Mary J. Blige gorges on ''heavy food'' during the Christmas holidays.

The 'Family Affair' star says she always hits the gym hard in January because she and her family don't hold back when it comes to indulging in the usual festive foods during December.

She said: ''I just love having the family come together, putting up the lights, the reminiscing, the cooking. In my home its all soul food like collard greens, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, potato pie. It's a lot of heavy food for a couple of weeks, so after the holidays I try to really get back in the gym.''

The musician released her first ever festive album, 'A Mary Christmas', this year which features her versions of classic Christmas songs including 'Little Drummer Boy', 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas', 'Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer' and 'When You Wish Upon a Star'.

Mary - who is married to record industry executive Martin Isaacs - refused to modernise any of the tracks because she wanted the LP to have a timeless feel.

She said: ''I didn't want to put a beat on a song or have some rapper on it. I wanted it to be classy and traditional, and make people feel like Nat King Cole's 'The Christmas Song' made me feel when I was a little girl.''