce bun with a side of asparagus. As far as snacks go, McLean gravitates towards almonds, protein shakes and apples, which he noted are “very high in fiber.”

The 5 feet, 10 inches tall, artist also exercises five days a week. He starts with 30 minutes of cardio, which is then followed by strength training. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are devoted to upper body workouts, while Tuesdays and Thursdays are lower body. 

McLean said he has lost 32 pounds since February. 

“I weighed myself this morning and I’m 138,” he told TODAY. 

Of course, McLean’s physical transformation is only part of the reason he’s feeling so good. On Sept. 26, he marked 365 days free of alcohol. McLean said he’s determined to stay on track for his wife, Rochelle, and their daughters, 5-year-old Lyric and 9-year-old Elliott, born Ava. 

The pop star, whose real name is Alexander James McLean, said sobriety is helping him to get get back in touch with his pre-fame self. 

“AJ is kind of the celebrity who was living the rockstar lifestyle and Alex got stuffed down,” he revealed. “But now I’ve come to a place where they can both coexist.” 

McLean is looking towards the future. He's set to release a solo album in 2023, and is touring with the Backstreet Boys again, or "the fellas," as he calls them.

“I am so so happy to be in the place that I am today,” McLean said.

McLean opened up to TODAY while promoting his partnership with Mr. Coffee and its #IWantItLatte sweepstakes. The brand will be giving 25 fans a chance to win a Mr. Coffee latte maker. McLean will also treat five winners to a personalized song about their favorite coffee beverage.

McLean said he’s been having fun experimenting with different flavors such as pumpkin spice latte and a cappuccino.

“I made my signature, sugar-free white chocolate mocha and it was bomb!” he said.