As the owner of personal training company Cardi-O Fitness, 40-year-old Odie Tolbert is serious about helping people be healthy. After 16 years in corporate, Odie quit his job at Verizon to start his company while supporting his daughter Brook and wife April. His passion for healthy living started much earlier, though, when his father was diagnosed with diabetes.

“A history of all sorts of things, like diabetes and cholesterol, led to my father’s passing away, and I want to break that generational curse for me and anyone related to me,” he says. “I was determined not to live and see the same things my dad went through. I want others to know it’s a lifestyle, it’s not a diet.”

Odie trains one-on-one clients all week at Shabazz Fitness in Cordova, and teaches a boot camp in partnership with Bert Ferguson every Saturday.

The Diet

Monday through Saturday, Odie sticks to a strict diet: no fried foods, no sweets, no pork or beef, water only. His go-to things are grilled chicken, fish, broccoli, and green beans. Everyone in the Tolbert household eats the same thing, even their daughter.

He says, “Fruits and veggies are a must. I also always carry small packages of trail mix, like almonds, cashews, and dates, around with me. I’m very predictable when it comes to what I eat every day.”

But when it’s Sunday, he indulges. “I have a variety of vices,” he says. “Cheesecake Factory pancakes. Double scoop of cookies and cream in a waffle cone from Baskin Robbins. An A&R barbecue beef sandwich. At the Auntie Annie’s in the Wolfchase Mall, they know me by name. While I’m in line, they say, ‘Just wait eight more minutes,’ so I can get the freshest Cinnamon Sugar pretzel.”

As long as it’s in moderation, Odie believes a “cheat” day is totally acceptable.

“In the household I grew up in, we had to change everything immediately with my father’s diagnosis. Fast forward, years went by, and I’m still eating the right things, but I had to learn about portion control, serving sizes, and reading labels,” he says. “All of these have come just in the past few years. I hovered over 200 pounds before I changed my portions, and now I hover between 170 and 175.”

The Workout

Odie advocates for high-intensity exercise whenever possible, combining cardio with bodyweight strength training. He values intense, unpredictable regimens that shock the body. Some of his favorites include burpees, knee-ups, sprints, and crunches. His personal workouts take place before his first client (cardio) or after his last of the day (strength), and are usually no longer than 45 minutes. 

“I want to focus completely on my clients and don’t want them to feel intimidated or like they have to keep up with me,” he says. “I also love that time to myself to start up and wind down to relieve my stress.”

The Motivation

Odie’s seven-year-old daughter, Brook, is a huge inspiration for his lifestyle. “She’s always watching what I do,” he says. “We have a treadmill in our kitchen and hearth room, and we do that on purpose so you have to look at it before you go to the fridge and get your sweets. Because she’s so young, we keep little reward foods around the house like fruit snacks, ice cream, Kool-Aid.”

He also relies on his faith to maintain balance and discipline in his personal life. “That leads the way on everything. Then I surround myself with good people—encouragers, people who keep me grounded and hold me accountable. I knew personal training was my calling, but I needed my faith and my friends encouraging me before I made the jump.”

By India Nikotich. Photo by Tindall Stephens.