Why Leighton Meester No Longer Cares About Getting Abs or Burning Fat
We first met her as mean girl Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl. Now Leighton Meester is playing for laughs—and new depths—as a different TV archetype: the single mom.
Leighton Meester might end up having cereal for dinner tonight, and that's OK with her. "It's actually pretty good," the poly-hyphenate actor, singer, songwriter, and Broadway veteran laughs. Her impressive career reinventions aren't what is keeping Leighton busier than busy-she has those under control. It was when her daughter-with actor husband Adam Brody-was born, three years ago, that the juggle got real and proper dinners became more sparse. "I feel that I am really lucky, and yet, still, I stepped into the hardest job in the world: being a mom," she says. In fact, there's a scene in Single Parents, her new ABC sitcom, about a tribe of Angelenos trying to keep it together raising first graders solo, that sums up where Leighton is with her life right now: "[My] personal time is the walk from my house to the car in the morning, where for seven or eight seconds, I can just let everything go and chew gum," she says as Angie D'Amato, a paralegal by day and a mom 24-7. (Related: Leighton Meester Is Supporting Hungry Kids Across the World for a Very Personal Reason)
Leighton's venture into comedy was a smart one (she has received glowing reviews) as well as personally fulfilling in its relatability. "Whatever I say to the writers about my own experiences can be interpreted and put into the script," she says. "One thing I have come to learn as a parent is that you have to step back and let your child struggle a little-let them fall down at the playground. It's the way they're going to learn." And if hilarity ensues, that makes for great TV-er, life.
We caught up with Leighton, 32, at her California home, where she filled us in on the low-maintenance ways she keeps a happy headspace, despite all the drama.
Keep Evolving, Always
"Last year, I took up personal training [which she commemorated on Instagram with a New Year's Day pic of her doubled over on a weight bench]. My husband also taught me how to surf, and in the last year, I got really into it. I'm also making time for soaks in the tub, even though there's often a toddler in there with me. And I'm working slowly but surely on an album of music that has some country and some rock influence-a real labor of love."
Enough with the B Word
"I just don't believe in balance. I think that's not possible if you're a working mother-and with single mothers, I can not even imagine that. I love playing Angie because we discuss how hard the struggle is to feel like you are enough. Some days my husband makes dinner, and some days I do. Other days, I'm too tired, and I eat a bowl of cereal for dinner. It's just the thing we do to make it work."
Shift Your Why In Exercise
"For the last six months, surfing has pretty much been my main form of exercise. I have found that when I don't have a physical result in mind when I'm exercising-it's not just about getting sore or getting abs or burning fat-I feel much more confident. I'm working on a skill, and that is so fulfilling to me. Plus, being in the ocean is such a spiritual experience that you forget you're getting a real workout." (Here's why one woman considers fishing a 'spiritual workout.')
Have Your Kale-and Cookie Too
"I usually eat a ratio of 60:40 or 70:30 of healthy foods versus whatever I want. If I have a really nice, fulfilling breakfast and lunch, then for dinner, all bets are off. For breakfast, I keep all the stuff for my morning smoothie in the freezer in resealable bags, so it's pretty much all measured off-a lot of kale and spinach and collard greens. I might blend it with spirulina and chlorella powder and a bunch of flaxseeds and chia seeds and mangoes and bananas. At work, I have salads with chicken or turkey or fish prepared by a personal chef, and then for dinner I'll maybe eat tacos or whatever I crave-and fudge mint cookies. I love them so much that we always joke, Have you had your cookie today? Like it's my vitamins."
Add Microdoses of Self-Care
"I do little touches during the day to make myself feel more centered or rejuvenated. I drink my tea in the morning, have an essential oil diffuser in my trailer, and use a foam roller to give myself a massage whenever I have a chance. I use CBD [cannabidiol] balm to try to reduce the stress and tension in my shoulders and hands. And I'll make my bath as relaxing an experience as I can with essential oils and salts, maybe do a hair mask or under-eye patches. I like to make a lot of my own products-bath salts, body scrub, lotion, cuticle oil, and the soap that I use. When you buy a natural product, you can read the ingredients-everything is natural or organic, and you can find those yourself. There are amazing products out there that can be $20 or $30, which you can make for less than a dollar." (Try making this DIY 3-ingredient rosewater.)
Get Your Happy Hits Close to Home
"My career is really up there for what makes me feel fulfilled. But I don't rely on it to be the number-one thing that gives me confidence because, especially in this particular line of work, there are so many highs and lows. You hear people giving their two cents on someone's looks or how they dress or their value of how much money they can bring to a project [which can mess with your head]. So I try not to look to my status and my career as a life goal. I gain a lot more confidence from time with my friends and family-people whom I love, who love me, and whom I've built relationships with-and that goes for people at work as well. Truly, those things are what make me the happiest, and I think that if I'm doing well on that side of things, then I'm doing well."