Her secret: Body weight exercises, smart food choices and LOTS of discipline.
Gladys Leong, 36, is a sports model competitor, personal trainer and co-owner of Hercules Fitness, a personal training studio.
She has three kids – Ian, Zac and Wyn – aged 12, seven and four. With her youthful looks and washboard abs, Gladys Leong is often mistaken for her three kids’ elder sister.
“Or an underage mum. But I take it as a compliment,” the 2016 NABBA-WFF Sports Model Pro winner quips.
NABBA-WFF, which stands for National Amateur Bodybuilders Association-World Fitness Federation, is a physique competition.
Weighing 40kg and boasting a body fat percentage of just 6 to 8 per cent whenever she preps for competitions, Gladys picked up bodybuilding after having her third child Wyn, now aged four.
The average body fat percentage for women is around 20 per cent, she shares.
“Initially, I tried bodybuilding out of curiosity, but it has since become my passion. I hope to change the mindset that bodybuilding always bulks up the body. That’s not true, as a lot depends on controlling your diet,” says the pint-sized dynamo, who stands at 1.56m.
A trim and strong physique did not come easily to Gladys, who used to struggle with weight issues in her late teens and early 20s.
Back then, her body mass index (BMI) of about 24 was within the unhealthy range. She later lost the excess kilos through exercise.
Today, Gladys, who gained about 20kg with each pregnancy, practises what she preaches when she tells other mums “no pain, no gain”. She believes the key to losing the post-baby flab is through eating right and exercise, a powerful combination that can also help tired, frazzled new mums boost their energy levels.
“Like other mums, I struggled with a flabby tummy after my three pregnancies, but I pushed myself to work out at least five times a week after birth. I would exercise for about an hour at night after the kids go to bed.
“Sure, that meant a little less sleep for me but I was determined never to go back to being overweight again. To make up for less sleep at night, I would take cat naps in the day,” she says, adding that she has more time to exercise now that her kids are older and more independent.
Doing body weight exercises
Gladys went back to her pre-pregnancy size within two months of childbirth through body weight exercises like squats, crunches and leg lifts – the latter two workouts being particularly effective in firming up loose skin and tummy flab.
She also did light weight training with a pair of 2kg dumbbells, but says other mums should first get their doctors’ approval before following suit.
Mums looking to firm up their post-pregnancy tummy, core and glutes should try planking, she suggests.
This simple and safe exercise – there are lots of videos on Youtube showing you how – can be done at home.
Start off by planking for 20 seconds, gradually increasing each session by 20 seconds every day until you break your own record, she suggests. (Psst… Here are 20 ways to do planks.)
Making smarter food choices
While Gladys is ultra disciplined about exercise, her idea of eating well is more lax.
After childbirth, she ate typical Chinese confinement dishes, but omitted anything too oily or fatty such as pork trotters.
She still dines out. The trick to maintaining weight while dining at hawker centres is to choose your food wisely, she says.
“At the food court, I’ll opt for dishes without added oil like sliced fish bee hoon soup. I don’t touch the soup to avoid taking too much sodium, which can cause water retention.
I usually only prep my own meals when a competition is coming up – that’s when I boil or steam everything without salt or condiments,” she shares.
To encourage mums to keep fit and healthy, Gladys started a Facebook group, No Flab Mommas, where like-minded Individuals can share their tips on body shaping, toning and healthy eating.
She hopes to steer mums away from the misconception that pregnancy will inevitably cause their bodies to go out of shape.
“It is still possible to look and feel good after having kids,” she says.
This article was first published in Young Parents magazine.