Country music star Tim McGraw has undergone an amazing transformation in the past few years. These days he considers himself to be in the best shape he’s ever been in. But it only came about after the musician’s health began to plummet, with too much partying and drinking. And actually, it was a remark made by his wife of 21 years, Faith Hill, that shook him into changing course.
Then, in October 2019, Tim showed off his new physique on Instagram. He wrote alongside it, “My whole life, I’ve lived according to one key value. I guess I’ve done so from an early age, when I wanted so fiercely to get beyond my circumstances. That value is, Be ready.”
And the music megastar went on, “Be primed for opportunity when it shows up, because it will come once, it will move on quick, and if you’re not ready to make the shot, your whole destiny can change in a heartbeat. Miss that moment, and you’ll live the rest of your life wondering just how much of your potential never played out.”
Tim concluded, “That’s when I decided to go from being in good shape to being in the best shape of my life.” And he tagged the post #GritandGrace – that’s the title of his new book, its full one being Grit & Grace: Train the Mind, Train the Body, Own Your Life. In it he talks about his journey to better health, and how Faith helped him by delivering an ultimatum.
Now, country singers Faith and Tim have always seemed like the fairytale couple. And even their proposal story is seriously romantic. For instance, Tim told the tale in a Facebook video to celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary back in 2015. To caption the video Tim wrote, “Happy anniversary to the best person I will ever know.”
As he explains in the video, “We were in the dressing room here, June 26, 1996. It was rainy and stuff and we’d been on tour for a while together. I’d joked around with her about getting married, and so… I looked at her, I grabbed her by the hands before I went onstage. She had already done her show. And I said, ‘I’m really serious. I want you to marry me’.”
Tim goes on, “She laughed and she said, ‘We’re at a country music festival in a trailer house, and you’re asking me to marry you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ So I went onstage.” When Tim got back, he saw Hill had left a message for him. She had written, “Yes, I’m going to be your wife,” on his dressing room mirror.
By the time the couple got married, Faith was already pregnant with the couple’s first child, a girl they named Gracie. In fact, they even held a surprise wedding. Indeed, they’d invited guests over for a concert and some softball, but once they arrived they realized it was a wedding instead. Touchingly, the pair tied the knot beneath an oak tree.
After that, the couple had more children – two girls called Maggie and Audrey. They also became a major power couple on the country music scene. For instance, their individual successes combined to make something even greater. Their 1997 duet “It’s Your Love” was a massive hit, but it was also personal to them both.
But it was in the 2000s that Tim was dealt some curveballs which ended up having an impact on his health. First his father, the famous baseball player Frank “Tug” McGraw, died from a brain tumor in 2004. At first it was thought that surgery to remove it had been successful, but unfortunately it was not.
However, Tim had always had a complex relationship with his father. In fact, he had spent a lot of his childhood not actually knowing who his real biological dad was. And at the age of 11 he accidentally stumbled upon his birth certificate with Tug’s name on it. Astonishingly, and despite this, Tug didn’t even acknowledge him as his son for several more years.
In 2008 Tim told People, “That non-relationship instilled in me that I wanted to be a good father.” And he went on, “Any time a parent dies, there are unresolved issues, and I probably have a few more than most people. But you have to take the good with the bad and move on. You’re not living for that relationship. You’re living for your own kids and your wife.”
And there were other losses Tim had to deal with after the death of his father. The man who the young Tim had believed was his real dad, stepfather Horace Smith, passed away in January 2006. Upon hearing the news, Tim cancelled an upcoming appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and went to attend the funeral.
Yet Horace hadn’t necessarily been the best father figure either. Furthermore, Tim had always had mixed feelings about his childhood. For instance, he grew up in poverty with his mother and sisters, once witnessing his mother crying in the kitchen because she couldn’t pay the bills. At the same time, Horace was sometimes abusive.
In 2009 Tim told the Georgia Straight about his paternal relationships, saying, “Tug and I were as close as we could be, given the circumstances. I think we were close enough. We weren’t father and son, unless I was the father and he was the son on occasions. We saw each other three or four times a year, but it wasn’t real close.”
The star went on, “I had a good relationship with my stepfather, but it was a rocky relationship with ups and downs our whole life. He was there for me when a father should be there, and he was not available and not the best father at times. My mother was very strong. She believed in me, as did my grandparents and my sisters.”
In fact, Tim attributed a lot of his success to the women in his life. He told the Georgia Straight, “I couldn’t have done it without their support. And I couldn’t do anything without Faith. There are times when if it was left up to me I would probably just go and lay down in a corner and be done with it. She is my backbone.”
And it was Faith who stepped in when Tim started to decline physically. For the husband detailed in Grit & Grace just what it was like at his lowest point. Although athleticism was “literally in my DNA,” he wrote, “I lost contact with that part of myself and – foolishly – let the fire dwindle to the point where it almost went out.”
What’s more, Tim’s health problems were not easy ones to overcome. He wrote in the book, “I was forty pounds heavier than I should have been; had considerably more body fat than my frame wanted on it and a lot less muscle than I have today. My energy levels, which have always been high, even borderline off- the- charts, were unpredictable, dipping at times to sluggish levels of fatigue.” But that wasn’t all.
Yes, the singer continued, “My immune system was struggling to keep up with my lifestyle and I was getting sick too often. And my mind was muddled, its bandwidth crowded with more anxious thoughts than normal. That made me quick to tip into reactivity and stress. My mind races at 90 mph on a good day – it can be a little manic in there, but it’s how I’m wired.”
