TOPLESS SCENE? NEED TO BE RED CARPET READY? KELLY LEVEQUE IS HOLLYWOOD’S DIET DARLING

KELLY LEVEQUE: CELEB FOOD WHISPERER

When you hear Kelly talk about nutrition you can’t help but start to think about food in an entirely different way. Her “side hustle” business Be Well by Kelly blew up in three short years and now she’s one of the most beloved wellness coaches in the game. A best-selling author, on Jessica Alba’s speed dial, and a self-proclaimed science nerd - at the end of the day she is fueled by the opportunity to see legitimate change in her clients' overall health. Expecting her first child, Kelly is busier than ever but found time to meet up with me at a Brentwood cafe recently. Brb, gonna go order the healthy tequila without conjuguers she told me about. Enjoy!

 Instagram @bewellbykelly

Instagram @bewellbykelly

Catt:
Kelly. So happy to speak with you! I think it's always fascinating to learn  how people grow their relationship with food and health. Sometimes that can be formed when you're young- your association with food. 

Kelly:
I was raised in Orange County, I'm the oldest of three girls. My mom definitely put dinner on the table every evening. It was kind of a chicken-rice-broccoli situation most often, but my mom was not generally healthy. She never had to worry about it, being genetically thin, she started every single day with a red can of Coke. Maybe would eat, maybe wouldn't. Have Lay's potato chips, chicken alfredo, bacon, cheeseburgers, but she never over-ate.  Health wasn’t the seen the same way that it is today at all and obviously the information wasn't out there. What she learned from her mom was just to put a homemade dinner on the table so what happened outside of that was just kind of a free-for-all.

My dad's side of the family is a little bit bigger. They didn't have those genetics. My dad's sisters were all a little bit overweight, and between the three girls in our family I definitely was more prone to putting on pounds. Around fifth grade or sixth grade, my face was pretty round. I was playing sports, but I never really thought it was within my control. I just thought it was the size I was.

I remember getting to high school freshman year and taking health as my science course for my elective, and I became obsessed.  I wanted to know how to be as healthy as possible. And not in a skinny way, but I definitely wanted to have a little more control because the stuff that was in our cabinets at home were those pink and white frosted animal cookies, Oreos, Triscuits, Wheat Thins, just whatever Costco had to provide. But the cool part was that my parents never controlled our food which I see a lot now, which is a little bit unfortunate, where parents are trying to put their kids on diets and then there's a lot of secret eating. I was not secretly eating, I was like, "Hey, let's watch TGIF and I'm gonna eat this whole bag of Wheat Thins." I think seeing my mom drink a red can of Coke and then learning there were 16 tablespoons of sugar in that just kind of lit a fire inside of me.

C:
Wow. And did you change your habits once you found out this information? Was it hard to live in your house in high school? Did you have different requests than everybody else?

K:
What ended up happening was the only information you could really get about science and nutrition was in diet books back in the '90s, so I would have my mom take me to Barnes & Noble. I remember buying Mediterranean diet and Atkins diet books. My mom was like, "I don't think you really should be reading these. I think you're fine. You're beautiful. Everyone always grows out before they grow up," which was something she told me at such a young age. I was like, "I'm just getting rounder!"

C:
I remember Atkins in the '90s and South Beach Diet. All those fad diets hit and everybody was so obsessed at the time, but there were just a few.

K:
Yeah, there were just a few, and so whenever a diet book would come out, I'd read it, but I could never execute longer than four or five days because, if you think about it, I'm in constant contact with this food that I grew up with that releases so much dopamine and is very highly addictive. There was sugar everywhere in my house and starchy, fatty, highly palatable carbohydrates everywhere. My parents weren't doing it to make us unhealthy, they weren't doing it to make me feel like a drug addict. They had a very relaxed relationship with it, and I think I created my own issues with it, because the more I learned about what was really in this food and didn't have the tools or understanding on a biological level on how to turn off my hunger hormones and calm my body and really feel good, I was just really trying to deprive myself of the foods that were in our house. So it never lasted long, it'd be like four or five days of trying to be on Atkins or South Beach, and sort of learning the information but never being able to execute it.

