Not so long ago, Kevin Curry Dallas-he'd lost his tech job and his savings in the 2008 crash-and-struggling with chronic depression. His doctor prescribed him antidepressants, but the pills could only do so much. Hey what overweight, despite going to the gym several times a week, because he too often ate like a broke college student.
So beginning in 2012, he decided to teach himself to cook. No more fast food and binge eating. He recorded his progress on his personal blog, and soon attracted a following. Millions of followers on Instagram, YouTube, and his Fit Men Cook website.
Curry, now 37 years old, is down to a slim 1
I'm on the road, I'm on the road, if you live in Atlanta, you can catch him on February 26th . We talked about depression, overeating, and even eating out.
Men's Health: I'm in Chicago right now. It's about two degrees outside.
Kevin Curry: Oh wow.
Talk me out of eating that pasta, Kevin. I'm begging you.
Well, here's the thing. I used to live in Boston and it was super cold there. I did the same thing, except instead of the pasta I would have shepherd's pie.
That's good stuff.
There's nothing like cold weather to make you want to stay inside and make bad decisions. But what I've heard is comfort food is a big myth. It should not be called comfort food. It should be called instant comfort. Because that's all it is. All the pleasure and relief it gives you only happens as you're spooning the food into your mouth. But once you finish, when the meal's gone …
That's when the self-loathing begins.
Right! And the bloat.
Bloat and self-loathing are the yin and yang of winter depression.
So you repeat the process, because you want those good feelings back. But it's a momentary comfort.
You tell your buddies, "I feel sad, let's eat some cheese fries," they'll probably join you.
And the cheese fries are everywhere. They're easy to find. And it's all so cheap. You can get a value meal for two bucks, with a burger, fries and a coke. But a salad will cost you eight or ten bucks. So not only is junk food acceptable, it's easy to abuse. For me, what about learning to be mindful about what I put into my body. Food is just therapy. We medicate ourselves with food. And a lot of times, we do it in a trance.
How do you mean?
We do not pay attention to what we eat. Because we're busy. You're doing things and trying to squeeze it all in. You're getting lost in the hamster wheel of life. And then suddenly you're like, "Okay, I've got to eat something," so you'll find what's easiest and closest and go back to what you were doing. We do not pay attention. It does not matter. It's just red behavior.
How do you do that?
You have to why you're doing something. Why you're breaking away from your old behavior. When I started, I needed to remind myself of my goals. I live in Texas, and admittedly our cold weather has nothing on Chicago.
Do not even try.
But for a Texan, it can feel cold. And that makes you want to eat. So during these months I would like to set goals for myself, whether it's a weight loss goal or a fitness goal. It gave me something to work towards, and to look forward to. It was really a way to remind myself of why I was not going to do the things my head and body were telling me to do. And I would make sure those goals were very visible. I'd write them down and put them on my fridge, or my bathroom mirror.
Seeing those goals would stop you?
Sometimes. Not always. But a lot of times, yes. Because I could not open the fridge in a trance. I saw that reminder of what I was doing, and why. And that snapped me out of it. It's me, "Hey, okay, you're hungry, I get it, but what's narrative on I trying to write for myself?" I had to come face to face with that every single time. So even if it's below freezing outside and calorific because I think it's going to be instant relief, "he said," Kevin, do not forget you got the tough Mudder coming up. "Or" You're making yourself that we were going to lose five pounds this month. "It's right there in front of me. I can not forget what my goals are.
You almost become your own biggest cheerleader.
That's exactly it. That's it in a nutshell. You have to be your own cheerleader. I try to do that all the time. I tell myself, "Kevin, you've got it going on! You are killing it out here. You just created this awesome recipe! "I high-five myself.
No you do not
I totally do!
Okay, that's both hilarious and awesome.
Sometimes you have to do that. We are not used to saying positive things about ourselves.
How has cooking helped you?
I really think cooking is what it takes to save me from depression. I've been struggling with depression my entire life, but it's not until later. I was in Boston and I went through a couple of setbacks. It sends me into a deep, dark depressive spiral. But cooking allowed me to nurse myself back to health.
What the busywork of it therapeutic? Just having something to do with your hands so you would not obsess over your sadness?
Absolutely. I did not really get that connection until later on. It was not that I was making this nutritious food and doing something good for myself. It has this tiny modicum of control. I have a philosophy: When life gets really bad, you need to narrow your focus. Find one   Just one?
One thing feels like a miracle when you're in a dark place. For me, it did not start off as cooking. It just enough to get up every morning. That was my goal. "I'm going to make my bed. And open up all the blinds. I'm going to intentionally do that every morning. "Just the act of letting the light in, it changed my entire mood. I
But eventually you get more ambitious, right? You left your bedroom?
Oh sure. Let's say you drink six sodas a day. So you make the conscious decision, okay, I'm going to cut that number in half. That's my one thing today. Once you do that one thing and you're very intentional about doing that one thing, and you accomplish it, you're like, "Well that was not so bad. Maybe I can do something else. "Slowly but surely, you start transforming your body into small incremental acts. That's how I started with my meal prep. I wanted to save money because I could not afford to eat out all the time. But I wanted to eat healthier.
It really can.
Why not just microwave a frozen pot and do it with it?
I overwhelmed by this idea of trying to overhaul my diet because I've tried it already and failed. So I said to myself, "Alright kid, you're just going to cook your lunch and bring it to work every day. You're going to stop eating with your coworkers. "I did that every day for two or three weeks. And then something happened.
It got easier?
It got easier! And I was so proud of myself. Pretty soon I was like, "Maybe I can make breakfast this morning." So I started doing that. That said, "After my workouts, I always go get something from Chipotle or something that's quick and easy but not so good for me. Maybe I should prep a post-workout meal. "Then, all in a sudden, what would I say? It took a couple of months, but it became my new normal.
All of that makes sense in theory. But when I'm feeling sad and the weather is horrible, the last thing I want to think about is a salad. You know what I mean?
I do, yeah.
A salad just pisses me off. Even though yes, I know what you're saying, eating it makes me feel better than that microwave burrito. But my heart still wants the burrito. I have positive associations with the burrito. The burrito wants to make everything okay. How do we break past those culinary prejudices?
Listen, food makes us happy. It's always going to make us happy. But there's context.
Like, okay, I was raised in the South. My mom is from Louisiana, my dad is from South Carolina. I grew up with Soul Food Sunday. Every Sunday after church, we ate together as a family, and it was not healthy.
Holy lord. You were doomed from the start.
One of my first memories of feeling loved my mom cooking for me. I grew up eating soul food and Mexican food and Italian food. So what's my brain associated with pleasure. Because it's all connected with all the amazing memories of being a kid. When I started to cook healthier, I made a commitment to expose my tastebuds to different things, to things.
You were rewiring your brain?
That's right. Because we teach ourselves what tastes good. It's not nasty, it's just unfamiliar. It's not like your brain is connecting with good memories. You do not see a salad and think, "My mum loves me." But the more you eat those foods, that will start to change.
But what if you do not?
Okay. But seriously, what if you do not?
You will! It just takes time. The more you eat vegetables, the more you incorporate them into your life, you'll start to associate them with happy times and happy memories. You may not think of a salad as "Ugh, that stuff I have to eat." If that's the food you're going to at a party, or a gathering of friends, or when you're alone at the dead of winter , that becomes your happy food.
So you're saying salad, or vegetables in general 19659002] It could! When you repeat something enough times, it becomes a habit. It's a subconscious thing that you're doing, but it really works. If you want to make your comfort food, then eat salad. And keep eating salad. become your comfort food.