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Leoniel DG is no body builder, fitness coach, or personal trainer; he is a French pastry chef. And if you don’t see why that matters, you’ve certainly missed more than you think.
Underneath that chef hat and apron, it’s very unlikely people will associate this 5″7′ tall chef with toughness as the profession itself requires delicacy and craftsmanship. Before he became a pastry chef, Leoniel has worked for two major airlines for nearly 10 years. At that time, Leoniel was living a very unhealthy lifestyle—not eating proper meals and not getting enough sleep.
“Sometimes we wake up as early as 1am or 2am to catch a 4am flight. I was in Singapore, staying with my housemate. It’s not the same as staying with your parents, parents always ensure that there’s always food at home. When you’re staying by yourself, you don’t really feel like going out to buy dinner, you know you only have a few hours to sleep and you need to wake up at 1, so you just open the fridge and eat whatever you can find, like chocolate, snacks, and drinks.”
“When you arrive at your flight, you can’t eat straight away because there are so many preparations to do. You need to serve the passengers first, after you finish serving, by the time you eat, it will already be 7 or 8 hours away from dinner time,” he explained.
Behind that bright smile, perfectly ironed uniform and spiky hairstyle, it may seem glamorous to be on a plane travelling around the world. As Leoniel was reaching his thirties, he began to be conscious about his health.
In 2012, Leoniel made a decision to hand in his letter of resignation to put an end to the jet-set lifestyle. That led him to embark on his fitness journey and recently he emerged as one of the finalists for R U Tough Enough?.
Speaking of what sparked the idea to participate in R U Tough Enough?, Leoniel began by citing his interest on physical challenges such as rock climbing. “I always like these kind of challenges, I started rock climbing at a very young age. One night, I was checking my emails, Facebook, I saw their ads, I was like, what’s this about? This sounds quite fun, and you don’t have to pay money to participate!” Leoniel said cheekily.
Sitting in front of me, the former flight attendant looked good underneath that grey Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt; however he shared that before he started weight lifting, he was only 52kg—which was considered as underweight considering that he is 175cm in height. “Wind blow can fly already,” as he jokingly said.
Leoniel focuses more on weight lifting. “Cardio is good, I don’t really focus on cardio, for myself I want to bulk up, so I do a lot of weight lifting, as I’m more towards the slim side,” described Leoniel who mentioned his goal to gain weight and bulk up. “But I still go for a run. Once every 2 to 3 months, I will go for a marathon, 7km, 14km.”
In terms of workout sessions, Leoniel mentioned that he normally divides his workout sessions into three parts—upper body, core, and legs. “If I want to do legs, I will dedicate one day only on legs, leg exercises comprises of squats, barbell squats, dumbbell squats, lunges, and these are very tiring.” Nonetheless, Leoniel manages to do these workouts for 1 to 1 and a half hours to solely focus on his leg muscles.
If you’re born naturally thin and want to beef up, Leoniel shared some tips and what you should avoid. “Eat more, break meals into smaller portion, for people who’re not wise in eating, they will eat all carbs, you will bulk up in a different way or your tummy will grow bigger. You have to eat more protein, chicken, beef, but take the lean parts and not the fatty parts. Eat a lot of vegetables, and you do need to take carbs but only in the morning and afternoon. After you finish working out in the gym, you need to eat or else your blood pressure will go low because you’ve used up a lot of energy.”
Other than building up his body, Leoniel also shared that he used to smoke when he was flying. If you’re trying to quit cigarettes, perhaps Leoniel’s story could help you out. “In the airlines, a lot of people smoke, and then you get so used to it, find your own gang and kakis to smoke. I don’t hang around them anymore, I don’t socialise much anymore, so the urge and the necessity to smoke becomes less, and it’s easier to quit. Good attitudes goes a long way, so I really choose my friends carefully.”
Gaining weight needs a lot of effort as well, for someone who was born skinny like Leoniel, asked for his thoughts on bulking up and healthy eating, he remarked, “You have to be very dedicated, you must have this kind of passion in your body. You really need to eat well, take healthy suppers, dairy products like eggs, milk, cheese; and fat, which is essential for body building, like olive oil, flaxseed oil. No palm oil, which is a heart-attack-food.”
You’d think losing weight is a big struggle, but gaining weight to look good and lean isn’t easy either. But other than issues of being overweight or underweight, more importantly, he is now living a much healthier lifestyle that is fueled with positivity.
Catch Leoniel in action July 22 on KIX HD’s R U Tough Enough?, Wednesday 9pm on Astro Channel 729.