I first heard the name Kelly LeVeque in the midst of my personal journey from a sedentary, Sour Patch Kids-filled lifestyle into one resembling that of a healthy adult human.
In an effort to satisfy my sweet tooth, I got heavy into fruit and fancied myself the very picture of wellness every time I chugged a berry smoothie or whipped an apple out of my purse for a mid-morning work snack. My coworker Abby tried to break it to me gently: That much fruit, she said, wasn’t actually good for me. Her nutritionist, Kelly LeVeque of Be Well by Kelly, said so.
Pfff! What does this Kelly LeVeque know? I thought to myself as I peeled another banana. Well, a few months of crazy bloating and digestive issues later, I had to admit that Kelly LeVeque was right.
The next time I heard Kelly’s name, she was podcasting with the ladies of That’s So Retrograde (small world) and talking about her journey from cancer researcher to celebrity nutritionist, with a client roster including Jessica Alba and Chelsea Handler.
As a recent devotee of her Fab Four Smoothies (more protein, fiber, fat, and greens; less fruit) and the owner of a well-worn copy of her book, Body Love: Live in Balance, Weigh What You Want, and Free Yourself from Food Drama Forever, I jumped at the chance to pick the 34-year-old wellness expert’s brain for More Than Just A…
Turns out, Kelly is so much more than a celebrity nutritionist. She’s a seriously intelligent woman, a savvy entrepreneur, and a damn good dresser, too. Read on to find out why quitting her half-a-million-dollar-a-year job to pursue her dream was the best decision she’s ever made–and exactly what foods will clear up your acne.
FAME: So, what’s your official job title?
Kelly: I am the CEO of Be Well by Kelly. I am a holistic nutritionist, wellness expert, and author of the book Body Love.
FAME: Can you talk us through your general wellness philosophy?
Kelly: It’s all about blood sugar balance. So, I like to teach people a light structure for each of their meals so they know what to put on their plate to help their body balance their blood sugar naturally and eat foods that don’t create inflammation in the body. It just so happens that those foods also turn off eight hunger hormones in the body, so I’m really all about eating to satiety, feeling full and calm, with foods that nourish your body so that you don’t have to snack on junk and end up eating processed foods.
FAME: When did wellness fit into the picture for you? Was it something you were always conscious of, and if not, how did it become a part of your life?
Kelly: I’ve always loved health and nutrition since I was a freshman in high school. My favorite class was Health. I started reading diet books in high school and college, but I never really thought it could be a full-blown career so I would just read them for fun. Then when I was [working] in cancer and genetics, my job was to read primary sources of nutrition research. I was able to pop into that website and read the studies specifically based around nutrition. It was a hobby, and then it became a career.
FAME: Can you talk a bit about your career before Be Well By Kelly, and transitioning from one career path to another? What was it like to leave an industry you’d invested time in to start something new?
Kelly: I think, first of all, people really always think it’s too late to start a new career and they think they’ve spent so much time in whatever it is they were doing–for me it was working in cancer and genetics. What I was responsible for doing was teaching oncologists how to use the new technology of genetics to treat their patients. We would take a solid state tumor, run it through a pretty technical device, and it would tell us which genes were turned on and feeding that tumor. Then oncologists could use that information to determine what type of drugs that patient would get. That is pretty specific.
I just started a side hustle, so it was something that, because I didn’t jump off the curb and leave my job completely, I was able to build up my business and support my business with my career. I took the paycheck I was receiving and put up my website and I got professional photos done and I went back to school and paid for my education. It became something that just started growing slowly, and then it became so big that I couldn’t ignore it, and it was an easier transition.
I think it’s a lot harder for people when they make the really big decision to leave a career without a bridge. I started Be Well by Kelly in 2012 and I was seeing all my clients on weekends, at night, on lunch breaks, ditching out and seeing them for an hour at 9:00 am, whatever! I did that until September of 2015. That whole time I would write articles for other blogs, I would see clients, then I started seeing their friends–it’s all about consistency. I probably could’ve left a year and a half earlier, but I was afraid. At the same time, I think you have to trust the timing of your life and what you have going on. For me specifically, my husband and I were making really large career moves–so he left the law firm 6 months before I left my job. I was supporting him in his dream to be a writer to write movies, he was supporting me in my dream to be a nutritionist instead of working for a big corporation.
We joke around now because we had to figure out how to have health insurance and pay for gas–these are real life things that a lot of people deal with right out of school, but we had really big careers out of school. When I look back, putting our incomes together, it was crazy. We were making half a million dollars and we both left it and said, Let’s make way less than that and be happy. So that’s what we do.
FAME: Who was your first celebrity client and how did you land them?
Kelly: My first celebrity client was Eve Hewson. She was training with Mike Alexander of MADFIT who’s a trainer in West Hollywood and one of my friends for over 10 years. He wanted to see a little bit better results and knew I was a big geek when it came to this stuff, so he brought me in. Eve hit her body composition goals, and then Mike got a contract for the two guys working on X-Men. He brought me in for Evan Peters and Ben Hardy because you just get better results when the food is dialed in, too.
