Beyond the Filter: Instagram Star @VeganFatKid Gets Candid IRL

Beyond the Filter: Instagram Star @VeganFatKid Gets Candid IRL

How well do you know your favorite Instagram personality? I recently sat down with Instagram influencer Tim Moore, better known these days to his 183,000 followers as the Vegan Fat Kid, for a simple day-in-the-life profile story. I expected a quick, lighthearted conversation about epic burritos and workout routines, and perhaps a tip as to where to find the best vegan doughnut in Los Angeles. To my surprise, we launched into a two-hour conversation on body image, survival, activism, and self discipline. Read on for an unfiltered exclusive with Moore.

Humble Beginnings

Moore grew up in South Auckland, New Zealand, dreaming of the day he would get to take his Oversees Experience, or “OE.” The OE is a right of passage for islanders; it is typically a one month excursion to a mainland taken around the age of twenty-one. Moore flew straight to Chicago, but quickly realized it did not fit his idealized image of America, shaped by his favorite childhood films. A 2 a.m. conversation with a stranger in a bar convinced him to fly to Los Angeles with twenty dollars in his pocket. He ended up in Venice Beach living in a hostel, setting up trinket stands on the boardwalk and eventually washing dishes. Moore credits this as the most eye-opening and exciting time of his life.

“Successes in life don’t come from what you want to do, they come from what you have to do.”

He put his head down and worked with a goal to pursue his passion of making music. Over a period of ten years, Moore purchased enough audio equipment to set up his own recording studio. York Recordings in LA’s hipster neighborhood of Highland Park remains his full-time occupation to this day.

Vegan Fat Kid lifts weights
Moore gives 100% daily in everything he does.

Going Vegan

Five years ago, a knee injury landed Moore in the ER, waiting twelve hours for an MRI. To pass the time, he watched people. He noticed their reoccurring trips to the vending machines and crumpled up bags of fast food, and came to the realization that most had eaten their way into their current situation. After Googling the Standard American Diet and learning about what goes into meat and dairy, he decided to go vegan the next day. “Health is wealth,” Moore explained.   

Living in Los Angeles, the transition to a plant-based diet wasn’t difficult. “Its not that you miss meat; you want the experience of meat.” The burger from Sage Vegan Bistro cemented this idea for him. He distinctly recalled taking a bite, watching a piece of mango “cheese” fall out, eating it, and being hit by a wave of nostalgia that took him back to eating an animal-based burger. Although no stranger to sacrifice, he was relieved to discover he did not have relinquish the simple pleasures of food on a vegan diet. Vegans don’t have to compromise their comfort for the sake of compassion and health.

Becoming the Vegan Fat Kid

Moore never cooks at home. Ever. The only item in his fridge is almond milk in order to supplement his “coffee addiction.” Five years ago, he did not have a problem finding vegan options, but he kept forgetting where he had his favorite meals (he admits to having an awful memory). Per his friend’s suggestion, Moore created an Instagram account to create “digital breadcrumbs so I could remember where these things were.” His first post was a quinoa porridge bowl from Four Cafe in Highland Park. He is now is just shy of five thousand posts and one hundred and eighty-three thousand followers.

When it came to naming his account, there was no hesitation. As a child, Moore attended an all-boys Catholic Samoan school, and he was the “chubby kid.” He unashamedly recalled a physical education class where he was mocked by his middle school peers as he hung to a pull-up bar, the only student unable to do a single pull-up. Being the “fat kid” is a part of him, but instead of letting this bring him down, he works to use it to his advantage.

Dealing with Body Image

Despite Moore’s impressively muscular physique, he still has to work to overcome his insecurities, just like everyone else. He is fully aware of the negative influences around him.

“LA tells you that you are not enough all the time. Its a tough place to be alright about being alright. I see that as a massive challenge.” To combat the barrage of “you are not enough,” Moore actively pursues the best version of himself, not that guy with the washboard abs on the Equinox billboard.

“Being the best me, and being alright with me, is a life’s pursuit.” He believes that taking an objective look at his physical self through his VFK 90 day challenge gives him “an active role in changing [his] physique instead of an emotional ‘I suck’.”

Vegan Fat Kid bicep curls
Moore sets a positive example by wearing pro-vegan shirts to the gym.

Thoughts on Social Media

“Social media can be as deep as meaningful as you want, or as shallow and Kardashian as you want. You get to control your feed on Instagram. If you don’t want to see some stuff unfollow that shit. I don’t want to feel like the victim of anything. I believe the universe is on our side; you’re either winning or learning. There’s no losing, only learning.”

So what has Tim learned?

“The enemy of your life is not somebody else’s life. The enemy of my song is not somebody else’s song. The enemy of your taco is not someone else’s taco. If you’re feeling that it is, its saying more about you than its saying about that. Its a hard realization to come to terms with, but as much as I think I am looking at Instagram, Instagram is really looking into me. You think you’re looking into people’s lives, but you’re really learning about your own.”

Personally, he sees Instagram as a net positive, because he has curated a feed that enriches his life for the better. So what’s on his feed? Food, politics, and fitness. We steered clear of the political rabbit hole, but in regard to fitness, Moore is inspired by bodybuilders, especially Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rock. “Everyone should follow The Rock,” he says.

Vegan Fat Kid poses with vegan soft-serve.
Moore makes veganism look cool, rocking his vegan tee and dairy-free soft-serve.

A Day in the Life

“I believe in repetition; I believe in routine. You get good at what you practice.”

Every day, Moore wakes before 5 a.m. for his first cup of coffee and a quick scan of the news. After a pre-workout shake, he’s in the gym by 6:30 a.m, and lifts weights for an hour. After a pit stop to load up on his “veggie reps,” he heads to his recording studio for a good portion of the day, followed by a hefty vegan meal at a restaurant. His go-to? A burrito; he is “one-hundred-percent addicted.” He wraps up his day with a session of planks, then gets to bed early.

At the end of the day, Moore says he is “trying to help people and change people’s lives for the better.” Vegan Fat Kid has evolved far beyond its digital breadcrumbs origins, and even beyond “vegan Yelp” as he called it. Although he is committed to posting food photos, he has shifted his focus to his workout routine.

“I use the gym to plant seeds. Everyone has to go on their own vegan journey, because that’s how it sticks.”

He leads by example, which is why you will always see in him a pro-vegan t-shirt at the gym. He’s a strong believer in t-shirt activism. Recently, a regular at his gym approached him. He told Moore that he had been vegan for the past two months, because Moore’s impressive workouts and vegan t-shirts sparked his curiosity. He did his research and came to the conclusion that plant-based was the way to go. Moore didn’t have to preach a word. You don’t need a pedestal or a bullhorn to influence people, its consistency and results that count.

To encourage others to practice this t-shirt activism, Moore launched his Train Vegan apparel line last Tuesday, August 15th, in collaboration with another vegan Instagram influencer, Vegetaryn. The Classic Line is now available and includes sweatpants, hoodies, and tees for men and women. This is his second project with Vegetaryn; the first was the “#Vegan AF” collection, which is still one of the brand’s top sellers.

According to Moore, Train Vegan has a more focused message:

“Not only can you be the guy that is vegan that is built really well, you can actually build muscle on a vegan diet. I don’t care if you have big arms, bro. If it costs an animal their life, it ain’t worth it. If it costs you your life it isn’t worth it. Its not enough for you get big muscles. Its how you get big muscles thats important for your health and longevity and for the longevity of the planet.”

Looks like the Vegan Fat Kid has more on his mind than where he is going to get his next burrito.

Find Tanya on Instagram and The Vegan Potluck Podcast. 

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All images courtesy of @veganfatkid