Talk to Kelly LeVeque for just a few minutes, and you’ll learn more than you ever imagined about, well, things you never knew you truly need to know about. In a calm but laser-speed flow, she explains hormone imbalances, mixed macro meals and the biology behind these ideas.
Sound tricky? Fortunately, you can think again...and dig in! LeVeque’s passion, positivity and chill attitude makes all of her in-depth knowledge totally digestible.
Celebrities (Jessica Alba, Kate Walsh and Ben Hardy, oh my!) and other clients alike hoping to revamp their lives are flocking to her for this approachable vibe along with her take on natural nutrition, wellness, skincare, and beyond through her company, BeWellByKelly.com. Plus, in April, fans everywhere can check out her new book bursting with her grounded-in-good-old-science ideas!
Want to know more? Take a gander below!
SBS: You have such an in-depth base of knowledge. Did you start building this in your childhood?
Kelly LeVeque: My parents are Cali natives, and I was born and raised in Orange County. I had a typical American diet, like chicken, rice and broccoli one night, and pasta with meat sauce another. We ate Wheat Thins. My mom tried, but she didn’t care that much about eating totally clean.
I played soccer growing up and always loved math and science more than writing and literature. I was always studying things like the Mediterranean diet. It became a hobby. When I went to USC, I continued to read books that none of my friends had ever heard of like Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival and Food & Freedom.
After school, I had a full-fledged career in medical devices focusing on cancer. I read loads of articles in regards to treatment and disease. I loved it. That became part of my foundation, too.
SBS: How did you transition into your own wellness company?
KV: About four years ago a friend of mine pointed out how I was always helping our friends, how I understood blood sugar and inflammation...and she was right! My brain just catalogues science, and like a proof in geometry, I like to figure out what someone’s ailment is.
So, I decided to go to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Six months later I was seeing clients on weekends, while also maintaining my career for three years.
Last September, I was finally at a place where my passion and hobby took over. I was seeing celebrities, getting a client ready for X-Men and being called away from the hospitals I was working at to meet someone on set. I had to get the guts to jump off the curb of not having corporate perks, but it was my chance to make a name for myself and truly help people.
SBS: What is unique about your approach?
KV: I get it. I’ve been that girl crying with all my clothes on the floor. I tried everything in high school, and sometimes I’d freak out, landing on the idea ‘I need to do a juice cleanse!’
But once I went back to the biology and the understanding of hormones, enzymes, food allergies, antibodies and the like, I learned: I don’t need to be drastic. I need to help my body find balance. There’s so much amazing research coming out in terms of functional medicine.
So now, I want to help everyone understand that. I have so many people come to me and say, ‘I’m doing The Whole30, and it’s not working’ or something of that sort. But I ask, instead: Are you turning off your hunger hormones? Are you eating mixed macro meals? Are you trying to eat a Kind bar and go for eight hours? That won’t work.
SBS: It seems ‘hunger hormones’ are really crucial in your mind! What is essential to understand about them?
KV: There are hormones that make us hungry, related to digestion that can make us more or less hungry. So taking each one and looking at it is helpful. For instance, when you eat a whole bunch of food and your stomach physically stretches it turns off ghrelin. It’s a cue: You’re full. Stop eating.
So, whenever I work with clients, if I see them grabbing a green juice and not adding flax seeds to their smoothie, you aren’t physically making your stomach full. I will help make recommendations to turn off that hunger switch. If you don’t cue that hunger hormone, you won’t feel full.
Then, you have to understand what increases hunger. When you have something high in carbs or sugar it will break down into blood sugar. Then insulin picks it up and puts it into cells. That lasts in your body for six to eight hours. If you start your day with a green smoothie but it is actually high in sugar and carbs, you will have a massive surge of blood sugar, and then insulin. So your blood sugar might come back down three hours later, but you will be hungry for another five hours!
If you understand them, you can play with those hunger hormones. For my clients, I’ll think, ‘Let's do something that won't spike your insulin.’ Chia seed pudding or eggs and avocado for breakfast are better than something loaded with maple syrup. Find savory choices.
SBS: In your opinion, what are the most essential overarching ideas that might help someone move toward better health?
KV: I think people need to understand balancing blood sugar, elongating the blood sugar curve, and learning to eat to satiety, especially through foods that turn off your hunger.
Also understanding moderation is so key! People come to me and want a perfect day: I want to go to yoga, see my friends, eat only these few types of things, stay under this calorie count...yikes! That becomes aiming for perfection, and you have to understand it won’t be perfect. Learning to flow with the little imperfections is a big part of it, and the less attached you’ll become to eating those things you don’t want to.
SBS: What are your thoughts about gluten-free options and diets?
KL: There are so many medical reports that link gluten to medical issues, so in that way, it’s important to understand gluten-free eating.
