Thursday, July 20, 2006

Did Atkins Weight Loss Ruin His Singing Voice?

This Ottawa Sun story piqued my interest because it deals with two subjects that are very special in my own life: weight loss and singing.

According to the story, a world-renowned 52-year-old opera singer named Richard Margison who sings tenor was concerned about losing too much weight too fast because it could adversely impact his voice. The story described this as a potentially "career-ending event."

Say what? What in the world is THIS all about? I'm sorry, but that's just a bunch of you know what in my not-so-humble opinion. I'll explain why in a moment.

I have always enjoyed singing throughout my entire life. My mom is an excellent alto singer and passed on her musical genes to me and my sister Beverly. Kevin and dad can't carry a tune on a radio (HA!), but mom, my sister and I are pretty good singers. In fact, my wife Christine is a superb alto as well which is one of the things that attracted me to her. Today, we sing together often at our church because we like to blend our voices in harmony (although she chastises me for getting on her alto notes -- sorry, I like to sing high!). :)

Before I lost my weight when I weighed 410 pounds, I was able to sing with a nice clear tone. However, I did notice my breath support was harder to sustain at times because of my weight and I experienced a constant feeling of gunk in my throat would get to be rather annoying. Singing and doing it loudly had always been no problem for me for most of my life.

Did that change when I started livin' la vida low-carb in 2004?

Well, as you know, I lost 180 pounds, got down to 230 pounds that year and have kept it off ever since. Not surprisingly, my breath support has improved dramatically which gives me much better control over the tone and volume of my voice and that constant feeling that I had a frog stuck in my throat swimming in a bucketful of snot magically disappeared, too. I would have to say my voice didn't change a bit for the worse and is even a little bit better overall than it was before my weight loss.

How about if you see for yourself in this sample audio of my singing:

this is an audio post - click to play

A few practice notes before I sing "Livin' La Vida Low-Car-buh!"

Hee hee, that was fun! I hope I didn't break your speakers with my voice, but I REALLY love to sing. It's a talent that I enjoy using to praise the God who created me and to make my "joyful noise" from time to time. :D

For Margison, he had gotten up to 320 pounds before he noticed his late-night pizza runs after his concerts were beginning to catch up to him. But the stereotype of a "good" opera singer is that they are SUPPOSED to be fat, right?

Is there something mystical that happens to your voice when you are carrying around extra cellulite inside of your body? Can anyone explain why it is we expect the best opera singers to be fat? I have never understood this image we have for opera singers.

What's really ironic is that we expect EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE from the recording industry singers who make CDs because they have to be skinny and sing well, too.

So which is it? Chunky or bony? Who makes the better singer?

Of course, I'm making light of this issue (although I honestly want to know what people think about whether weight plays a role in vocal quality), but there is some serious--dare I say it--discrimination going on here.

What if your voice is suited to opera singing and you weigh 110 pounds soaking wet? Is it fair to you that you don't get the part just because you aren't overweight ENOUGH?

Likewise, maybe you have the perfect voice for pop or country radio, but you weigh over 250 or 300 pounds. How many tens of thousands of very talented singers are passed by just because they don't have "the look" (interpreted as borderline anorexic or supermodel looks)?

The most famous example of this is "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood. I LOVE what has happened for her in the past couple of years because she has an amazing voice. I was thrilled for her when she received all of those accolades at the Country Music Awards this year for her powerful song "Jesus Take The Wheel."

But would she have been so successful becoming the winner of "American Idol," recording a multi-platinum album, and winning the admiration of her fans and peers if she wasn't a beautiful, skinny blonde? If we're being honest with ourselves, then the answer is no.

This to me is a BIG problem, no pun intended, but it is one worth getting out in the open to talk about and discuss. As long as people can sing, why does it matter what they look like? The image-conscious record producers are putting unrealistic expectations on those who desire to make it in the music biz. If you aren't gorgeous and thin, then you're not getting in. What's wrong with this picture? But I digress.

Regardless of his concerns about what would happen to his voice if he decided to lose weight, Margison did the right thing and made the decision to start hitting the sack early rather than eating those midnight pizzas. Good call.

When he was awake and ready to start eating healthier, guess how Margison did it? You got it, he went on the Atkins diet. That's right, he's livin' la vida low-carb, baby!!! Best of all, check it out--In a little more than a year, he lost 80 pounds to get down to his current weight of 240 pounds.

Margison said he took his time losing and kept singing throughout the weight loss just to make sure he wasn't losing any of the notes he has always been able to hit. He did say he believes losing slower helped his body and vocal chords get used to the changes. He noted friends who lost weight rapidly after weight loss surgery who "felt it on the voice" and it took some of their "vocal stamina" away. This is his career, so I don't blame him for being tentative about it.

Not content to settle for where he is right now, Margison hopes to eventually get down to 200 pounds and stay there for good so he can fit the mold of "heroic roles and romantic leads" with a little more credibility.

"I at least want to look the part," Margison explained.

Just like me, he said his new physique has helped him not lose his breath when he's singing and moving around onstage.

"It's a conditioning thing, like an athlete," Margison said. "The less weight I have to carry around the easier it is on my knees and breath support."

Gee, imagine that. He's got more energy than ever before, he's breathing better than he ever has, and he owes it all to livin' la vida low-carb. CONGRATULATIONS to Richard Margison for making this amazing lifestyle change in his life at a time when his career is booming. What better example of how making changes in the way you eat can bring about enormous dividends in your life. On behalf of the readers at the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog, we salute you sir for a job well done and we wish you well as you keep on livin' la vida low-carb for the rest of your life!

You can e-mail this incredible man Richard Margison to congratulate him on his low-carb weight loss success at


Blogger Sparky's Girl said...

I agree completely. I sing as well and know how difficult it is to control your diaphram when you have excess weight bearing down on you. Breathing is KEY in controlling your voice. He can only be helping himself by losing weight. And the fact that he did it low-carb is awesome!

BTW Jimmy, LOVE the audio sample! Especially the BUH at the end. So when do we get to hear the whole Livin' La Vida Low-Carb theme song? :0)

7/21/2006 1:34 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

A "theme song," hmmmmm...not a bad idea, Sparky's girl! :D

7/21/2006 8:06 AM  
Blogger branruadh said...

Let me explain why quick weight loss can mess up an opera singer. As you likely know, your neck carries fat as well as other parts of the body when you get large enough, and that fat will have an impact on your voice box. Losing it changes the support and pressure in that area. Sure, you get increased stamina, but the rest of the body parts involved in singing have a new environment to deal with. By taking it gently, he made sure he could follow the changes and adjust his technique in small increments. Opera singing is the most disciplined and complex style in the Western world. The slightest thing can tip the balance between a strong professional and someone who is able to teach it but can't perform on the big stages.

7/21/2006 7:43 PM  
Blogger Carol Bardelli said...

Nothing wrong with your pipes. LOL.

7/22/2006 8:42 PM  

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