This week Kimatni D. Rawlins takes our hero challenge to a new level—helping fathers become fit for their families. A former college athlete, Kimatni lost sight of his health goals in the early years of raising a young family, but later experienced a personal epiphany that inspired him to shed 50 pounds through a plant-based diet and daily workouts. The founder of the fitness and wellness website Fit Fathers, Kimatni today uses his knowledge as a certified fitness instructor and nutritionist to create programs that speak to men at all fitness levels. Learn more about his work and his enthusiasm for Meatless Monday in our recent interview below.
You were a 250-pound running back in college. What stressors happened in those post-college years that turned you into a self-acclaimed couch potato?
Work, partying, traveling, and entrepreneurship. After years of football at Georgia Tech I was a bit worn and didn’t exert that same effort as I did on the field. Basically, I chose to let excuses run my life.
Did you experience a specific wakeup call to get healthier? Was going meatless part of this change?
At age 35 I actually wanted to relive my playing days at Tech, yet I lacked the energy and stamina needed to obtain the goal. I finally said, “Enough is enough,” and signed up for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago. I finished in the middle of the pack but was very exhausted after the 9-mile, 7-obstacle course. That moment I decided to study the body and how it metabolizes energy. It all led back to the foods we eat and those we choose to discard. Slowly I began eliminating chicken, fish, and dairy. Red meat and pork was never an option. Then, the icing on the cake was after my wife (also a vegan) and I watched the movies Forks Over Knives and Food, Inc.
What are the positive changes you’ve experienced from being on a vegan diet?
I have energy for days, my doctor says that my health numbers are that of an 18-year-old athlete, and I feel fluid and light on my feet after meals. I have since run a marathon and a few Urbanathlons, and every year I complete at least three half-marathons. I also train a few clients and lead group workout sessions for schools, non-profits, and work groups.
Did getting into shape make you a better father? How?
Yes, of course. Together my wife and I prepare well-balanced meals for the kids instead of relying on processed school lunches and fast foods. The girls (now 12 and 9) are little vegan chefs and also prepare plant-based meals for the family, especially when we have guests over. Additionally, I have the energy to expend with them after my workday is over. No longer do I let an excuse supersede our values, which are staying active, eating clean, and energizing our lives.
What are the challenges men face that cause them to lose sight of their health? Do fathers in particular face special challenges in balancing home and work life?
Far too often men continue to rely on the female of the household for shopping, cooking, and meal preparation. If she eats poorly, then most likely so will he. If she eats healthily but is often away, then dad is at a disadvantage if he doesn’t know how to grocery shop or cook. Fit Fathers helps offset these behavioral patterns by providing recipes, nutrition tips, meal plans, etc.
Today you are a physical trainer, active marathoner, and athlete. Can hard-core athletes really be successful without eating meat?
Yes, that’s me. It’s amazing because I could barely run a mile when I was a meat-eating footballer. Keep in mind fruits, veggies, and grains are complex carbohydrates, which are humans’ main source of fuel, converted into glucose to be transported into every cell for energy. What repairs and accelerates the growth of cellular tissue is the macronutrient protein and it’s found in all foods. Beans, for example, provide needed protein, dietary fiber (which the majority of Americans lack), and various vitamins and minerals. Thus, veggies are also comprised of protein so a plant-based diet will never be devoid of any major food group. Moreover, we only need 5 to 10 per cent of our daily caloric intake to stem from proteins. Heard of Scott Jurek? He follows a pure vegan diet and is virtually unbeatable in 100-mile-plus ultra runs.
Can you capsulize your health program in a few words?
Yep! We have two key mantras. “Lead by example so your child becomes the example” and “Eat Clean, Stay Active, and Energize Your Life.”
Why does Meatless Monday appeal to you? How do you incorporate it into your programs?
We love Meatless Monday. It helps people let go of animal protein one step at a time while nourishing their bodies, reducing their carbon footprint, and ultimately giving animals another reason to breathe. Many of my close friends and followers have gone plant-based after starting their lifestyle change with a Meatless Monday. It works!
Readers can follow the Fit Fathers movement at www.FitFathers.com and @FitFathers.