But, some of the products on the market (when we aren’t dealing with an intolerance or disease) are just as bad. A gluten free rice cracker sometimes has more sugar and more preservatives than a regular cracker. I’d much rather have someone control their blood sugar with food than worry about gluten when a disease isn’t present. There, are some great companies like Mary’s Gone Crackers that are very healthy, but they’re rare.
In my practice, I see a lot of people who have high glucose sugar or maybe inflammation. The precursor to disease is hormone resistance and metabolic syndrome and that really stems from processed foods. In that way, my biggest frustration is health foods that still include sugar. I get that people are craving it as it offers a massive dopamine release that’s stronger than cocaine. But, it’s really the problem, and it’s hurting everyone.
SBS: What are your tips regarding skincare?
KV: If I’m working with someone who has acne or breakouts, the two things I cut out are sugar and soy. Soy elevates estrogen and causes a hormone imbalance, while sugar can disrupt the delicate balance in the gut.
Then, typically I like to use natural products for skincare. If you grow up on Neutrogena or, as you get older, people are talking about using peptides and active ingredients, it will take a transition period. So, if you need to, try to switch things out in places where it changes less for you. For example, I won’t take away your foundation, but what if we use African Botanics soap or a coconut oil-based lotion. It may not be perfect, but we’re making strides to be cleaner and more natural.
Or, for deodorant, pull out the aluminum! It takes a bit for your body to adjust, but that’s essential. I love EO (lavender spray), Honest spray deodorant and Dr. Hauschka rose deodorant. I rotate; also knowing I might have to shower a bit more.
SBS: What are a few things people can do to start their New Year off right?
KV: Whether a meditation or movement app, reading books online or taking a trip to a library, look to expand you horizons in the wellness world. When I look back on the year, the most important thing I did for me was taking time to do something different. I went to New Zealand and Australia, clocking 18,000 steps a day.
I think as exciting as it is to get things to help you workout, I think it even more helpful to plan vacations, get together with friends and create healthy dates. Yes, you want to have tapas and wines, but the more you can do things together, like workout days or taking walks and building community, the better off you will be.
Take that time away for yourself. I think we grind really hard, especially in NYC and LA, but seeing your friends and having real conversations is even more important then. Connect with people you love. That’s the most important thing you can do in this day and age of political turmoil and conflict. It really is about loving other people and connecting with them and yourself.
SBS: How does working out fit into your perspective?
KV: I think fitness is all about consistency. If you’re slamming your body against the ground with a 100-pound barbell, you might not be able to do that for 30 years. We’re living longer, and we want to be functional.
It really is a delicate balance. We become obsessive. I’ve had clients who had chronic fatigue, and I had to tell them: You can’t do yoga and Barry’s Bootcamp in one day! Let’s calm it down. Let’s play or hike or take a yoga class with awesome music. If you take SoulCycle and feel like you can conquer the world after, that’s great, but don’t break yourself. So many times, people are literally going to these crazy extremes. I don’t change their food. I know it’s stress, so I focus on calming their nervous system.
SBS: And how do you go about doing that?
KV: I say: Don’t remove, replace. So if you have someone doing double workouts, I might say remove one of those workouts and exchange it for a walk. Replace it with something also good for you, but working toward our overall goal. You don’t want to overload your system. You want just enough to strengthen those muscles and get your metabolism kicking, but not so much adrenaline you can’t sleep!
Most of my clients are more uptight than I am. I’m breaking down their rules. A lot of people are dealing with orthorexia. I’m on board for balancing blood sugar and getting inflammatory things out, but I approach things as ‘easy.’ I’m not that girl prepping for six hours on a Sunday. I make a chicken and some boiled eggs, eat some that night and have leftovers. In general, I think you should be able to travel and eat clean, be home and eat clean... all of those things. Your lifestyle should be easy.
SBS: What’s one thing you wish everyone would realize about wellness and nutrition?
KV: To think you can only be one way, or you’ll never drink alcohol again, or you’re going to intermittent fast for the rest of your life... you’re not. Stop associating your diet with your religion. It will change, new research will come out and then you will have to back yourself out of the corner.
Kelly’s LA Favorites:
Healthy Restaurant: Farmshop
Splurge Meal: Bandera
Calming Activity: 45-minute massage at The Massage Place
Fun Activity: Surf and snowboard
Bars: The Soho House, Nobu and The Nice Guy
Resource: Google Scholar
Athleticwear: Alo Yoga
Zaniest Unknown Kelly Fact: “I drove a big, lifted truck for a very long time.”
Kelly’s SBS Mantra: Be You. When you’re truly yourself, the sky's the limit. When I started working in the field that was obviously ‘me,’ I was able to exude passion and bring so much more to the world. If you don’t like Barry’s Bootcamp but love dance, go to a dance class instead. If you think cooked salmon is gross, don’t eat it. I let people be themselves and amplify what they’re doing right. Then I help them balance the things they don’t love to do. When you’re yourself, you’re 10 times more successful and happier.