Jeff Halevy is an internationally famous fitness expert and the CEO and founder of theHalevy Life gym in New York City. He’s so confident in his gym that it comes with a money back guarantee.
He’s parlayed his success into a recurring role on NBC’s Today Show as their Contributing Fitness Expert. He had a recurring segment last year called “Six Months to a Six Pack” in which he took three regular people and walked them through a six-month diet and training program designed to get them in shape.
He’s even become involved with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign and helped design the most successful program in the campaign’s history with his friend, current New Jersey Senator and former Newark mayor, Cory Booker. As if he’s not busy enough, he’s also the star of his own show on India’s Z Living Network called Workout From Within with Jeff Halevy which is shown all over the world.
We talked with Halevy about his career, overcoming some serious issues as a young man, and the right mindset to have in order to reach your goals.
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SB: Tell me about your background. Were you always athletic, did you study exercise science, did you always want to go into training?
JH: If you would have met me when I was 21 years old at 260 lbs with a cocaine habit you wouldn’t have thought I would be this guy at all. I always say there aren’t any positive sides to cocaine, but what some people say is that it’s a drug that keeps you thin. But I screwed up my life and didn’t lose any weight!
I thought I was going to be a musician and I had a lot of music success. I was going to NYU and I got swept up into the city and musician lifestyle. I felt like I was living in a movie, but then I hit rock bottom. It coincided with 9/11, I went to my parents house early in the day to throw in the towel. After I did that, the events of 9/11 unfolded and it really added some gravity to my situation.
[After graduating and spending a few years making “Wall Street money” in entertainment marketing] I very intelligently leveraged that job into an $8 an-hour job as a personal trainer at Crunch Wall Street. All of my friends thought I had lost my mind. My family was actually very supportive. I told everyone that within 90 days I would leave Crunch Wall Street with 6 clients who were all on an annual coaching agreement with me who would pay me on a quarterly basis. No one believed that I would do it, but I really did that.
That set in motion a bunch of fortunate circumstances in my life. I believe that luck is opportunity meeting skill.
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SB: How did you go from someone with a few clients and a new gym to doing TV and working with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign?
JH: I started doing these local segments here in New York. Out of nowhere I got a call from someone who was with the Biggest Loser. They were looking for a replacement for Jillian Michaels. I ended up being in the final five people pitched to NBC, but I didn’t get that job. Around the same time I befriended Cory Booker and he pulled me into Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign. He was the Vice Chair of that program.
I developed a program called Our Power for the schools in Newark where Cory was the mayor. It used fitness tracking devices similar to Fitbits, although it was a few years before those became popular, that had an LED light that went from red to green when you had completed an hour of physical activity.
The amount of incremental movement that the trackers registered was so amazing we thought they were cheating. It turns out that those trackers can’t be tricked, the kids were actually moving that much! They moved 1.5 million incremental minutes in 10 weeks. That’s like three years of nonstop physical activity. That’s what got me invited to the White House.
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SB: The “Six Month to a Six-Pack” segment on the Today Show was very successful, what kind of feedback have you gotten?
JH: The biggest piece of feedback that I got from people was that people would say that they could really relate to it. People loved that, as opposed to the Biggest Loser, we stated that this would take six months, that the people doing it had to go back to their jobs and real lives during the program instead of an isolated ranch somewhere. The element of reality versus reality TV really resonated with folks. People realized that this is not an overnight result, but a real lifestyle change.
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SB: As someone who started getting in shape from the toughest of circumstances, what was the hardest thing for you to overcome at the beginning and how do you ease that burden on your clients?
JH: The hardest part was my confusion about what the right thing to do was. I got so much conflicting information. I didn’t study exercise science, I didn’t know what it took. I think that the reason that we get the clients that we do at my gym is that we get folks who are confused. The reason that people come to us is the efficiency in accessing the right instructions. That can take a long time if you are deciphering it by yourself.
It’s overload and contradiction. Human beings can take an overload of consistent information, but it’s the overload of contradicting information and sensationalized headlines that confuse people. Even my own mother will call me and ask me about some new study she saw an article about!
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SB: What’s the number one piece of advice that you give to all of your clients?
JH: Advice to clients – My main advice to clients is to take baby steps. It’s so obvious and so trite, but when you speak to anybody in the armed services they can tell you all about the need to break things down into smaller and more achievable goals. If you break it down to something that is literally as small as taking the next step. Do not succumb to the New Year’s Resolution school of thought. You are not all-of-the-sudden going to start going to the gym seven days a week and stop eating all carbs.
Start really small: commit to eating something green every day. It’s those types of changes that can have lasting effects.