Last Wednesday we wrapped up the month of May with Kevin Curry of FitMenCook at KORE New York to promote his collaboration with Lubriderm. After class, Kevin and I took a moment to discuss his fitness transition, the social shift in food, and the importance of skin in wellness.

Tell me about you transitioned from just working out, to incorporating learning how to cook and eating health.
Yeah, my transition was actually pretty quick and it was one of those things that I made out of desperation. I was tired of paying people all this money to help me lose weight, so I just said “screw it, if they can figure it out, so can I.” So I went into this bookstore, and just literally bought every single book they had about nutrition. And I just began to devour the content, and if I liked the book I’d keep reading it, if I didn’t, I’d put it away. I went into the kitchen and just started making stuff, and it was just that simple.

So there really wasn’t like, this waiting for somebody to kind of help me and show me or teach me, it was more like “okay, you’re spending way too much money on these trainers, and the exact same thing is happening, you like food way too much.” Then I also had, I felt indignant and righteousness and that I didn’t think that God would put us on this earth with all these foods and say, “You cannot eat anything!” Like, that doesn’t make any sense. It just doesn’t make any sense. So surely we can make food taste better, and eating it in its right portions and making it nourishing for our bodies.

Right, so do you think that over time it’s been one of those things that society sort of shifted towards eating more processed foods, then back. ‘Cause I feel now that we’re all learning how to like … “oh whoa! Green peppers are actually really delicious!” You know what I mean? They’ve always been good, but what do you think was the shift, that people are kind of like “Oh this either is cool or is trendy” or “I don’t want to die at 30.”
Yeah it’s such a great question, I think all those things kind of happen. The first thing that happened though, is that food became a business. A multi-billion dollar business, and so if we could package food faster, if we could make it taste better scientifically then people would buy more of it. So that’s the first kind of shift that happened. That happened in the 70s, 80s when technology picked up. Now, you fast forward into the 90s and 2000s where we’re learning a lot of the consequences of some of those processed foods that it had for like, diabetes and heart disease.

Also, just other things that we just don’t know, we had this conversation now about GMO, we don’t know what’s in our food, and so we’ve had to kind of just slow down and people have become a lot more educated about that. There’s a lot of beauty in that because, and that was where my journey kind of took off too, because as I was discovering about different foods, I had to learn tastes and flavors, so you’re absolutely right. It was an ‘ah-hah!’ Moment like “Snap! I don’t need all this salt, I’ve got bell peppers, garlic and onion in here and there’s a ton of flavor!” And before I was just loading it up with seasoning salt. The crazy thing now is that that was a staple in my kitchen when I was growing up. I haven’t bought seasoning salt in years. There’s no need.

I do think people have just began to become educated about it. Then coupled with that, as technology picked up and people’s lives began to get more hectic, we did have the big economic crisis, and so people had to become a lot more economically sound and wise about their spending. That forced a lot of people, the technology kind of came along and said “hey, well here’s this subscription service you can use, here’s this you can use to help to facilitate cooking at home” but then the consumer himself is like “okay, I’ve got to take hold of my own health in a new way, let me learn to cook.” So cooking is now this trendy thing that even companies are trying to capitalize on. That’s why you see a lot of these start-ups, they’re doing the whole subscription box where they’ll send you some groceries and you can cook, because that’s now a trend.

So the business of food has always been around, it just goes from trend to trend to trend. Before it was processed, now it’s the cooking thing. There is a lot of benefit that comes a long with that, but also there’s a lot of risk as well. Because we’ve got the internet and companies kind of telling us what to eat, how to eat and what’s good for us, rather than that stuff coming from our physicians and coming from our doctors and coming from other nutritionists. So that’s something to think about.

Have you noticed the difference from when you only worked out, to now where you are fueling your body differently? How have things changed for you?
I have so much more energy now. When I changed my diet, I was really lethargic, I was falling asleep mid day all the time even at work, and I work from home and it’d be even worse. So when I changed my diet, I became a lot more energized. And the cool thing about the diet is that people will say a diet makes you workout, I don’t think it’s necessarily that, it’s that whenever you see and feel your body changing, you are so energized and so encouraged. It’s like when you walk up to the mirror sometimes and you’re like “man I look good today!”

You want to walk outside, you want to show it off when you feel those things. You’re motivated to eat healthier. The way you feel dictates the choices you make. Which is why when you’re depressed what do you do? “Well I’m gonna go have some comfort food.” But when you feel good about yourself and you’re loving yourself and your skin is poppin’ what do you do? You’re going to think twice about going and eating that pizza. “I don’t know about that pizza today. I’m eating a salad today!” Because you feel good about yourself, that’s what your diet does. Also just like anything, whenever you go back to that unhealthy food, your body kind of rejects it. You don’t feel good, you’re like “this tastes terrible” and you would never say that before.

It donned on me because I loved fried foods. Loved fried foods, love Popeyes Chicken. I went back there, hadn’t been there in like five years, so I was so proud of myself. I had a bite of it and I was like “It’s greasy!” My friends were like “well give me yours then!” I’m saying stuff is greasy, but before I would never say that.

So you know, the choices that you make in the kitchen and in your diet are going to affect everything else. Have you ever noticed on Instagram and social media when people become fit, they all of a sudden become like these life coaches? Well here’s the thing that I can say about that, is that whenever you feel better, you begin to make different choices and you feel better about yourself and your self esteem, and confidence as well. I’ll say this, that the skills that you learn within the health and wellness journey in terms of portion control, saying no to temptation, other things like that, being disciplined. Those skills are definitely transferrable to other things.