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FAME: “Celebrity nutrition” (although of course celebs aren’t your only clients) is a pretty niche category. How did you establish your personal brand in that sector and grow such a prominent client roster?
Kelly: It’s really funny, everyone’s come from such different locations. Once you have a couple [clients], it’s a little easier when someone goes to your website and sees that you’ve worked with celebrities for movie roles and then it feels comfortable and you have that level of credibility.
I was friends with Mike first, so that relationship was really natural and really easy, but I have met other people that, for example, work out with Gunnar Peterson. You get to know these [trainers] just because they want to make sure that everything is dialed in and the client is meeting their goals.
Jessica Alba came to me through her friend Lauren Anderson, who’s a makeup artist. Lauren and I randomly started working together after an Honest Company launch party, and then Lauren introduced me to Jess. Kate Walsh’s assistant, Derek, and I have been friends since freshman year at USC. It’s a really small world in LA.
FAME: You wrote a book! Let’s talk Body Love, and in particular, the amazing concepts buried in the subtitle (“Live in Balance, Weigh What You Want, and Free Yourself from Food Drama Forever”). First of all, we love the philosophy of “Weigh What You Want”–not putting a specific number to health, and framing it as a personal choice. As a nutritionist, how do you see the relationship between health and weight?
Kelly: I think it’s really important that people don’t strive for a number that’s unattainable, and I think that it’s really important for people to just strive to be healthy and feel well. The side effect and consequence of that is is fitting into what is naturally healthy for your body and your frame.
A lot of the clients that I work with are smaller than me; a lot of the clients I work with are a little bit bigger than me. I know what my range is and I know when I’m feeling inflamed, when I’m carrying a few extra pounds–I also know when I’m working out and eating clean and what that feels like on my frame. I think that’s the important message here: What’s your range? It’s all about teaching people to eat to satiety and fuel themselves to feel and fit into the size they want, not deprivation. That’s unattainable and leads to people swinging from binge to cleanse to binge to cleanse and not staying in the right, comfortable weight.
FAME: Secondly, “Food Drama.” Have you dealt with your personal food drama, and how did you overcome it?
Kelly: Absolutely. I think the way that I overcame food drama was understanding that it doesn’t matter what [the food] is, I can tell you 20 reasons why you should eat it and 20 reasons why you shouldn’t. We look at health in a silo. We look at brown rice and someone might say it’s higher in arsenic than white rice, and someone might say not to eat white rice because it’s gonna spike your blood sugar faster. And at the end of the day, when I look at white rice or brown rice (and you’re buying a clean version), it doesn’t really matter. I ask my clients, What do you like better?
There’s so much information that it can make us feel overwhelmed and stressed out, and we start to build rules around food that cause food anxiety, that make us feel guilty if we do end up indulging in that. I think the more rules you have, the greater your opportunity to feel bad about yourself and out of control. I try to steer people away from that. I try to pull away the rules and do really general rules–like protein, fat, fiber and greens, which is my Fab Four. It doesn’t matter if you’re vegan, vegetarian, raw, Paleo, or Whole 30. I mean, you just find what’s right for you in terms of turning off your hunger hormones, feeling full and satisfied, feeding yourself what your body needs, and then naturally going four to six hours without thinking about food, stressing about food. The more you think about it, the more opportunities you have to go pick up something you don’t really want to eat. It’s about biologically turning off hunger from the inside out, so that you’re not fighting not to eat.
FAME: You’re in the business of wellness–two things that seem like natural opposites in today’s culture. American society’s business mindset in general is “go, go, go” with most workers constantly connected via their phones and working all hours of the day/night. Do you find yourself getting caught up in that mindset, and how do you balance wellness with work?
Kelly: I definitely get caught up in being an entrepreneur and running my own business and seeing clients and writing a book. I have deliverables–I’m not going to yoga classes and meeting people for tea, I’m meeting people at their office when they have an hour and we’re talking about exactly what they want to weigh and what their goals are. It’s my responsibility to have a deliverable on what I think, from a consulting standpoint, they should be doing differently and what they should be putting on their plate.
So I mean, I have real work to do. But what I try to do is add something to my plate. So instead of saying, Oh I’m not gonna look at my phone or I’m not gonna do work or whatever, I add something that mellows me out, whether that’s adding yoga or deciding that I have time to walk with my husband to dinner and leave our phones [at home]. Choosing to add something is my mentality in all things–like adding avocado to your plate so you feel full and last a little bit longer.