C:
And sustain it.

K:
Not at all, yeah!  And then going to college was super easy, because then I could pick a salad with protein. I could pick what I wanted from the grocery store. I remember that being really exciting. Because you have food memories, too. I remember my mom would fry her own taco shells growing up as a kid, and those are so grindy and good, but when they're happening two nights a week, there's no consistency around healthy eating, and it's really hard to say no to something that you grow up loving.

C:
Yeah, and you form those bonds, those ties. Like you said, the food memories. That's crazy.  So when you got into college ... It's funny because most of us were putting on the Freshman 15 and going nuts. You were doing the opposite. You were learning how to grow that body love for the first time and learning how to feed and nourish yourself in a really positive way, which is awesome.

K:
Yeah.

 Instagram @bewellbykelly

Instagram @bewellbykelly

 Instagram @bewellbykelly

Instagram @bewellbykelly

C:
You were in the medical field first, and then nutrition came out of that. How did that come to be?

K:
I wasn't really thinking about nutrition as a career. It was a hobby, I loved it. I wanted to read about it, I wanted to take classes on it. But my dad was a Business Finance major out of USC, and being the oldest of three girls, and going to USC in the business school, I was a Business Finance major. I remember calling him my senior year in tears saying, "I should've been pre-med. I should've been a registered dietitian. I should've taken kinesiology. I should be a physical therapist. I don't know what I was thinking!" But really, let's be honest, I was so excited to go to SC. I wanted to go to the football games, I wanted to join a sorority. I had my first serious boyfriend, met a bunch of friends, I was living the regular college life, and then rubber hits the road the end of junior year, and I thought, "Wait, what am I gonna be when I grow up?"  So I actually ended up taking a couple extra classes senior year to get a concentration in Nature of Human Health and Disease. So I paired a Business Finance degree with Nature of Human Health and Disease, and I had an eight-year career in cancer and genetics before I started Be Well By Kelly.

C:
When you started your own business what was the end goal? Did you at that time think books and podcasts and branding and Jessica Alba, or what was it then?

K:
No, that's hysterical, no. At that point, my husband was a big corporate attorney. We were talking about moving to Orange County and starting a family. I wanted to be passionate about a career. I wanted to help people, I was not thinking of Hollywood, I was not thinking podcasts. I just loved it and wanted to share and it was bubbling out from inside of me because that was all I was reading on my own time. It's funny, because you'll see I have girlfriends who are interior designers but they could easily be stylists, or they love rom-com movies and could write one, you know some people have these hidden talents, and that was sort of something I read about and loved and it was my hobby.  Because I had had such a serious corporate career for so long I didn't really know how to half-ass it. I took it very seriously, because when you start any kind of career like a side hustle, your friends probably look at it like, "Oh, Kelly has a new hobby. Isn't that cute?"

C:
"A website!  BeWellByKelly.com."

K:
"Oh, a website. She's sharing recipes. Is she becoming a chef?"  I just wanted to take it seriously so I would be taken seriously.

C:
I know your overall philosophy is about getting rid of the food drama and clean eating and real ingredients -  but for a business what was the core part of that going to be?

K:
The whole goal was to build a nutrition practice where I'd see clients one-on-one, and I side-hustled that business from September of 2012 to September of 2015.  It was a three-year side hustle where I was taking it as seriously as my full-time job.  It was really scary for me to think, "Oh, I'm just gonna jump into the side hustle, entrepreneurial life," without having the funding to afford it.

C:
Why?

K:
When people take it seriously and you look at all these influencers or bloggers or experts, they have professional imagery, they have a professional website, they have content that's coming weekly or biweekly.  Having friends in the industry, I got a schedule of how often I should be posting, and if I'm posting that often then I should take serious pictures, and it should be something that's interesting to grow an audience.  I thought it would maybe be a year of a side hustle, and it turned into three, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

C:
So you only left your other job three years ago? Is that what you're saying? 2015?

K:
Yeah September 15th will be three years.

