Kamila McDonald's Here To Empower Active Lifestyles And Women On A Mission

Tizzy Tokyo

Tizzy Tokyo

Certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist Kamila McDonald has been using her own health and fitness journey to inspire people across Jamaica to get in shape. McDonald has been very open about her struggles with her weight, clinical depression and eating disorder. She has since turned her trials into triumphs, even winning Miss Jamaica World Beach Beauty in 2009, and has gone on to turn her fitness journey into a career. Her Kamp Kamila fitness challenges incorporate High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) paired with the best music coming out of our island home.

With the release of her first book Wake Up and Live last year, as well as its second edition on the way, McDonald has taken the importance of fitness, health, and self-care to new levels, both in Jamaica and abroad. BASHY spoke with the nutritionist about fitness journey transparency, empowering women and her entrepreneurial growth.

BASHY Magazine: How have you enjoyed the cruise thus far and how has it differed from ones in the past?

Kamila McDonald: This is one of my favorite times of the year to come together to celebrate reggae music and to be around all these people from diverse backgrounds with one mission: to enjoy our culture. For me, fitness and health are everything and there’s no fitness without good music. The cruise almost represents a perfect combination of all those elements, my favorite elements: Jamaica, reggae music, good food, good vibes, good people, and just taking some time out to honour our bodies. What is extremely special for me is to be able to see familiar faces over the last three years and hear the different journeys because health and fitness is not an easy thing. What I always realize with a collective gathering like this is we’re all the same, we all struggle with the same things, we all have the same challenges and it’s very powerful when we’re all here together after everybody been partying ‘til four o’clock inna di morning and still say balance is important. It’s always a special vibes coming on this cruise and, for me personally, an indication of growth to see the classes and movement getting bigger. It’s a representation of everything, of growth and of Jamaica.

Could you talk more about the importance of health and fitness, especially for women?

When we think about health and fitness, many things come to mind: weight loss, looking good in a bikini on the beach. People don’t realize that fitness and making health conscious decisions affects everything. It affects our mood. It affects how we sleep, how we think, and our productivity. It’s not something we should try to make time for; it is something we need to make time for because it affects our quality of life. It’s not just about how we look, of course we wa look good. We can’t just go the easy route. Yes, it’s easier to go to a drive-thru and pick up some fast food but if we keep making those decisions, we’re going to pay for it and that’s inevitable. That’s not a maybe. It’s gonna happen.

That’s the thing with fitness, people don’t realize it doesn’t have to be this perfect, one and a half hours in this beautiful gym. Just jump up and down inna di same spot a couple of times, do something, likkle push ups and sit ups. Sweat it out. That’s what Kamp Kamila is all about, having people recognize their own power, empowering women especially. I have a special love for females because we have our own challenges separate from di man dem. .We as emotional creatures, we tend to react a lot to our environment and health, fitness, eating the right food and really honouring our bodies by sweating it out really helps us to work through our emotions. It helps us to know ourselves, to center ourselves and that’s one of the most important things we can do as human beings: to find a peace within ourselves amidst all the inevitable chaos in life. That cannot happen unless we commit to sweating it out a couple times a week and eating the food that is going to fuel our bodies in the right way.

As a recent college graduate myself, I know you have degrees from both Stanford University and UC Berkeley. Could you speak a bit about pursuing degrees, but choosing not to pursue the traditional route and using what you learned to be an entrepreneur to create this business enterprise?

It’s funny because my parents are very strong academics. My mom went to Harvard University and got her doctorate there. They’re both college graduates and they’re very much into that yellow-brick-road lawyer, doctor thing. When they saw me pursuing an entrepreneurial path, they were not supportive of it because they didn’t quite understand social media and creating a movement for yourself because today is a very different time than our parents’.

I would say that you have to follow your heart. Sometimes there’s a vision we have inside of us that burns up and nobody else really understands it but you have to listen to it because I believe we were all put on earth for a specific purpose. Each of us has a gift and it is not doing the world justice if we ignore that and do what everybody else thinks we should do.

[In my business] I really rely on my degrees in terms of the skills I learned.I’ve lived in six different countries and pursued modern languages as a minor so I minored in French and Spanish and I really have seen the skills I learned in college spill over to what I do today. The point is, despite the degrees, we can’t get too caught up in that. We have to follow our hearts and know what we were put on this earth to do and that comes right back to being our healthiest selves because we can’t figure out our missions running on Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Burger King. We have to fuel up with the food that’s going to help us to connect with our inner source and the Almighty and he can guide us and on what it is we are going to pursue.

