“I DECIDED to lose weight when I was at my heaviest, when I was most uncomfortable,” says Jamaican personal trainer and sports nutritionist Kamila McDonald.
Weighing in at 184lbs, McDonald decided it was time to kick-start her fitness journey. She went on to shed over 62 lbs and won the coveted ‘Miss Jamaica Beach Beauty’ title in 2009. Since then, the 32-year-old has nurtured an online community and, through mentorship and sharing of testimonies, helps them to gain control of their lives through health and positive lifestyle changes.
Still, she admits that her personal progress was very much a case of trial and error.
”I am from a health conscious, vegetarian home, but things changed when I left to study abroad” McDonald explains. “The stress of leaving my home to live millions of miles away and the pressure of studies – my weight ballooned.”
“As an adult, I had to learn to adjust my diet, which was a struggle. It was another level of education, which was rough.”
Recognising that people generally don’t like to take advice from people who haven’t faced the same struggle themselves, McDonald is transparent about her fitness journey and is extremely relatable. This has, undoubtedly, been a contributing factor to the amount of people who have subscribed to her Kamp Kamila brand – particularly on Instagram where she recently celebrated having 100,000 followers.
Her latest Kamp Kamila fitness challenge offers a 30-day plan and has gained a lot of traction with users sharing their experiences on social media using the #KampKamilaFitnessChallenge hashtag.
Obviously beaming with pride, McDonald gushes: “There are people who have come to me saying that they’re off certain medications now, are fitting into old clothes and in a much happier and healthier place. I feel honoured to be a part of that. It warms my heart and reaffirms my mission on earth.”
Having obtained a Masters in Journalism and enjoyed a successful TV presenting career in Jamaica, McDonald is well-versed with the food traditions of her country of birth, and Caribbean communities at large.
The diaspora’s general penchant for ‘hard food’, namely starchy foods like yam, dumplings and green bananas, has seen a heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Certainly, in wider society, similar eating habits are at the root of a number of other ailments.
McDonald aptly points out that “we turn to processed foods, full of harmful chemicals, and wallow in them. As a society, we are overfed yet undernourished.”
She also acknowledges the difficulties of lifestyle changes and the sheer commitment it requires.
“Lifestyle changes require the mind, body and soul,” she says. “Between mental wellness and physical – which go hand in hand – happiness is really like gold.”
BACK IN THE DAY: McDonald in her heavier days
Ultimately, it is all a question of fulfilment, which is the fundamental goal behind any fitness journey. People often lose weight in a bid to become healthier and feel more comfortable with their physical appearance, and once that is achieved, confidence usually ensues. This confidence then leads to greater self-esteem, which can then, in turn, result in a different perspective on life itself.
McDonald feels strongly about the importance of this and the role it plays in her daughter’s life.
“This little human being depends on me to live up to who she is meant to be,” McDonald says of her four-year-old daughter Kailani Belle. “My happiness is almost like an injection of that for her.”
The last year has been a particularly trying time for McDonald, following the breakdown of her marriage to reggae singer Siccature Alcock, better known as Jah Cure.
“We haven’t been together for quite some time now but we share a beautiful daughter, who is the most important person in all of this’.
There has been much speculation surrounding the cause of the couple’s separation. When asked how she copes with the ongoing rumours, McDonald, who has moved back to the family home, says:
“I’d be silly if I didn’t think it would be up for speculation and lying if I said it didn’t bother me sometimes. I’ve learned to just shut it out.”
In discussing new beginnings, McDonald explains that female empowerment has had a big part to play in her journey.
INSPIRATION: McDonald with her daughter Kailani Belle
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without strong, supportive women in my life. I truly think that, in order to be successful, you have to be around like-minded people.”
“My sisters and my mother have been wonderful, as has my best friend Nicole Mclaren Campbell [founder of AIM educational services and wife of dancehall star Agent Sasco], who always pushes me to my limit.”
With her holistic and wide-reaching approach to wellness, it is little wonder that the Jamaican Ministry of Health recently called upon McDonald to be their official Health and Fitness Ambassador – a position that she now occupies with pride.
“When I got the call, I smiled to myself knowing it was a continued manifestation of my dream; to play a part in getting Jamaica moving and healthy.”
It has also been announced that McDonald will be on board Damian Marley’s 2016 Welcome to Jamrock Cruise, which sets sail in November.
“Kamp Kamila is a fusion of fitness, lifestyle, brand JA [Jamaica] and reggae,” McDonald explains. “We’ll be working out with cabin members, with the top DJs playing.”
Clearly a lover of music, McDonald exclaims: “When my iPod is dead and I’m supposedly going for a run, there is no run!”