C:
That is crazy.  To see your reach, how quickly you have grown ... I know, you're like deep breathing. I wish they could see you right now, because she's like deep breathing! She's like, "And I'm growing a child in my body, a life!"  But what do you consider to be instrumental or the key ingredient that has allowed you to catapult to a household name in the nutrition world?

 Instagram @bewellbykelly

Instagram @bewellbykelly

K:
Well, I saw something in the industry that I thought was constantly being done incorrectly, which was smoothies.  Juicing was obviously a really big fad, and people moved into smoothies, and I was seeing that no one understood the biology of it, the nutritional science of it, there was so much fructose that they were ingesting at every meal and your liver can only metabolize 9 to 12 grams of fructose before it creates fat cells, called lipolysis. So for me, it was this big glaring thing where I realized no one knows how to make a meal replacement smoothie! The girls think if there's protein powder and fat in it, it's for the guys at the gym, and the guys think if it has leafy greens in it and lemon, it's for the girls.  I just wanted to give everyone a really easy tool to make a meal replacement smoothie. I'm not the best chef in the world. I cook very clean but very plain, but having that smoothie formula really gave me a lot of traction.

C:
Yeah it really resonated with people.

K:
I saw a hole in the marketplace, and it still is something that I see today.  I have a relationship with the Montage now, and they serve up my smoothies. I'm in talks with Earthbar. I was in talks with Nekter to do a nationwide launch of the Fab Four Smoothie. It's sort of in purgatory right now. These things come and go, and I have to stick to my standards.  It's an interesting thing when you start talking to brands, because they're like, "Well, can't you just use our protein powder?" We had all but signed on the dotted line and I was making sure that the smoothies would work with all of their ingredients. Their protein powder has 10 grams of coconut sugar in it, and I'm like, "This defeats the whole purpose," and it's off!  So it's big deals and cool things, but even of the best smoothie places in LA I maybe can find one smoothie that has what I would consider low fructose levels and the right ratios of protein, fat, and fiber.

C:
Where? Tell us!

K:
I think Beaming's “Lisa’s Lean + Green” is good. They use avocado and a pea protein. It has sort of a cinnamon flavor, some greens and a homemade almond milk. But the majority are like two dates, two bananas, agave, coconut water, and that, to me, is just a lot of work on your liver, and it's gonna make you way more hungry the rest of the day. Cravings are up.

C:
Wow. So between your books and sharing your knowledge now and working with your one-on-one clients, what is the most fulfilling part of what you've accomplished so far? Because you're obviously changing lives, how does that feel? I mean, that must be really rewarding to know that your life's work thus far is really making a difference.

K:
I'm not gonna lie, I totally get off on client results. It's really important to me, and being a numbers person, if you were to ask me to write these questions out for you it's sort of laughable to me, but it's just that I am a science and math person. I like results, I like to see measurements. I like to hear that people have less cravings, are less emotional around food, and we're doing it in a scientific way. We're shutting down hunger hormones, we're making them feel full and satisfied so they turn around at 2:00 and they're going, "Oh, shoot, I should have some lunch," instead of being the person asking their co-workers to order Postmates at 10:30 AM.  Because then you're really just being controlled by the food and not instead looking at food as a way to fuel you through your day.

C:
Food is thy medicine, right?

K:
Yeah, absolutely.  I mean, it's everything.

C:
And I'm sure you know a wealth about disease prevention, too.  Have you gotten your mom or your dad to change their habits yet?

K:
Yeah. Believe it or not, my parents start their day with a Fab Four Smoothie!

C:
Awesome!

K:
Yeah and we're off the red Coke, which is a huge deal for my mom, because that was maybe 15 years of my life.  It was a huge change for her. And, I think now with the books, just getting those DMs or people emailing in to hello@bewellbykelly.com saying, "I read your book, and it's the first thing that's resonated with me," or, "I had PCOS, and I got pregnant," or just all the benefits that come from an anti-inflammatory diet that balances blood sugar.

C:
These last three years have really taken off. You're working with A-list celebrities -  Jessica Alba and Jennifer Garner and Molly Sims - and the list goes on. Is it interesting for you as business to know as soon as you align with people like that that there's such an appetite for people to care about what you’re doing?  

