By JENNIFER GRUBB
Ever since he was a child, Kevin Curry would pray for God to “fix” him and take away his sadness.
“Everything feels good, but I don’t feel good,” Curry said. “Why is that? Why is it sunny outside and everybody wants to go and play? The only thing that I want to do is run back inside and go up under my bed and just be there.”
His depression – paired with losing his job and girlfriend – felt so inescapable in his late 20s, he decided to end his life.
“I remember mapping out everything perfectly,” said Curry, pausing as he started to choke up. “I was putting together all my finances. I was writing my notes, writing my letters.”
“It was so calculated that I researched how to cut my wrist, and I had drawn Sharpie marks on my arms for how to actually do it.”
When one of his oldest friends reached out to get together that night, Curry accepted.
“It was the perfect ending to what I was preparing.”
A phone call saved his life
While hanging out with his friend, Curry’s phone rang.
It was a counselor he had only seen a few times. He hadn’t spoken to her in weeks.
“And she says, ‘Hey, I am breaking all kinds of protocol here. But for some reason you have been on my mind very, very heavily. Will you come in and see me tomorrow?’“ Curry recalled. “It was just such a random call.”
He put his suicide plan on hold and went to the appointment. In the past, the therapist only asked superficial questions. This time she went deep, questioning Curry about his drinking, dreams and mental health.
“And as I was talking to her, she says, ‘What are those marks on your arm?’ She saw the Sharpie marks,” Curry said.
His eyes welled up before he could continue.
“I started to tell her what I was feeling. And I have never unpacked that before with anybody. And all this time, I’ve been raised in church, and for some reason I had convinced myself that God didn’t really care about me. That he just kind of [had] forgotten [me]. That my faith wasn’t strong enough to really overcome these feelings about ending my life.”
Shedding light on his illness
The counselor’s response was the turning point for Curry.
“She says, ‘Well, if you had the common cold, wouldn’t you take some cold medicine? If you had the flu wouldn’t you go down to CVS and take something?’ And I was like, ‘Of course.’ And then she said, ‘Sometimes people just need a little bit more help. And there’s nothing wrong with you and there’s nothing wrong with your faith either.’“
Curry felt like a weight had lifted off his shoulders. He was diagnosed in 2010 with depression and anxiety. Therapy and medication helped him feel better, but he wanted to look better, too.
The Dallas resident started working out three hours a day, five days a week. But it wasn’t working. After a few months, his physique remained unchanged.
“It’s a realization that everybody will come to know and that is this, that you can never outtrain a poor diet,” he explained. “That’s what kind of started my true journey into transforming my entire life.”
Change starts in the kitchen
A personal trainer put Curry on a strict diet and he lost some weight. But he gained the pounds back as soon as he veered off plan.
“I live in the South,” he said. “We love soul food every Sunday after church and Mexican food at least three times a week here in Texas.”
Curry, who graduated from the University of Texas and has a Master of Public Policy from Harvard, figured he had the smarts to learn how to eat healthy without giving up the food he loved.
“I went over to a half price bookstore and bought every single book they had about nutrition,” he said with a laugh. “And I just began to consume the content. And then I started to cook.”
In the summer of 2012, he began posting his dishes on social media, hoping to get free advice on his diet.
“And all of a sudden, seemingly like overnight, people just began to send me all of these questions and praise for the stuff that I was doing,” Curry smiled. “And I realized there are more people out there like me who are trying to eat healthy and want delicious food but don’t want a boring, bland diet.”
“And that’s what created Fit Men Cook … a global community of people dedicated to living healthier and happier lives.”
Beyond the business
Today, Curry continues to spread his influence on social media with more than 2 million followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube combined. He also published a cookbook, has two meal prep apps – FitMenCook and MealPrepPro – and recently added a line of spices to his repertoire.
Despite his success, Curry admitted he still has low moments.
“One thing I have learned is to allow myself to be human and know I’m not going to feel 100% every single day of the year. And that was the hardest thing for me to get because I felt that, well, now that I’m feeling better, this should be permanent. No. Sometimes you just don’t feel that well. Sometimes the circumstances of life just kind of begin to compound themselves.”
For those struggling with depression and anxiety, Curry suggested six strategies that work for him:
- Self-identify the signs of depression [a change in mood or behavior] and seek help.
- Make meals simple. Stock up on foods that don’t take much effort to prepare like eggs, yogurt and canned tuna.
- Find one nutritious recipe to cook each week. “The energy you’re putting into the food and creating is actually doing something so much more than just feeding your belly. It’s nourishing you. It’s nursing your body,” Curry explained. It’s also good for your brain.”
- Do a social media check. Unfollow feeds that make you feel negative.
- Set a fitness goal that works with your diet.
- Be kind to yourself.
And it’s important to do everything in moderation.
“Try to find one thing that you can do differently. Just for one week,” he said. “We’re so quick to try to change everything, overhaul our entire life, because everything is going to be perfect right away. Life doesn’t work like that. … You’ve got to do it little by little by little.”
Advice to live by, according to one determined survivor.
“My biggest accomplishment each year is learning how to cope with everything, all of the pressure, society and life. And not going back to ‘2010 Kevin’ and the way that he handled it,” Curry said. “I’m really proud of myself. Kevin, you’re alive and you won. You beat the year.”