MamaSezz is delighted to introduce you to Cam F Awesome. Cam is a six-time USA National Boxing Champion, four-time Golden Gloves National Champion, two-time Olympic Trials Champion Heavyweight Boxer, and former captain of the USA National boxing team.
Cam is also a nationally recognized youth speaker, covering bullying, social-emotional learning, and more. He’s an amazing comedian, too, with an Emmy nomination for the film “Counterpunch.”
And Cam F Awesome eats and advocates for a plant-based diet.
Cam came to plant-based eating through a lot of different experiences. Bullying in high school. Elite-level boxing. An unexpected and embarrassing failure. Necessity and curiosity. And a bet that he lost.
Out of all that, Cam has developed an approach that is resilient, generous, funny, smart, and passionate. His work draws from a deep moral clarity to be of service to other people, to animals, and to the earth.
Plus, Cam is hilarious! He leads with a happiness that brings people to the plant-based table with joy.
Come meet Cam F Awesome.
Are you curious about Cam's name? Here's what he told Parade Magazine when they asked the same question- "The boxer formerly known as Lenroy Cameron Thompson officially changed his name three years ago. What does the “F” stand for? “Whatever you want it to be in your imagination,” Awesome told Yahoo! Sports. “Fun…Family. Friend? Yep. Frog Eyes? OK too.”
We're going with F for fabulous-
What You’ll Learn
- Cam’s journey from bullied, overeating teenager to Olympic-level boxer [3:37]
- The failure that ended Cam’s Olympics journey [5:47]
- How a serendipitous bet led to plant-based eating — and a rejuvenated life [7:25]
- What Cam first thought about vegans (and what he thinks now) [8:40]
- How plant-based eating slowly became a lifestyle and a moral choice for Cam [9:37]
- How Cam now talks about plant-based eating and animal protection [18:14]
- The message in Cam’s anti-bullying work: “You aren't valuable by excluding other people.” [15:10]
- Cam’s core philosophy of life [20:47]
- Cam’s journey from bullied teen and overeater to Olympic-level boxer [3:37]
I grew up in Long Island, New York and since I can remember, I've always had a terrible relationship with food. [The thought was], if I eat a lot of food, everyone will be impressed. And then I think that's what made me always go for another plate because it's like, oh, I'm getting attention. And I just got to the point where I would just eat a ridiculous amount of food every meal and I had a thing where I would never leave any food on my plate, even if I was full.
That coupled with the fact that I loved my Super Nintendo, [and] I just never went outside, I gained a lot of weight. I was getting bullied in school because of my weight and I didn't have great confidence.
In my senior year in high school, I decided I wanted to start working out, but the only thing available was a boxing gym. I'm not the biggest fan of boxing, but I'm a fan or free things. So I went to the boxing gym just to do, like, boxing fitness. I had no intention of fighting.
When I got down to my goal weight, someone asked if I wanted to spar and I'm like, oh no, I don't think my mom would be okay with that. Then everybody laughed at me, so I just put in my mouthpiece and I guess started sparring and it was even a better workout.
So I always just liked sparring. And then I decided to give myself one fight because I'd never competed in anything before. I never played any sports in high school, middle School, elementary school, never did little league or anything, never played a sport. So I had my first fight — and I won.
It was the first time I ever won anything besides Monopoly (because I always dominate Monopoly). And then I got addicted to the high of winning. I had no intention of becoming a boxer. I was just 17, and I just continued fighting. And before you know it, I qualified for the Olympic trials within the first two years of boxing. I lost in 2008 in the Olympic trials, and then I continued boxing and won nationals in 08, 09, basically every year and then I won the Olympic trials in 2012.
The failure that ended Cam’s Olympics journey [5:47]
I was suspended and kicked off the Olympic team for... not filling out paperwork.
When you're on the USA team, you have to let them know where you're going to be on the hour, every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So if I go to the grocery store and I'm going to be gone from my house more than an hour, I have to inform them.
If I go to a basketball game and I won't have cell phone service, I have to tell them. If I go to the gym, I have to tell them. If I go to the pool and I don't have my phone on me, I have to tell him.
And I left the country and forgot to tell them because I had so much going on, preparing for the Olympics. And then I missed a mandatory drug test because I was leaving the country. A missed test is a positive test and I got kicked off the Olympic team.
I was super depressed, drinking a lot, and I gained a lot of weight. I didn't want to leave my house because I didn't want to explain to everybody the whole situation. Because when you tell them it was for paperwork, or anything to do with missing a drug test, they're just like, oh, you're doing drugs or doing steroids... which is probably less embarrassing than forgetting to send an email. I was the first person to do that, so that was my claim to fame for a while!
How a serendipitous bet led to plant-based eating — and a rejuvenated life [7:25]
[After getting kicked off the team], I eventually had to start leaving the house to get an income because I didn't have any income. So I started doing boxing, fitness training and a guy called me up by the name of Bill Mackie. He wanted to train in boxing. He came down to the gym, very overweight and he was also like 45 years old and had like a knee brace and I'm just like, “you want to fight?” He's like, “yeah.”
Well, I needed the money. All right. Every week he came in, he was just a little bit smaller. Eventually, after a few months, he came in, no knee brace, hopping around. He was good. He lost like 40, 50 pounds.
