NOURISHMENT

Diet Secrets From a Social Media Superstar

By Dina Cheney

When he set out to lose weight several years ago, Kevin Curry had no idea that his personal endeavor would inspire a large-scale fitness and nutrition movement. Yet the FitMenCook blog (and associated social media accounts) that he created to chart his progress ended up attracting millions of followers.

Today, Curry’s empire also encompasses the FitMenCook app plus two cookbooks: “No Cheats Needed (Dexterity Publishing, October 2014) and “Fit Men Cook” (Touchstone, December 2018). For some healthy eating inspiration, read on for our Q&A with this social media superstar.

24Life: Describe your journey from yo-yo dieting and extra weight to a sustainable healthy lifestyle?

Kevin Curry: My path to a “healthier and happier me” was not a direct one. Like many people, I tried to out-train my poor diet. When I was at my heaviest and trying to get my weight under control, I would arrive at the gym every morning for a 5 a.m. Spin class. Later that evening, after work, I’d return for weights and cardio. So, in all, I was at the gym or doing something physical for at least three hours a day, five days a week.

I kept up this routine for about a year, until I finally compared “before and after” photos. I looked exactly the same and obviously hadn’t lost any inches, since I was wearing the same clothes. So I hired a personal trainer to put me on a strict regimen. I lost about 30 pounds in four months, but I love food. As soon as I tried to venture out on my own and try new foods, I ballooned. The weight, even more this time, jumped right back on me. This was my turning point.

I was depressed. I was disenchanted. But most of all, I was indignant. How could the rest of the fitness world be thriving and making this look so easy? And I didn’t believe we’d be put on this earth with so many amazing foods and not be allowed to enjoy them. It was all about balance, portions and being calorie-conscious. So that’s what I set out to explore. I started reading nutrition books to learn about eating the right amount for me and how not all foods are “created equal.” I taught myself how to cook and just started experimenting in the kitchen.

I was amazed by how quickly and easily the weight fell off me when I approached my diet more strategically. The more progress I experienced, the more motivated I became to continue making healthier choices.

24Life: Do you have one “treat” meal per week? Do you find that strategy works best for you and your followers?

KC: Yes, I have about one treat meal each week or every 10 days. I think it’s important for several reasons, beyond just the common “re-feed” for those following a low-fat or low-carb diet. Treat meals can also give you inspiration for your diet. After enjoying a meal that’s not so healthy, I’ll challenge myself to make over the meal in a more calorie-conscious way. This type of experimentation leads to more variety in your diet. And here’s the big revelation I and many of my followers have had: The more variety you have in your diet (while not starving yourself), the less you’ll crave treat meals to get through the week. Your regular diet is the treat.

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24Life: What are your best tips for successful meal prep?

KC: Start small. Don’t try to overhaul your diet all at once. Little by little, make changes and build your confidence so that you can ease into, and then accelerate, success. Prep individual items, like batches of chicken and beef, flavored quinoa, grilled veggies, fresh veggies and another complex carbohydrate. Then mix and match throughout the week so you can have variety.

24Life: What are your top mantras for maintaining a healthy lifestyle?

KC: Keep it healthy but never boring. Our bodies are built in the kitchen but sculpted in the gym. Avoid “zip-locking” your life or closing yourself off from new experiences in order to wait for the perfect moment. Break the seal and live your best life now. This is a journey, not a sprint or even a marathon. Wellness is a continual lifelong cycle of [self-] discovery, with highs and lows. And recognize that even small baby steps, or tripping along the way, is still progress. I remind myself in those moments: “It’s all good.”

24Life: Which ingredients do you not keep in your house?

KC: I try to lessen the amount of processed foods and sugary treats I have in my home. I opt for real, wholesome foods instead of artificial ones. I think it’s wise to eliminate distractions to your diet, which will vary for each individual. For instance, I find it difficult to keep almond and cashew butters at home. While those are healthy fats to incorporate, they are not so healthy if you lack self-control and end up devouring a jar in two days. To combat this, I replace nut butters with raw nuts and seeds. I’m less likely to binge on those and can eat them in moderation.

