Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. She is equally enthusiastic about health and fitness and is always on the lookout for the latest workout trends. More of her at CherylTay.sg and on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (cheryltay11).
She has three boys to take care of, daily household chores to complete, a pet shop business to manage and clients to handle as a freelance personal trainer.
But Gladys Leong, 34, is still able to maintain her fitness regime of working out at least five times a week and, as you can see, keeps her body in shape.
No wonder she often receives disbelieving glances when she’s out with her three kids aged 10, 5 and 18 months. The 1.56m-tall Leong weighs 41kg with a body fat percentage of 8 per cent and doesn’t look her age at all.
“My advice is: no pain, no gain. If you want something bad enough, work for it and you will succeed. Becoming a mother does not mean you have to lose your physique and youth,” she said.
“You can retain them with proper diets and workouts, and look better than you were before pregnancy,” added Leong, who aims to reach out to more ladies, especially mothers, and help them keep fit.
Finding her way
She wasn’t always this slim – Leong’s weight jumped from 42kg to 58kg when she was 18, a result of binge-eating when her mother passed away from cancer.
As the only child from a single-parent family (they had previously left her abusive father) her world was crushed and she stuffed herself with food as a distraction from suicidal and depressive thoughts.
But the huge weight gain ended up sapping her confidence and when she headed to Australia for two years of studies, she remained at that size while giving herself excuses that she was busy.
Upon returning to Singapore at the age of 21, Leong started work at a commodities firm and the stressful life did nothing to help her waistline.
Her godmother sent her to a slimming centre for two months but after seeing no results, Leong finally decided to start exercising instead.
She began with 15 minutes of jogging and some sit-ups three times a week, before gradually increasing the distance. Watching what she ate also helped and she lost 8kg in a month.
Leong was sold and eventually adopted an active lifestyle of jogging, swimming and cycling. She also left the corporate life to become a swimming instructor and her weight dropped to an all-time unhealthy low of 35kg. Leong was pregnant with her first child then, and recalls having hardly any muscles and being weak most of the time.
Pregnant? No problem
For all three of her pregnancies she would ultimately put on about 20kg, but still manage to lose the excess weight each time, within one and a half months of breastfeeding and daily workouts.
“I work for more than 12 hours a day at the pet shop and I still have to clean the house and look after the kids, but I make sure I put in the time every night after I tuck them to bed, to go for a jog or do some exercises like crunches, lunges, dips and squats,” Leong shared. “I’m also careful with what I eat and make healthy choices, abstaining from junk.”
The older she got, the harder it became to lose the post-natal weight gain, so Leong had to put in more effort – but she says it’s not impossible.
Today, she has no stretch marks, loose skin or flab, and hopes to correct the mindset that pregnancy is to blame for women’s bodies going out of shape.
“A lot of my friends complain and blame pregnancy, but it all falls on yourself. You don’t give yourself excuses to indulge just because you are pregnant,” Leong explained. “Yes, I had cravings but I controlled them and I also did simple exercises with the gym ball. You should also walk around more and not keep sitting down.”
Walking the talk
In 2010, she started an online community called No Flab Mommas in a bid to “prove that mothers need not be flabby”. Its main objective is to motivate mothers and mothers-to-be to work out, and with their kids when possible – Leong already does simple exercises like sit-ups and squats with her two elder boys.
In addition, she is certified in pre- and post-natal training, and despite being introduced to the gym just last year, still signed up for NutriGirl, a local fitness model contest.
Although Leong did not place in the competition, she learned a lot about fitness and is now a freelance personal trainer at Hercules Fitness, owned by former heavyweight bodybuilding champion and powerlifter Desmond Lee.
She is also currently preparing to compete in the Women’s Physique category of the National Bodybuilding and Physique Championships in September this year.
“I used to think that skinny is good as you could fit into clothes easier, but I think I look more human now,” Leong laughed.
But, turning serious, she said: "I'm fitter than before, and I don't look as sickly or scrawny as I used to. I have more physical strength and better stamina compared to the past, and this is very important to me because I need the energy to coach my clients and look after my three kids.”
“I believe it's not so much the numbers on the scale, but about eating proper meals and working out regularly," she added. “Ultimately, I want to change the mindset that becoming a mother means becoming fat.”
“Exercise helps to maintain our youth and figure. We all have our various commitments at home or at work. It really depends on how much you want it and you have to put in the discipline and the effort,” Leong concluded.