I think it’s a little bit harder for me to say, “Oh, I’m never gonna look at my phone in bed.” I run my own business. One thing that I will do if I’m really stressed out and I have emails–my emails right now are like tetris, they’re coming in and lining up–is just take my phone into the bath. I will fill an essential oil bath with epsom salts and I will get in–I’m really into CBD bath balls right now. I’ll sit in the bath for an hour and a half or two hours and I will answer emails or client texts, and that’s just how I manage it. Honestly, it’s great. If I get a chance to get in a bath without my phone I’m really, really happy–and a real book, that’s amazing. I feel like I’m on vacation.
FAME: Any tips for balancing running a business, writing a book, keeping up your online presence, having a social life, taking care of yourself, making time for a significant other–you know, the things that all women are expected to do on a daily basis?
Kelly: I mean, my balls are in the air and I’m trying my best to juggle them. Something’s gotta give. I’ll notice sometimes if I’m writing, I can look back on my Instagram and see the times when I haven’t posted on my Instagram in a couple of days, or maybe posted an older photo and I’m like “Hey guys, cucumbers are good for you! High five!” just to have something in my feed. It’s filler content. I know in my head, That wasn’t the best content I’ve ever delivered on Instagram, but here’s the deal: I was up writing my book after seeing my clients ’til 11 o’clock at night and something’s gotta give. You have to be OK with knowing at a certain point in time that not everything’s going to be perfect and you try your best, you know? In any circumstance I’m just trying to try my best.
The most important thing in my life is my husband and that has to come first–and sometimes it doesn’t, but we’re always working to both put in the effort. That’s the most important because honestly, I would have no one to celebrate the book with. I would have no one to celebrate the brand with. When all of this is said and done and we’ve done a really good job, what do I want to do? I want to retire and do yoga with my husband. That’s what’s gonna happen when I win the lotto!
FAME: Our #AntiFastFashion Shop is taking a stand against fast fashion–we want to create clothing that is sustainably produced and unique to each customer. How do you incorporate eco-friendly or sustainable practices into your everyday life?
Kelly: I don’t use plastic, I always use glass tupperware even when it’s annoying to carry it to work and bring it back. I’m really adamant that I keep all of my produce and leftovers in glass. And I would say that I really don’t shop a lot–I’m a minimalist, and I’m not just gonna go out and buy [things] that I might throw away two or three years later because I don’t really love them. I wait. When I do buy things, it’s a classic pair of pumps, a classic pair of jeans, a white t-shirt, a leather jacket. I’ve had those pieces forever and they’re fine! That tends to be my mentality.
FAME: How did you develop your sense of style and how does style fit into your life?
Kelly: I definitely feel like I don’t have enough time to continue to cultivate my style. I feel like I wear a lot of the same things all the time. One of the things I need the most support in wouldn’t be a cook, a trainer, a driver…I need a stylist! I tend to be pretty natural in what I wear. Jeans, t-shirt, a pair of Chucks, I’m good to go.
FAME: Cleanses. Are they real or fake?
Kelly: Fasting is real, juicing is fake. Don’t waste your money.
FAME: What’s a Kelly-approved alcoholic beverage (and serving size)?
Kelly: Vodka, tequila, soda, a lemon or lime squeeze. 1 or 2.
FAME: Key foods/practices/supplements to…
Kelly: Pull the dairy, pull the gluten, add Omega-3s–so a fish oil or an algae-based Omega-3 only, not seed or nut based. Add leafy greens to feed the healthy gut bacteria in your gut–the reason you’re breaking out probably has to do with bad bacteria in the gut.
Pull back on fructose or sugar–anything that feeds bad bacteria like candida or yeast, that’s the bacteria that eats away at sugar, gives off gasses, and you bloat right away.
…support immune system/kill a cold?
Vitamin C all the way. I would take an Emergen-C type of a product, you put it in water and you drink it slowly all day. Your body does a better job of absorbing it over time than at one time. A lot of people will pound 100mg of Vitamin C–it would be better to continue to drink every 20 minutes for two hours. If you have too much Vitamin C, the side effect is diarrhea, and then you’ll know you had too much!
Definitely eating foods that are rich in magnesium, so more leafy greens. I would definitely also pull the caffeine if you can, or lower the amount of caffeine. Go from black coffee to a black tea to a green tea to an herbal tea. People think that caffeine doesn’t affect them until they pull it out and realize it does.
Balance your blood sugar–so that means you’re getting a good amount of protein and fat and fiber and greens–and not eating as often. People always say have five to six small meals a day, but over time, that will make you feel really tired.
…support healthy hair/skin/nails?
Make sure you have enough Vitamin D, have enough iron, and I would say Omega-3s are really good too. E vitamins. Biotin.
FAME: Best business advice?
Kelly: Know what you’re worth.
FAME: Best wellness advice?
Kelly: Get your Omega-3s.
FAME: Personal favorite smoothie?
Kelly: My Spa Smoothie, every day of the week. Avocado, cucumber, lemon, spinach, mint.
FAME: What’s your go-to “power outfit” (to feel good on a big day)?
Kelly: A power outfit for me, every day of the week, is a fitted dress right to below my knee.
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