The same goes for chips or snacks that you mindlessly eat. While it’s fine to have those every once in a while, especially on college game days, try not to make a habit of keeping “munchies” or calorie busters at arm’s reach.

Instead, opt for fresh and frozen fruits, raw nuts and seeds, and even jerky to satisfy occasional cravings. In essence, make it inconvenient, meaning, if you’re craving potato chips, force yourself to drive or walk to the store to get them. That walk/commute may have you thinking differently once you arrive.

24Life: Why is hydration so key to maintaining a healthy weight?

KC: Hydration is one of the most helpful contributors to my weight-loss success. More than just helping me feel fuller, it is rejuvenating and helps transport the nutrients from the foods we eat throughout our bodies. It also helps my digestion. Whenever I’ve felt bloated, nine out of 10 times, my water intake for that day was low. Once I rectify that, my body kicks back into gear and helps push food through my system.

Water is the gold standard, but I tell my followers to drink non-sugary liquids. Avoid drinks with sweeteners; they may increase your cravings for sweets and cause bloating.

And when in doubt, eat your way to hydration. Eating fruit (such as red grapefruit) or crunching on celery with hummus or guacamole are other ways to increase your water intake.

Two of Kevin Curry’s favorites

Kevin Curry shares two favorite recipes inspired by his health and wellness journey.

Lower-Carb Spaghetti and Meatballs

Serves 6

  • 1 medium (about 3 pounds) spaghetti squash
  • olive oil spray
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried sage
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped green onions
  • 2 cups reduced-calorie marinara sauce
  • garnish (finely chopped fresh parsley, red pepper flakes)
  1. Preheat oven to 420°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Slice squash horizontally to create ½-inch rings. Remove seeds from the inside of each ring, then place rings on baking sheet. Spray rings with olive oil, then sprinkle with pepper. Bake until soft, 45 to 50 minutes, turning halfway through. Allow rings to cool before handling. 
  3. Gently push the inside of each ring to remove spaghetti strands from the rind, then carefully pull spaghetti apart. Place spaghetti in a large bowl and set aside. 
  4. While squash is baking, mix together meatball ingredients. Form eighteen 1¼-ounce meatballs and spread them out on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You also can bake them in a mini-muffin pan. Bake until the internal temperature is 165°F, the outside is golden brown and the juices run clear, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove meatballs from oven.
  5. Add meatballs to spaghetti squash, then drizzle sauce on top. Garnish and enjoy.

*Adapted recipe excerpted from “Fit Men Cook (Touchstone, 2018) by Kevin Curry.

Banana Berry Protein Crisp

Serves 6

  • 6 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 bananas
  • ½ teaspoon stevia in the raw or 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1½ cups uncooked rolled oats or instant oats
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein isolate powder or unflavored collagen peptides powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅓ cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine blueberries, bananas, stevia, arrowroot powder, cinnamon, vanilla (if using) and lemon juice. Fold together, then pour into a 9-inch round or 8-by-8-inch square baking dish. 
  3. In another bowl, mix together rolled oats, protein powder, nutmeg and sugar. Once everything is well-mixed, pour in melted coconut oil and mix. Evenly distribute topping in baking dish or containers. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is golden and crispy. Cool slightly before serving.

*Adapted recipe excerpted from “Fit Men Cook (Touchstone, 2018) by Kevin Curry.

Video credit: uberstock, Adobe Stock
Photo credit: MagicBones, Thinkstock; Kevin Curry; fahrwasser, Adobe Stock; Minerva Studio, Thinkstock

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Author

Dina Cheney

Dina Cheney is a writer and recipe developer whose cookbooks include “The New Milks,” “Mug Meals,” “Meatless All Day,” “Year-Round Slow Cooker,” “Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Salads,” and “Tasting Club.” She has contributed articles and recipes to Every Day with Rachel Ray, Parents, Fine Cooking, Clean Eating, Specialty Food, Coastal Living, The Huffington Post, and more. Cheney is a graduate of The Institute of Culinary Education and Columbia University. Find her online at www.dinacheney.com, and her complete collection of non-dairy resources at www.thenewmilks.com.

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