[During this time,] I lost a bet to Bill’s wife, Ami Mackey [food coach of Engine 2 Plant-Based Diet]. So I had to do the Engine 2 28-day challenge, which also entails sobriety, so I had to deal with my issues during this time and that really got me out of my slump.
What Cam first thought about vegans (and what he thinks now) [8:40]
I lost 32 pounds in 28 days [with Engine 2] and decided to keep the [plant-based] diet going... but I didn't want to be affiliated with vegans because I didn't know anything about vegans besides Bill and Ami. They’re cool, but everything I’d heard [about vegans], they're probably just the cool ones, and the rest of them are all crazy! And that was my ignorance. I didn't know any better.
After awhile, I started running into people [eating plant-based] and I'm like, oh, you're cool for a vegan. My God, you're not even... you just seem like a normal person! And then after a while, I'm like, maybe all vegans aren't terrible people. Now that I look back at it, maybe I've just witnessed more people speaking about how often vegans speak about being vegan than I have witnessed actual vegans speaking about being vegan.
How plant-based eating slowly became a lifestyle and a moral choice for Cam [9:37]
I [ate plant-based] for my own personal reasons, and I didn't really promote it much for the first year. Then I started going to these like vegan events and meeting cool vegan people. And then I came out of the vegan closet and it was pretty cool.
I was vegan for the first five years for my own personal reasons. And then I emceed the Hoedown at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY. [The Hoedown is an annual conference and celebration for the animal protection movement.] I got to go to the farm for the first time, and I never realized I'd never really been to a farm or seen farm animals. The cows are huge, and they're not all white with perfect circular dots, and pigs are GIANT. They're not like 'Babe,' cause that's what I thought. And I got to hang out with all these different animals and then I got to stay in the tiny house, out there on their property, and that was like a cool experience.
Then I got back to the tiny house that night after having a great day hanging out with animals, as weird as that sounds. And then I felt the guilt of the first 23 years of my life eating meat, and I was angry. Now I saw why angry vegans are angry. They’re super passionate about it.
I immediately got my anger under control but I decided to [get involved]. Almost every weekend I do a veg fest or sanctuary event. A lot of times I reach out to sanctuaries when I'm in cities [to see if I can support them]. This fall, in Minnesota, I'll be doing a boxing seminar in the afternoon to help raise money for our local boxing gym. And then, in the evening I'm doing a comedy show in the boxing gym to raise money for a sanctuary.
How Cam now talks about plant-based eating and animal protection [18:14]
If you're passionate about something, I get excited, and I can listen to you talk about your passion all day, as long as you're genuinely passionate about it. But once your passion turns to a judgmental angle, then I get turned off very easily because, I mean, no one, no one has lived without killing a single animal.
Whether you're driving, you hit a fly, whether you step on an ant. And if the idea of speciesism is real, then hitting a puppy with your car, the same as hitting a fly with your car. So no one's perfect. And I believe in, and it's a quote I stole from Paul Shapiro, progress, not perfection. So someone decides to be just a little more vegan, I'm happy.
It's weird that people would think it's a good idea to have a non-inclusive club that you demand everyone be a part of. In a perfect world, if I could snap my fingers and make everyone vegan, I would, but I know that's not how the world works, and it's difficult for someone to make that transition.
An example I use pretty often is, if your grandmother's at the end of her road, she has a couple of years left in her life, are you just never going to have that home-cooked meal from your grandma again? Those are things you have to give up, and they’re difficult for a lot of people to do. So someone [eats vegan] three or four times a week, I still respect it because — progress not perfection.
The message in Cam’s anti-bullying work: “You aren't valuable by excluding other people.” [15:10]
I speak on verbal, physical, cyber and exclusionary bullying. With verbal bullying, I let the students know that I didn't realize I was a bully because I was a verbal bully — because I would make fun of my friends. But the way I see it, if there's 10 of us there, all nine of us laugh at one person's expense, 30 seconds later, none of us think about it again. That 10th person that we made fun of, I don't know what's going on in their personal life, we might've put more on top of their plate. So if I think I'm funny, I challenged myself to make a joke not at someone else's expense. So I kinda just, without pointing fingers to the students, let them know that their actions could affect other people. I also speak on physical bullying and cyberbullying, because I dealt with physical bullying the most, but I never had to deal with cyberbullying.
When I first heard about cyberbullying, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. I just thought the new generation is just, they're just being soft, and I didn't realize that they're dealing with the physical bullying, but then it's being recorded on cell phones and posted online. When I was bullied at school, at least when I was home, I was safe, away from all that. Now students get home, and they need their phones to do their homework or their laptops and they get on the Internet, their friends will tag them on a video of them getting beat up and they can't get away from it, so they don't have a place to escape. They don't have a safe place. So I like to remind them of that.
I tell them that I always wanted to be a part of the cool, the cool clique or sit at the cool kids' table and t's like a club, a bouncer at a club. They don't let everyone into their circle. It doesn't seem like a big deal because the less amount of people you allow in your circle, the more desirable it is to be in it. So there's some type of value in excluding other people. I just try to explain to them that, you aren't valuable by excluding other people. If you got kicked out of that group, how would you feel about it? So I just try to give students a different perspective of things in a fun, lighthearted, humorous way.
Cam’s core philosophy of life [20:47]
If you can fail without being discouraged, success becomes inevitable. Which basically means, just keep trying and eventually it'll work out. You'll either get better — or everybody else who you're competing with will die off!