When we figure out our destiny, it all falls into place. This movement really just fell into my lap, I didn’t mean to do this. I was pursuing journalism. It really is about listening and staying in tune with ourselves and going with our gut. But I believe in life, everything happens for a reason and again, we have to stay in tune, balanced, and aligned.

We talked somewhat about women earlier, but between your social media, the press about other Jamaican women who have recently released books as well, can talk about what girl power means to you?

Girl power is everything! It is such a beautiful time now because we as women are rising up and stepping into our power. I am extremely proud of Jamaican women right now who are, again, stepping into who they are. It’s that time of women rising up, we’re all feeling it. What better way than to have our own guides. Wi nah look to nobody else; we’re guiding ourselves.

You know what I always say, too, when your missions are for the highest good and not for individual, selfish, self-centered motives, it will always be supported. I just knew that other women could relate, when they know there is a story inside of them that needs to be told to be able to empower a next woman. Even if it’s one or five, if it’s ten, mi know seh my job get done. I find that when I discuss with other Jamaican women authors right now, that’s a similar desire that’s burning up inside all of us and I think that’s why it’s becoming this ripple effect of just doing well because it is for that higher good.

You’ve also taken your Kamp Kamila fitness classes across the island and to the States as well. Can you talk about what that means for you, especially to see your classes expand out of Kingston to the country?

It means everything! For me, it’s just such a joy because it reminds me that Jamaica is so much bigger than just Jamaica. It makes me proud to be Jamaica, to be teaching a class in [Washington] D.C. and still get fifty people showing up excited and ready. To be going to New York, Miami, Atlanta where there’s strong Caribbean bases. In 2019, I’m hoping to take [Kamp Kamila] to Toronto and the U.K. Right now, we’re in active talks. It’s not easy because there are a lot of logistics happening, but I have no doubt in 2019 some major things will be happening. Again, it’s just a constant reminder of the magnitude of brand Jamaica and that we as Jamaican people love to connect to each other. I feel honoured to pursue that from a health and fitness perspective.

Regarding health and fitness, you’ve been very transparent about your journey. Can you talk about the motivations behind your transparency and your journey to be consistent in your personal health?

I believe that through transparency, people can understand that they can do exactly what I did. The problem is when we cover up the truth and filter reality, that’s not empowering for other women. I like to talk about my acne struggles. I like to show my stretch marks on my tummy. I like to show people that I’m a real person and I did not get any surgery. I did this by digging deep and stepping up into my higher self and that unlocks the power of a next woman.

Even after this class, a lady from Uganda came to me and had a complete meltdown. She said that she lost fifty pounds on one of my Kamp Kamila fitness challenges and she just had a loss in her family and gained it all back. I believe it’s my duty to be as open as possible so that when people are in those low moments, [I let them know] I too have my low moments and I crawled my way out of it.

Two days ago, I lost an uncle of mine and it’s just a constant reminder that all we have is now. We can’t let life’s challenges, as hard as things are [like] life, death and depression because those things are real, but we have to find that place within ourselves where we can block out those challenges and still rise above. Life goes on and can be taken from us at any moment so we want to be able to look back and say we lived a full life despite what was thrown at us. The more that I am open about my challenges, the more other women can feel like it’s okay to be human.

Last but not least, what else do you have coming up? When is the next book and what else do you have in the works?

I’m actually about to release a second edition of Wake Up and Live in January and I’m also having a Wake Up and Live Challenge that I haven’t announced yet. It’s going to be a video course that brings the book alive and that’s happening in January as well. A lot of exciting things coming. I have another book called Wake Up and Prep that I’m working on because I know meal prep is a very tough subject. A lot of people have misconceptions about it when that is really one of the roots to consistency. I have another book I’m working on about emotional eating and breaking up with sugar so what I do is try to pay attention to what women need. I know that I have a gift of writing, connection, and resonation and so it’s just continuously focusing on keeping myself good so that I can carry out the work so lots of exciting things coming.

Yes, definitely excited!

Thank you so much! BASHY big up, big yuhself!

Cover image by Tizzy Tokyo


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This article is part of BASHY’s Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise coverage.