I just started cooking last year and I realized that I am actually an amazing cook. Like I can do recipes I never knew I could do before. But the thing about it is that not everyone feels like they’re as skilled by just trying, so what advice do you have for people who are like “well I always eat out, I can’t cook” What are baby steps they can take to really maybe just make a home cooked meal for three days a week to start out?
You hit the nail on the head. That’s what I did, one of the things that I learned was that I can’t go cold turkey, and people try to set these expectations like “all right, starting today on I’m eating healthy. I don’t care, I’m gonna do it.” And we end up falling on our face. And I fell on my face so many times because of that. What you just said was 1000% correct, you’ve got to start small. I said “okay, what meals, or where am I struggling most right now in my diet?” It was going to lunch with my friends at work, so I said “okay, I’m going to prep my lunch for the entire week, I’m going to start taking my lunch. I’m going tp force myself to eat something healthy, and I can bring it with me.” Not only did I save money, which is the other big plus side of this. I didn’t realize, when you start looking at your finances…I spent $100 on lunch this week, more than that! And that’s just for one meal!

And $100 can buy me a whole week worth of groceries, so it’s different. You start to think about that just from other perspectives, but that’s what I did. So I started out with that one meal, and I got that down solid for like a good month. And I enjoyed it. Because of that, I moved onto the next meal. Then I said “all right, after working out.” So I just had two meals that I was prepping, which was my lunch and my after work out meal and I was fine. I’d eat healthy in the morning because I’m at home, I’d eat my lunch meal and then my after workout dinner meal I had ready to go. It encouraged me, and the more organized I was, the easier it was for me to make better choices and the weight began to fall off.

So you don’t need to start cold turkey and do everything, just start with one or two meals and then as a reward because I got really solid in that, what I would say was “all right, on Fridays on I’m going to go out to eat with my co-workers.” That way I wouldn’t miss out on all that camaraderie.

You weren’t depriving yourself.
Correct, yeah! I would go out there, and that wasn’t like a treat meal I’d just say, “I’m going to pick something calorie conscious.” I’d get a salad, get grilled chicken or fish or something like that and I would still be there in the environment. I was cool because my co-workers began to really embrace that. As a part of your journey, and people were really inspired by that, and motivated by that: I didn’t know that.

Just by you just making the decision to go and do that. Don’t be extra about it and be like, “I’m not eating all that!” “Why are you eating all that?” Don’t just – you know how they do it. You’re like wait a minute, you just lost five pounds and you want to be on Dr. Oz. So you know, just be chill, and people will embrace that. The thing is that when they begin to embrace it, they make it easier for you. We’d always get cake at people’s birthdays and they would think twice,”Hey Kevin, should we get some fruit this time?” So, it’s just those subtle things that kind of happen whenever you do it, so you have no idea the impact you have on people around you.

Tell us about the collaboration with Lubriderm.
I’m really excited to collaborate with them. My channel, my heritage is all about food, but I’ve transitioned much more into healthy living, and healthy, practical just wellness. Skin health is super important to me. And I was joking around with somebody about the importance of not being ashy growing up. I put it onto my Instagram, “The number one cause of bullying in school is being ashy.” You can’t be walking around being ashy with crust in your hands showing .

Yes! Or your knuckles.
You know the crazy thing? I’m telling on myself a little bit, but in my earlier videos sometimes I’d wash my hands and I’m cooking and I’d forget to grease them after. So skin health is super important, and what I like about them is I actually use their product already, and one of the things that my dermatologist told me is to always get lotion that is non-emulsifying – that way it doesn’t clog up your pores. I’m so used to using cocoa butter all the time. I mean, it feels good, it smells good, but I mean they clog up your pores. So you want to be able to have some breathe and in making sure that there is SPF and all them, and I didn’t – I thought, “black people don’t have skin problems like that.” You know, “black don’t crack homie.” But we do, we have skin problems just like everybody else so it’s really important.

The thing I like about Lubriderm is they actually get that, and they get that about me. But they also have this message of just fitness and wellness for all shades, for all sizes, for all levels, for all different types of people. That’s a message that we can all embrace because the wellness journey, just like this class today, we had people from the entire gamut… the entire spectrum. Some people were really seasoned in fitness and some people were just starting out. And that’s a beautiful thing, and that’s how it is within health and wellness. That’s what the world really looks like

It doesn’t look like these finely chiseled sculpted people who are on these starvation diets… ain’t got time for all that. So I like the fact that they allow me to be me, but they also understand the importance of food and diet and so of course I just couldn’t say no. Now, when they challenge me to this class, I thought it was going to be a much easier type of class. I didn’t know it was going to be like this really high intensity-training course.

Yea, New York loves high intensity.
Yeah, y’all are on something. I thought it was going to be more chill…a lot more talking, “how are your family members,” but it wasn’t. I partnered up with them to do that for this campaign ‘Fit For Everybody’, because that’s absolutely my motto. You look at the demographics of my following; I’ve got a large global following. One thing is just that I want people to understand, is that fitness is very inclusive. Wellness is inclusive. And I feel like marketing and companies have kind of gotten away from that because you see the same types of people.

And you see these different organizations – I met some of the founders of Black Girls RUN! and I was thinking it’s really funny that I’m another organization and I love their mission, I love their vibrancy and passion. I was thinking to myself, “what factors within our society cause a group like that to pop up?” That’s because the face of wellness is not –

It’s not black.
Yeah, it’s not black. It’s not brown either.

It’s not, but when it is a person of color it’s typically male. You know what I mean?
Absolutely, so that’s why I really like this whole message of ‘Fit For Everybody’ and that’s what I’ve tried to do with my following, I try to have the message be as wide reaching as possible. That way it speaks to people in different ways. Whether you are approaching being a model body builder or a person who just started out, you can get something from my page and from the things that I’m giving out, just because fitness is literally for everybody.