When it comes to celebrity health and fitness, one of our fave’s has to be Steph Claire Smith. One half of Keep it Cleaner (KIC), along with her bestie co-founder Laura Henshaw, in 2021 Steph also added motherhood to her long list of accolades. 

As a co-founder of Keep it Cleaner, Steph oversees their growing health and wellness empire which includes the incredible KIC App featuring workouts, recipes, meal plans and more, in addition to a grocery range stocked nationally in supermarkets, a popular podcast and a huge Facebook community. So we chat to her about how she juggles it all!

Harvey turned 1 in May! They grow so fast. What was your favourite, and least favourite, part of being pregnant?

The female body amazes me. I loved watching my belly grow and feeling him kicking around. I was really lucky to have a magical experience with my pregnancy. My least favourite part of pregnancy would’ve been the amount of unsolicited advice that just kept coming from all angles, whether it was about pregnancy do’s and don’t or parenting post birth, I heard it all. Towards the end of my third trimester is where it hit me the hardest because it was the tail end of the experience. All I wanted was to have him in my arms and when I look back I wish that I just relaxed a little more, and blocked out the noise a little earlier, as it all started to overwhelm me and make me quite impatient! 

How did your relationship with exercise change after Harvey was born?

Moving my body has always been a huge part of who I am. I was so excited to reach that six week clearance, purely so that I could get a little bit of ‘the old me’ back. Exercising is the most powerful tool for my mental health and has always been a priority to me, but one thing I’ve learnt about myself is that Harvey is now my number one priority. My goal is to be the best mum I can possibly be, but in order to be a good mum, I need to make sure I’m feeling my best, and the most effective way to do that is by moving my body. Now that I’m back at work, I’m learning to juggle me-time and mum-time, so I can fill my cup from both directions! My relationship with exercise is still the same, but my routine has absolutely changed!

How did KIC come about to begin with and how has motherhood influenced the business now?

Laura and I first met back in 2012 when we were modelling for Melbourne Fashion Week and we formed an instant bond over our past experiences with toxic diet culture and excessive exercising. We understood how harmful it can be for young people, in particular for women, and we shared this drive to ‘do our part’ to help change this.
But we never imagined it would grow to be what KIC is today! We initially launched an e-book in 2015 with healthy and affordable recipes – that actually taste good. We then evolved to an online workout program and launched our KIC app in 2018. We now have over 700 dietitian-approved recipes, 570+ workouts and 70+ meditations, with so much more in the pipeline. 

Our vision at KIC is to support our community through all ages and stages of life, and my experience with motherhood has definitely played a big role in our product evolution. We launched KICBUMP, our pre and postnatal pilates program in May 2021, which happened to be one week after Harvey was born, the timing was crazy! Through this we saw a massive spike in conversation around pregnancy and parenthood within our community. It was important to Laura and I that we created a safe and inclusive space to celebrate this exciting stage of life, without overwhelming our core KIC community. So, naturally KICBUMP, the podcast and Facebook community was born. Motherhood is now a huge part of who I am, and I have big plans for our KICBUMP program! 

How are you managing to balance motherhood and work? Did you take much time off work?

Ahh balance…  I’m not going to lie, it has been a struggle. In the early days I took time off to enjoy my newborn bubble, but I didn’t have a traditional mat leave. The thing is, KIC was my first baby. I think when you’re a business owner, and you’re truly passionate about what you do, it’s hard to fully switch off. I started tuning in to our weekly team meetings which was really helpful as it gave me a ‘short & sweet’ update on all of the exciting things that were happening. I knew that the business was in good hands, it was more-so I could reduce my FOMO! When Harvey was nine-months-old I returned to work four days a week. We have a hybrid working model with our team but I prefer to head to the office on my work days as I can get so distracted at home knowing that Josh and Harvey are having fun without me! The juggle of work-mum-life is something I’m still working on, I’m not sure it’s ever something we ‘perfect’, it’s all about learning as you go and doing what’s best for you and your family.  I’m at a stage now though where by the end of the working week, I’m craving Harvey time, and at the start of the work week, I’m excited to head into the office! So I think I’ve got the breakdown of days right for me now anyway which certainly helps.

Community is a big part of what makes KIC so popular. Tell us more…

Honestly, we wouldn’t be where we are today without our community, they are the heart and soul of KIC. Our private Facebook group has over 46K members and it blows me away how positive and supportive everyone is. Whenever I’m feeling down, I’ll jump into our Facebook community and read the comments and instantly smile. Our members have made life-long friendships through KIC, it’s so beautiful to see!

But nothing beats connecting with our community in person. Earlier this year we had our KIC Tour in Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane where we worked out with and met over 2,000 members. It’s so special to hear how KIC has helped them build healthy relationships with food and exercise, and learn to move their bodies for the way it makes them feel. It’s the favourite part of my job! 

What’s at the top of your list when it comes to your daily wellbeing rituals?

I know I’ve had a really good morning when I’ve done two things – moved my body and spent quality time with Harvey. That’s what I need to really fill my cup. We’ve just launched KIC Minis, which are our 5-10 minute workouts. I love that if I’m running short on time I can smash out one of these and still get the endorphin hit to fuel me through my day. 

What’s your favourite KIC grocery item (mama loves the apple cider vinegar with ginger, turmeric and chilli!)?

Josh and I love pasta, honestly we eat it about three nights a week! The chickpea penne pasta is perfect for when I’m looking to increase my protein intake. I also absolutely love our WPI Vanilla protein powder, it’s so creamy in smoothies! Plus of course as a mum, the Keep It Cleaner toddler range from Coles is always in my shopping cart – Harvey’s a big fan of the vanilla wheat free oats and the pasta and pasta sauce!

What’s your favourite ‘naughty/cheat’ meal?

I don’t look at foods as ‘naughty or cheat meals’. When you restrict yourself from certain meals, or food groups, you’re building a negative relationship with food. KIC’s dietitian, Liv Morrison, has taught me how to eat intuitively, which means listening to my body and giving it what it wants, when it wants, which is something we preach and teach at KIC! Chocolate is a non-negotiable for me, it’s something I eat every night because it makes me feel good. My favourite chocolate at the moment is Cadbury Marvellous Creations! YUM.

And finally, what’s the worst piece of parenting advice you’ve ever received?

When I entered 40+ weeks with Harvey it wasn’t just one piece of advice that got to me, everyone around me thought it would be helpful to share old wives tales to bring on labour. I know they meant well, but I really struggled during this period and had to switch off from social media. I think it’s so important to give expecting mums their space in the lead up to labour. “Have you had your baby yet?” can be such a triggering question, and of course we’ll share the exciting news once they arrive, you just need to be patient. 

But since being a parent, to be honest, I would just say if you’re going to share any piece of ‘advice’ make sure it starts with something like  ‘some people do this’ or ‘this might work for you’ rather than ‘you should be doing this’ or ‘don’t do that’ or ‘I would never do that’.

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