K:
Yeah, I would say that I feel really blessed.  I'm sure there are phenomenal nutritionists, health coaches, registered dietitians, and doctors all over the United States, and there are just specific cities where people come in contact with these type of clients.  I'm humbled that they trust me with their health, and it's not over my head that that's a really important relationship for my growth, but like every other client, I need to continue to earn it, and I continue to support them and be there for them.  I think the scariest thing is when you have something and you think, "What if this ever goes away?" and you just have to be okay with that because those are the seasons of life. Luckily my girls are very supportive of me, which is awesome, and I'm always really supportive of them, but things change. We know nutrition science changes, and I just try to change with it instead of saying, "This is my flag. I'm sticking it in the ground!" I want to be the first person to be a consultant for them and I think that is the trust that they need, because in their life, they need to be looking their best on the red carpet, and they constantly have people in their face with cameras and a couple bad pictures can make you feel horrible.

C:
And suddenly you're pregnant!

K:
Yeah, everyone's pregnant! Even in the beginning I told some people early because I was thinking, "Do they think their nutritionist is putting on weight?"

C:
Oh my gosh. Is there any one through line with celebrity women, as far as a need they have or a dietary something that they do as opposed to the average person because they're photographed all the time?

K:
I think they're always looking for tools from me. For some, that might be the Fab Four Smoothie, and it might be just a staple every single day. When Jennifer Garner getting ready for the Peppermint movie that's coming out, that was something that was really serious for her. She got up, she worked out with Body By Simone, and she would have her smoothie after. That balanced her blood sugar, fueled her muscles, and allowed for her not to eat again until lunch, which is when all this fat-burning is happening, to really shred her body down. I have other clients who don't like the smoothie, and we might take advantage of intermittent fasting. And so it's my job to get to know what your lifestyle is and what you’re willing to do.  The thing that's different with celebrities that we don't see with most people is that their job is to look a certain way. There are money and dollars and time where they're prioritizing self-care, whether it's seeing their trainer, getting a facial, getting specific food delivered to their house or making it on their own. Most of my celebrities are healthier than I am because they have to make the time to take care of themselves. You push back on yourself and you go, "Ugh, why don't I just make the time to do that?" But there's life. There's bills. There's clients. There's need. So I might be up really early and meeting a client on set, or I might be Skyping someone in New York who needs to talk at 8:00 AM New York time. Like, okay, here we go!

C:
Wow. If you go to set, what are you doing? Are you delivering a smoothie or are you like, "Don't eat craft services!"

K:
No, it's when they're in filming, and they want to meet, and they don't fit in their costume or their outfit or they need to have some body composition changes for a scene in a week or 10 days, and so we're strategizing for those topless shots or for whatever.

 Instagram @bewellbykelly

Instagram @bewellbykelly

C:
That's crazy!

K:
Yeah because there are certain things where you really want to get shredded. It's not necessarily gonna be your lifestyle forever, but we play with minerals like sodium and eating windows and a little more of a healthy cleansing, non-starvation but healthy cleansing methods to get you to that goal for that scene.  Then you go back to living your regular life again with the hopes that the window from your "bigger range" to your “shredded, fit range” is small. I don't like it to get too big, because then we go from binging to cleansing, binging to cleansing, and they're on something or they're off something, and that's a mental hurdle, and it's never successful. It's not consistent.

C:
I feel like you're a doctor. I feel like you're just missing that M.D. from your name. I mean, it's so much science, like you said, and you are the one curating all this. It's fascinating.

K:
Well, I think because I'm so interested in all of the ways we can make something work, I'm not pigeon holing myself into a place where they think, "Oh, Kelly's the raw vegan nutritionist," or, "Kelly's the keto-paleo nutritionist." I have clients who are raw vegan, and I have clients who are paleo-keto, and I know why both of those diets might work for someone, and I'm not gonna push you to be keto and eat dairy or to eat animal protein or red meat if you're like, "Look, I feel good over here." Cool. What are you missing? How do we optimize? How do I make sure you have enough iron, or how do I make sure you have enough B12, and when are we getting you that protein so you hold onto muscle tone and you don't age? It's cool. I dig it. So obsessed.