On the mental side of things, Tim wrote “I’ve come to accept my brain’s restless motion as the source of my best ideas – the driver of my creativity and my art. But walking it can be a high-wire act because worry, doubt, and anxiety can move along it equally fast, and if I’m out of balance these thoughts can eclipse the others, clouding my outlook and turning it.”
So the country musician began working to solve those health problems, knowing the dangerous situation he was in. In fact, he wrote in his book, “Life served me a good lesson in humility, and that led me to starting over from close to scratch. I leapt out of a slump at age forty, hit full stride at forty-five, and now at fifty-two it’s coming together quite nicely.”
And the incredibly successful singer added a note about his childhood, saying, “If I’ve learned anything in my life – finding my way out of small-town Louisiana, dirt poor as a kid and sometimes laughed at for my dreams – it’s that the greatest asset we have is feeling that burn to be better.”
“Sometimes it takes another person showing you some in the-field tricks for catching an ember and turning it into a fire,” he said in Grit & Grace. And for him , it seemed that person had been Faith. For she had apparently pushed her husband out of his “slump” and back into a healthy lifestyle again. But she had done this by first identifying a particular vice of her husband’s, which many stars suffer with.
That’s right, Faith had noticed that her husband drank too much alcohol. During the 2000s, with his children getting older and his parents passing away, the drinking had turned into a real problem. But before that, when Tim was starting out as a country singer, he would drink before performances to calm himself down. So it seemed that the issue had been slowly growing with time.
Furthermore, in 2013 Tim told People, “Basically, I am an unsure, self-conscious, shy person. That is how I started – even when I was in college, before I would get on stage, I would start drinking. I would start drinking to stop shaking.” But after that he would find himself drinking more. It was, he said, “a pattern.”
As the country star continued to explain to People, “I felt like I had to change it. I felt like I had to change my life. And it wasn’t like I was out doing crazy things, it was just that I was drinking too much. You know, some people might look at it and say – hey, I drank twice as much as that. But for me, it adversely affected my life and it was time to change it.”
So the singer’s friends encouraged him to quit. But Tim revealed in Grit & Grace: Train The Mind, Train The Body, Own Your Life, that it was an ultimatum from Faith which really woke him up. Indeed, he wrote, “Getting real like only she can do, Faith told me, ‘Partying or family, take your pick’.”
Obviously, Tim chose family. Yes, he stopped drinking and instead focused on exercise as a replacement for it. But that wasn’t the only obstacle, because he’d also become worried about weight gain thanks to a remark from his daughter. In a 2019 interview with Men’s Health, Tim recollected how Gracie told him he looked “big on the screen” when he starred in 2008’s Four Christmases.
In any case, the star walked Men’s Health through his workout, which combined many different disciplines and wasn’t easy to do. He explained, “I don’t really get tired of training. There’s such a feeling of accomplishment that comes from the feeling of being my age and still being at the top of my game.”
Furthermore, the extensive workouts also gave Tim a sense of being in charge of his own life. As he explained to Men’s Health, “Most things in this business are out of your control. What the radio is going to play, how many records you’re going to sell. Control the things you can, and maybe that helps.” And if that wasn’t enough, the country star even broke sweat with a demo of his workout.
Indeed, Men’s Health observed the musician climbing ropes, flipping tractor tires, doing pushups and more. The effect it had on his physical health was undeniable, but it helped his mental health too. As Tim went on to explain, “This workout is my meditation. It frees things up in your head so you can get the trash out for a little while.”
Come November 2019, Tim gave an extensive interview to the TODAY Show about his life and his weight loss. He told Hoda Kotb about how discovering his biological father affected him, saying, “It changed what I thought I could do with my life coming from the circumstances I came from.”
The dad of three continued, “When things happen and you succeed beyond your wildest dreams and you’re playing all these great shows and, you know, the party’s going on… And then you’re married and you have kids and all the sudden your wife looks at you and says, ‘You know, you’re getting a little overboard and you need to make some decisions,’ it makes a big impact on you.”
What’s more, the country star also alluded to the sting of having Gracie comment on his weight. Yes, he recollected when they went to the movies and saw him on the big screen. He was, he said, “pretty swollen at that time.” And then, “My daughter looked at me, says, ‘Geez, Dad, you need to do something.’ And that’s sort of a gut shot, right?”
You see, Tim wrote in Grit & Grace, that his personal demons had previously led him into a void. He explained, “In hindsight, I think it’s because if things got quiet, I’d hear the old ghosts that tend to follow at my heels like shadows. The ones that say, You’re just a small-town country singer on a lucky streak – what do you know about success? Working hard and playing hard kept things noisy enough inside to drown them out.”
And the singer continued, “But when you’re a partner and a parent, if you don’t leave intensity at the door when you come home, it starts to strain the bonds. You don’t even realize you’re using worldly stresses and pressures as a way to check out of something harder to navigate – like intimacy and being there emotionally for the people who love you most.”
Touchingly, Tim gives his wife a great deal of credit for helping him change. For he wrote in the book, “My emotional absence was noticed and it was not scoring any points. “[Faith] has always offered unconditional love in every situation and never for a second have I doubted her willingness to support whatever step I needed to take to find my way back to health. Yet in that instance, she knew that someone had to lay down the law.”
So now Tim and Faith seem to be closer than ever. When on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Tim shared what he’d gotten his wife for their 2019 anniversary. Now, it was the first anniversary they’d been apart. So Tim re-recorded the first ever song they performed together, “Nobody Knows It But Me” and sent it to her.
Overall, the musician hopes his book will help others like Faith helped him. In it he writes that changing course “made me a better person to be around” and continues, “If even just part of what follows ripples out into your life, I hope it ignites the urge to take a chance like I did… until one day you look up and realize you’ve turned yourself in a new direction.” As many country music fans would say, Amen to that.