If you’re reading this, it’s not too late. Those are the words boldly placed on one of the first few pages of Kevin Curry’s new recipe book, "Fit Men Cook." If you’re an Instagram user and somewhat into food, it’s likely you’re one of his 1.3 million followers, swooning over his guilt-free recipes.
Yes, he has millions of followers, and yes, he recently teamed up with Panera to create a Tex-Mex abundance bowl and yes, he’s in much better shape than us as we scramble to maintain our goals in the new year. But with any form of success comes struggle. And it's Curry’s struggles that have helped him develop the three pillars — food, faith and fitness — that have become the foundation of his brand.
And his journey to become Fit Men Cook starts in DeSoto. Well, kind of.
“I moved to Texas when I was around 4,” Curry says. “Even though I have East Coast roots, I’m pretty much a Southerner. I went to UT Austin to study business. I studied Spanish there. I got to a point where I said I don’t want to go into the real world just yet, so let me delay that. So I got a scholarship from Rotary International and traveled to Ecuador to live, went to a Spanish language school there and got a job."
Curry's Instagram posts may have become as popular as they have in part because he posts in Spanish and English simultaneously.
In Ecuador, he got a job in a restaurant and at a local gym.
"And I was not fit at the time. But because I was black, they thought that I could dance. So I taught hip-hop dance classes, and I did not represent us right because I’m not the best,” Curry says with a laugh. “But they listened to me because I’m black and from America.”
Little did Curry know at the time, millions of people would soon be listening to his every instruction when it came to food. But the million-dollar question is, where did that passion come from?
“Due to the 2008 market crash, I lost everything," he says. "I lost my job offer. Came back home with my parents. Ended up getting on food stamps. Just for me having to go through that process and feeling like I’ve come so far, like I’m literally at rock bottom right now. And that was right around the same time I experienced a whole lot of weight gain and tons of depression.”
Curry says he’s always struggled with his weight, labeling himself the "skinny fat guy." He's got thin limbs and a really big torso, he says, making it easy to hide everything. But Curry wasn’t interested in getting muscled out of cash to pay a trainer.
“It was a crazy amount of money for four weeks. And I was like, well, if you can figure it out — I went to a great high school, a good college — I can figure something out," he says. I went to Half Price Books and bought every single book there they had about nutrition and just began to consume the content.”
And then he hit social media.
“The content that was out there was often time-gated content,” Curry says. “You had to pay someone for a healthy recipe, you had to pay a trainer for a nutrition plan. And I was just putting everything that I was eating out there with all the nutrition facts and steps. Because at the end of the day, I needed to give as much information as possible so that people could give me good feedback on my diet. At the time, it wasn’t about trying to help anybody. I was trying to help me.”
Despite his original intentions, Curry’s following grew and grew. Whether it was the authenticity of his transformation or the joy felt about cooking, this natural formula ultimately became a recipe for success.
“Now, for the first time, I felt connected to the value I was creating in the world,” Curry says. “It’s hard to do that whenever you’re in a big corporation. It’s like ugh, am I really helping out? But now I could see and feel it. People were telling me, ‘This recipe was great! My kid hates vegetables, but he ate your recipe.’ That’s really dope.”
On Thanksgiving in 2013, Curry, who was working in marketing at the time, decided to quit his job. With the support of family, $15,000 in savings and a leap of faith, Curry made Fit Men Cook his main squeeze.
And although he was succeeding on the outside, there was still an inner struggle that he couldn’t quite shake: the health of his family. Because at the end of the day, what’s success if you aren’t affecting the people closest to you?
“I’ve always struggled with this, because I would get all those emails from people and I would feel a little bit weird because these changes that people are experiencing, they aren’t even happening within my own family,” Curry says.
About 18 months ago, Curry's dad was having health issues.
"I knew that eating was impacting his health. I was convinced that if he changed his diet, it would help it out," he says. "So, usually I don’t tell people this, but I told my dad he should go plant-based, and just to go on the record, I don’t think going plant-based is the healthiest thing. But for him, the type of condition he was in, and his symptoms, I knew plant-based would be best, because a lot of meat products can cause inflammation in our bodies. Now he’s been vegan for over a year, and he’s feeling the best that he’s felt in a very long time.”
So why doesn’t Curry rally for everyone to go plant-based, himself included? He just doesn’t think it’s necessary. He does, however, believe people need to be reintroduced to vegetables.
“I think we need to become a little more plant-dominant in our lives,” Curry says. “I feel like, for so long, we’ve made meat the star of the dish. We need to reverse that and start to prioritize plants a lot more. They give you protein, they give you energy, they give you different vitamins and minerals that you can’t get from meat.”
So there you have it. You won’t catch Curry, 37, preaching a plant-based lifestyle, but he does believe in a treat (not cheat) meal on occasion. And he wouldn’t be a true Texan if he didn’t pick Whataburger as his go-to. But it’s all in moderation.
“Don’t sabotage by celebrating harder than you grind. Find balance,” Curry says in his book, which he's currently touring the country to promote.
And although he’s making major moves, Curry still takes the time to notice the moderate steps that Dallas is taking to become a healthier city.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes with Dallas," he says. "Not with just the wide variety of restaurants, but also I’ve seen the city take more strides in making Dallas more walkable. The more we make Dallas one of those walkable, you-can-enjoy-yourself-outside places, then I think that helps influence the culture of fitness. We haven’t done that in years past.”