Fitness trainer cooks up a storm online
Bored during lockdown, Kamel Dickinson went into the kitchen and started recording.
It was something the fitness trainer had been thinking about doing back in February as a way of building his social-media profile, but a friend put him off the idea.
“He was like, ‘Oh it’s going to be terrible, you can’t cook.’ I was like, ‘Maybe you have a point’,” laughed Mr Dickinson, who was already aware that most people thought his food “didn’t taste good”.
The bodybuilder’s defence was that he wasn’t trying to accomplish a culinary feat. With his physique in mind, his meals were made to either bulk up or “cut” for competition.
“It was all relatively bland,” he said of how he cooked then. “It would just be salt, maybe rosemary; that’s how I would season most of my food. Most of it was relatively plain. Especially when I’m trying to put on weight I would just cook food down.
“I don’t really worry about taste, it’s just about trying to consume more.”
However, when Covid-19 shuttered Bermuda, the boot camps he had been offering through his company Cut2Fit “kind of went completely left”. Stuck at home with nothing else to do, he revisited his plan.
“I started thinking if I start a cooking show, with me being someone who’s not that great of a chef, then maybe I can convince other people they can also do it.
“Plus I was bored. I thought if there’s nothing else to do I might as well just wake up early one morning and try [it].”
He bought two ring lights and, using his iPhone 11, started shooting as he prepared “protein pancakes and [healthy] stuff that I make every single day”.
“I was just like, let’s just try that. It might as well be the first episode. Let’s turn on the camera and just wing it.”
Humour helped him along as did the skills he picked up while studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. Although he’d tried to make it as an actor, visa problems put an end to that plan and he decided to follow his heart.
“I decided to go into wrestling. It’s what I always wanted to do anyway,” said Mr Dickinson who, in spite of that, was cast in Maternal Secrets, the thriller that Lucinda Spurling filmed here.
With high hopes for wrestling he was disappointed when various injuries forced him to quit until a friend suggested he try bodybuilding.
“I have a personal trainer Carmichael [Bryan] who stays above my house, so I started training with him and decided at the same time I might as well get my personal training certification. That’s how it kind of went, hand in hand — doing the competition and getting the personal training certification.”
Ultimately, the combination of bodybuilding and his job as a personal trainer left Mr Dickinson feeling “burnt out”.
Covid-19 appeared just as he switched his focus to boot camps. The fitness instructor remains grateful for the support he received from Kyjuan Brown. The director of Northshore Medical&Aesthetics Centre helped him create a workable business plan and agreed to give his clients free body composition tests at the beginning and end of each camp.
Dr Brown’s help was boosted by Gerhard Lipp of Better Health Bermuda Ltd, who gave a 10 per cent discount to boot camp members; the Chef Shop on Par-la-Ville Road matched that offer.
“It was something new and different I wanted to just try,” Mr Dickinson said. “And then Covid hit and that kind of went completely left because I had to cancel it of course.”
The six videos he’s shot — recently with help from Akil Simmons, chief photographer at The Royal Gazette — have pulled in 16,000 viewers.
“Part of the reason why I wanted to expand my sponsorship was that I could potentially help someone else as well,” Mr Dickinson said.
“Coming from my wrestling background, it was hard [in the United States]. I was broke at the time and trying to gain weight and being on a specific diet and having no money is extremely hard. For the most part I was eating tuna fish, rice and eggs for two years.”
The problem was his acting visa, which prevented him from seeking employment outside the entertainment industry.
“So that’s why I couldn’t really work and make money. So I thought, how can I help others? How can I make their lives easier when trying a diet because I didn’t have anyone to make my life easier when I was trying to put on weight.”
He showed his first video to a friend at BGA in hopes the distributor would come on board as a sponsor to help him achieve that goal.
“They loved it and they have really helped out a lot as well,” Mr Dickinson said.
Courtesy of BGA, he’s been able to introduce clients to such foods as protein chips, healthier peanut butter and protein bars.
“This month they even gave us Off! spray and stuff like that because we’re training outside in the summer and there are insects. So it really helped out. It helped people find different choices for things that they liked. It helped a lot of people try different things they had never tried before.”
Similarly, the videos have helped broaden people’s food choices.
“My clients [can watch and discover] a healthier way of making a cheesecake or Popsicles or apple pie,” Mr Dickinson said. “Most of the recipes I find online — on YouTube or I search for something random and then just try and find a healthier version of it. If I can’t I’ll just remove the sugar and use zero-calorie sweetener, things like protein powder.
“That’s why I try to make my videos entertaining as well. I’m not a dietitian and I don’t want anybody to take it too seriously. I do have a lot of experience in [preparing my body for] competition and so I just pass on stuff that I know, what I’ve done.”
Each video takes about eight hours to film and even longer to edit down to “around seven minutes”.
“I want to keep them going, to stay consistent, but I’ll probably take a break for a while,” Mr Dickinson said. “But, as long as I’m doing [my boot camps] I will do it.”
• Follow Kamel Dickinson on Instagram @cut2fitbda and on Facebook. Sign up for boot camp at email@example.com
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