When Kevin Curry started his blog Fit Men Cook, he had no idea his personal quest toward improved health through nutrition would not only help him radically transform his life, but would also become a platform where he could help other people. Since then, the author and entrepreneur has written cookbooks, created a top-ranking food and drink app, produced an original spice line and built a base of over 1.5 million followers on social media. In this Voices in Food story, as told to K. Astre, he talks about his approach to nutrition, why it’s a bad idea to jump on fad diets and how The Rock could change the way men look at salads.
On why he felt his voice was needed
When I started my blog back in 2012, I was at a place in my life where I was looking for solutions to my own diet and a lot of the information out there just didn’t resonate with me. At the time, I didn’t see a lot of men sharing food content that was nutritious. So when I started out with Fit Men Cook, it was a way for me to crowdsource my own diet. There was a lot of granola, parfait and salad recipes. And I don’t want to gender stereotype certain foods, but as a man, that didn’t really make me enthusiastic or want to get into the kitchen.
“I used to be a part of the 'cheat day' culture, but now I talk about it in a different way. We need to graduate out of the mindset of moralizing food by labeling them 'good' or 'bad.'”
But what I was interested in was to make something like steak and potatoes healthier. I didn’t start out trying to do what I am doing today. When I was overweight and I was working out three hours a day for a year, I didn’t see any changes and then one day in the gym, a trainer asked me what I was eating and a lightbulb finally went off. Once I changed my diet, the weight began to fall off me.
On what’s missing in the conversation about men’s nutrition
Right now, I think a really big thing that we’re missing across the board is the over-reliance on animal products and supplements. We live in a society where we want everything right now, so you can’t even look at information about working out without running into a gimmick like “six pack in five days!” We want everything instantly.
A lot of fitness nutrition focuses on protein, so many people fall back on filling their plates with meat. Protein doesn’t just have to come from animals, it can come from vegetables. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of mainstream marketing aimed toward men and plant-based diets. If The Rock made an announcement that he ate a salad once a day, do you know how many men would start eating salads?
On finding balance in your approach to nutrition
There’s the extreme side that preaches that you have to go vegan and that doesn’t resonate with people, either. I think what we have to do is educate people on that but also how much better you can feel with balance. We need to find some place in the middle where we can get people to adopt a more sensible lifestyle. People need to know that they have more options than all meat or all vegetables. That’s where I found the most happiness and the most success. What if we start to think about food differently? What if we made vegetables and legumes and grains the star of the meal and if we wanted to, we treat the meat like a side? I encourage my followers not to make meat the star of their dish, but to make a vegetable the star of their dish and complement it with meat.
On why restrictive diets don’t work
Everyone has to get to a point where we have to find balance in eating. If you are following a plan that is so restrictive that it interrupts your social life or the normal way that you function, where you have to make special plans to eat, I have noticed that over time people have less long-term success with that approach. It becomes so hard to keep up that they’ll fall off their routine completely and have to start back at square one. Now, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with different diets to educate yourself on different ways of eating that may benefit you personally, so that you can incorporate them into your normal day-to-day diet. But moderation is really the key when it comes to being consistent.
On when you should be counting calories
I don’t count my calories because I don’t have to anymore. But I think it makes sense to count calories when you want to be more efficient with your weight loss goals. For people just getting into changing their diets, I recommend everyone counts their calories, but only because it’s helpful to have an idea of the amount of food you’re regularly eating. It’s not to shame yourself. It’s just useful information you can use to start implementing changes because many of us are just simply not aware of the caloric content of what we are eating. When we eat without truly thinking about what we are putting into our bodies, it’s difficult to make informed decisions. But I don’t recommend counting your calories all the time.
On why cheat days should be canceled
I used to be a part of the “cheat day” culture, but now I talk about it in a different way. We need to graduate out of the mindset of moralizing food by labeling them “good” or “bad.” That just isn’t a real thing and it does no good for how people learn how to approach food as nutrition. It makes people afraid of food. I have shifted from looking at them as cheat meals to seeing them as treat meals.
“There was a lot of granola, parfait and salad recipes. And I don’t want to gender stereotype certain foods, but as a man, that didn’t really make me enthusiastic or want to get into the kitchen.”
You can have a brownie fudge sundae without going off of your diet if you learn to embrace food in moderation. Cheating means you’re doing something wrong and that type of language makes it hard to embrace all foods. If you feel like you’re doing something wrong, you’re not going to just fall off the wagon, you’re going to be under the wheel. When you reframe it, you remove the stigma from food. We have to be careful about things like cheat days because that was created by the bodybuilding community because their diets are so strict that they can’t accommodate for anything outside of their regimen. Unless you are competing then that type of mindset is not practical for the average man. It’s just food.
On why men need to have realistic goals
For many men, the bodybuilding approach is offered as a normal way to live and that just doesn’t make sense to me. I have tremendous respect for that industry and the community of athletes because of what they put their bodies through. But as I frequently tell my followers, if you are frustrated because it’s extremely difficult for you to adhere to a diet similar to a professional model who is paid to look that way — that’s completely normal!
On how cooking can help you through the pandemic
There’s no better time than right now to reimagine our relationship with food. We’re all dealing with so much right now from the pandemic to the racial injustice in America. The weight of all this can affect our food choices. Cooking for yourself can be very therapeutic. Aside from getting that serotonin boost from finishing a task from start to finish and the feeling of accomplishment from preparing yourself this beautiful meal, eating foods that are efficient for our bodies can help us to feel and function our best.
On where to start if you want to change your diet
Always start small. Don’t try to overhaul your entire diet in one day. Yes, many people have and will continue to do that but I caution against it because over time you get burned out much faster. Give yourself some grace, understand that you got to where you are today after years of eating habits you would like to change and that 30 days of strict meal prepping will not reverse that.
I would advise people to change one thing about their diet at a time. If you drink soda every single day, start cutting down to one every other day. Then once a week. Maybe start with cutting down on how much takeout you have and cooking more meals at home. Whatever it is, it’s important to build a habit that becomes automatic before you start to add more changes. If you want to run a marathon, you take it mile by mile until you can run the whole thing. That’s how you build up confidence in yourself. It’s the same with changing your relationship with food.