C:
I know you do. I can see. You are the right person for the job. That's amazing. But you have celebrities who have the resources to hire someone like you, who can literally hour by hour figure out what is their perfect customization for their desired needs, and then you have real people, real America with no extra income to spend on something like this. So for people who can't hire a chef or can't meet with you one-on-one, what are a couple tips that you could share with them? Little things that might change their lives every day? I know sugar is the devil but beyond that.

K:
I'm more about adding something to your life than taking something away, because I think it's a lot easier for me to tell a client, "I want you to make a smoothie every morning for breakfast," and if that means you make it the night before and put it in a stainless steel water bottle in your fridge, great. If that means you blend it up when you get back from Pilates or yoga or spin, great. And you can drink it right away when you wake up at six in the morning, or you can drink it as late as 10 AM whenever you're feeling like that hunger is starting to hit, just have it available, and that's all we're gonna do. That's really successful, as opposed to telling someone, "Hey, remember that latte that you really love? I never want you to have that again," because then it just haunts their dreams, and that takes mental energy and commitment, and it's never gonna last. So we create new habits and replace bad habits instead of trying to remove bad habits.

C:
But if I do want a latte, what one should I have?

K:
Well, I know the oat milk is really exciting for people. I'm not on board.

C:
You're not on board! Oh my God, this is our headline. Are you listening to this? She's not on board with the oat milk. News alert! Okay, tell me why. I knew it was too good to be true. It tastes too yummy! Why don't we like it?

K:
It's definitely sustainable, but, in my opinion, a potentially gluten-contaminated, pesticide-covered grain milk with very little nutrition is not a very good option when you have milks like coconut milk that offer MCT for brain health, almond milk that offer potassium for muscle health, hemp milk that offers a little bit of protein if you're plant-based.  The second ingredient in most oat milks is rapeseed oil (aka canola oil) it’s highly inflammatory and known to polymerize into a thick corrosive film when heated. NO THANKS!  That being said, I know that it froths up better because there's a higher carbohydrate content for places like Alfred or these coffee shops, so they like it better than the nut milk. It's also gonna be a little more affordable because it is more sustainable, whereas almonds take a lot of water to grow. Everyone gets really excited about almond milk, but you don't wanna create a California drought again.  So I think my favorite would be just having a little bit of coconut milk added. But that's another thing. They're trying to make these nut milks and seed milks and coconut milk last longer, so they use water and emulsifiers to make it look like a pourable milk and they can easily use less of the ingredients because these emulsifiers make it look consistent all the way through. I've had a few clients that get specific brands without emulsifiers and fillers, and they're like, "There's something wrong with it!  The almonds are separating in my coffee!" I'm like, "That means that it's probably a cleaner almond milk than what you were using before."

C:
What about regular milk?

K:
Dairy depends on the person and unfortunately, a lot of our dairy is raised industrially, and there are a lot of hormones and antibiotics in meat and milk if you're not getting it clean. What I always recommend to clients is if you like dairy, like a splash of organic cream, I would do that over milk, because you're lowering the sugar content, and you're actually gonna turn off hunger hormones.  People think, "I'll just go with nonfat milk and put it in my latte," but actually non-fat milk is higher in sugar than whole milk, because you remove the fat and replace it with more lactose, so that's more milk sugar. I would do half and half or cream. Most of the farmer's markets now have raw milk, and it's a pasteurized raw milk from California. It's just the fat, so you're not getting the allergens like whey, casein, and lactose.

C:
I think that's a good advice. Everybody has coffee. I mean, most people do, it's kind of like is Coke better than Diet Coke? Probably. Maybe milk's better than skim, I don't know.

K:
Right, exactly. Whole milk is gonna be better than skim. I think the real question is can we find something where you're not trying to choose one evil over another? And if that's iced tea because you can take it black, or maybe that's iced coffee with a splash of something. I think quantity makes a big difference. And there are some people who are like, "Don't take my cream away." And I'm like, "Cool. No problems here. We can find all these other big offenders in your life that happen more often and quantity-wise are really creating a bigger effect." 

