Jodi Kalicki's transformation from overweight single mother to fitness expert began late one evening as she sat in front of the television set sipping Coca-Cola and munching Cheetos in her mother's Reseda apartment. Despondent over her divorce and the failure of her recording career, the 4 ft. 11 in. musician had fallen into a severe depression and ballooned from 90 to 168 pounds in the course of a year."I had no money, no job, no car, no place of my own to live," says Kalicki, who is now a 38-year-old fitness model and the spokesperson for Great Earth Vitamins' Fat Away product line. "Food was my only comfort, and I went from a size 2 to a size 14."
But as she wanly flipped through the TV channels on that evening in 1991, Kalicki was suddenly captivated by an image that changed her life: Madonna was strutting her stuff on MTV wearing the sort of sexy, skimpy outfit that the previously petite Kalicki had worn onstage during her singing career. She began to cry. "I thought, 'I'm still young. It's not too late for me. I can get my life back,'" recalls Kalicki, who promptly threw the Cheetos in the trash.
She then stayed up all night planning her next course of action. Kalicki knew she would have to join a gym, an expensive one that included day care for her infant daughter, but how could she obtain the money to pay the hefty fees? Her idea was an unusual one for a young Jewish woman from the suburbs: She would go to work as a maid. "I began to clean houses, though I was too embarrassed to tell people what I was doing," Kalicki recalls.
But she joined that gym.
She worked out six days a week, three hours a day, lifting weights, treading the StairMaster, and reading every book on nutrition and biomechanics she could find. She ate brown rice, veggies, broiled chicken and fish, and lots of oatmeal - the only carbohydrate, she discovered, "whose sugar units can't be broken down by the body."
Within six months, people were turning their heads whenever the newly sculpted Kalicki walked into a room. Even the professionals noticed. When Kalicki attempted to join a less expensive gym some time later, the manager asked if she would consider becoming a fitness trainer instead of a member. Kalicki began working for minimum wage while studying to earn her certification as a fitness trainer; after a few years, her private clientele began to snowball. The previously penniless mom was earning $200 per session, beefing up actors such as Austin St. John for the TV series "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" and $1,000 a day trimming down the overweight children of a Saudi prince.
As a child, Kalicki says, she was meticulous about watching her weight. She was a gymnast in high school and found that her cute figure gleaned lots of attention from boys. She needed the attention, she says, because she felt she didn't get enough at home. Since her parents divorced when she was 7, her father wasn't around much and her mother worked a number of odd jobs, she says. And because there were only a few broken homes in her Philadelphia neighborhood in the early '70s, she adds, the other Jewish girls regarded her as a pariah. After graduation, she fled to Los Angeles, hoping to pursue a career as a pop singer. She met her husband-to-be in the late 1980s while working as a cocktail waitress at The Roxy nightclub. He was a non-Jewish British musician in an up-and-coming alternative rock 'n' roll band. "Come to England with me," he told her. Since she had nothing to lose and no real career to speak of, she packed up her belongings and moved to London.
Her luck there was good, for a while. She founded a Latin-pop band and signed a contract to cut two singles, which did well on the European charts. The owners of the German record company were pleased with Kalicki's svelte appearance and the miniskirts she wore onstage. But when the newly married singer became pregnant and gained weight, they were no longer so pleased. A letter arrived in the mail informing Kalicki that she had been released from her contract.
Her depression soon followed. Living in a strange country, isolated from friends and family, Kalicki found that food was her only solace, especially when her husband was on tour. When he was in town, he drank excessively and made cruel remarks about her widening girth. Finally, she decided to leave him.In 1991, she traveled back to the States with just her baby and a suitcase. She rarely left her mother's Reseda apartment for nearly one year. She ate and ate and ate: Greasy eggs, bacon and pancakes for breakfast; cheeseburgers and fries for lunch; pizza or fried chicken for dinner. Before venturing to the apartment complex's pool, Kalicki had to order a special swimming suit from a catalogue for overweight women.
"I was so embarrassed, because I felt that everyone was staring at me," she recalls. When one old girlfriend saw the new, overweight Kalicki, she burst into nervous laughter. Even after Kalicki got in shape and began her fitness career in the early 1990s, her troubles were far from over. As she prepared to enter fitness competitions, she believed that her muscular, 90-pound frame wasn't trim enough. "I wanted to weigh 85 pounds, then 80, then 78," says Kalicki, who became so skeletal that her 9-year-old daughter, Raven, was afraid of her. By the time Kalicki was hospitalized for her anorexia, her hair was falling out.
Following a year of counseling, Kalicki's career bounced back after Ms. Fitness magazine ran a feature article on her life story. Engagements on the fitness lecture circuit followed; Kalicki went on to write a book, start her own nutritional product line, become a spokesperson for Great Earth Vitamins and own her own Great Earth store in Sherman Oaks. In the store you'll find her revised book, titled "The Fat Away Plan," which includes, among other tips, Kalicki's "White Factor:" "Just by staying from everything white - white rice, white bread, white tortillas - you'll start to lose weight," she says.
One of Kalicki's greatest fans is her mom, who followed the Kalicki plan to get svelte after a heart condition put her in the intensive care unit not long ago. "Now I look better, feel better, and people say... 'You look great,'"