C:
Do you drink coffee?

K:
Yeah.  It was actually really hard for me when I got pregnant, I think probably harder than sushi or dirty martinis, to be totally honest. Or rosé!  Yeah. But coffee because you can have 200 milligrams which, depending on the brand, is about a cup to a cup and a half.  New Barn almond milk doesn't use an emulsifier or a filler, it's a little bit more creamy, go for that. Macadamia nut milk is my absolute, all-time favorite and Treehouse Milk is out of Atlanta. They make theirs just with macadamia nuts and water. Because of the fat content, it's actually a great replacement for clients who like cream or half and half in their coffee.

C:
You've brought me to my next and almost final question, just how bad is alcohol for us?

K:
The cool part is is that you have a liver, right? And this is a filtration system that will take alcohol and filter it and process it, and you have aldehyde byproducts that come from this, which is free radicals, and you neutralize those with your body's endogenous antioxidants, like glutathione. So if someone is not overloading their liver with other things like sugar, specifically fructose, because fructose is 100% metabolized in the liver, you need to live your life. Are you having too much sugar? Are you having high-fructose corn syrup? Are you using agave as a sweetener? Can we switch that?  Because that's 90% fructose. We can look at the ways and when are you metabolizing things through your liver, and if you were gonna have alcohol one night, I would say, "Okay, let's pick something without sugar for sure, and let's pick something that has a lower level of conjuguers," which is a toxin. So tequila or a vodka, clear, always has less conjuguers.

There are a couple companies I love. Tequila Angelisco, it's brought in from Mexico here to Los Angeles, and then they have distributors. And then Carbonadi Vodka is actually distilled through black diamonds, and it pulls all the conjuguers, so you're not having to filter that through your liver. So there are ways that we can-

C:
What is a conjuguer?

K:
A conjuguer is a toxin byproduct in alcohol that causes the broken capillaries around people's nose and in their eyes. It increases your chance of having a hangover.  If you're gonna have more than one alcoholic beverage, I might lean more to hard alcohol than wine or something with a little bit of sugar.  There are also wine clubs that have no added fructose. A lot of wines nowadays actually add fructose to make it palatable, it’s called “mega purple”- it's basically grape juice concentrate, but the fructose of it. It's like grape juice, agave sort of syrup that they add when grapes have really high tannins and are bitter and it makes it really easy to drink. This happens in California and New Zealand, Australia. There are wine clubs, like Dry Farm Wines which sources all wines that are organic, no pesticides, made traditionally, meaning they're not adding sulfides, they're not adding fructose, they're not messing with it. They're basically doing traditional wine-making, which is a lot better for all of us.

So, yes, is alcohol aging? Yeah, because you're gonna have to give up your body's natural antioxidants that protect you from aging to neutralize it, but there are definitely ways that you're creating that same type of toxin from foods that you're eating, oils that you're ingesting, and things like that. So it depends on someone's lifestyle. I think that's probably why I still have a job is that I give people a little bit of alcohol freedom.

C:
Good to hear. I'm not gonna leave here too depressed, then.

 Instagram @bewellbykelly

Instagram @bewellbykelly

What snack do you keep in your purse?
Bulletproof Bar. [buy HERE]

Favorite healthy spot to eat in L.A.?
Erewhon. I go to the deli and I get a protein meal.

Cheat food?
Real fried chips and guac.

Pregnant craving?
Cottage cheese.

One food you'll never give up?
Pizza.

What did you have for dinner last night?
I had a steak salad and butternut squash soup.

If you could switch bodies with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Giselle.

What is success?
Success is loving what you do and making a difference.


 Instagram @bewellbykelly

Instagram @bewellbykelly

Kelly's newest book,
Body Love: Every Day
launches January 22, 2019.


In the meantime check out her popular first book,
Body Love. 


Follow Kelly on Instagram at @bewellbykelly

Catt Sadler