Interview with Gergo Jonas
© Jane Harvey-Berrick, December 2018
Gergo is a new name to the romance cover world, very new. I met him on a long-awaited holiday to Japan in 2017, somewhere I’d wanted to go since I was a child. Life got in the way and I never made it, but two years ago, I decided to do it. Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t fit enough to do a backpacker’s holiday, so I was travelling with my girlfriend, Libby.
There was a small, international group of 12, led by American Alan Clayton Williams who lived in the south of Japan, along with a woman from Poland, one from Ireland, four Germans, four Brits and one Hungarian, Gergo.
I thought that he was a good-looking guy, but the more I thought about him, his shaved and lean, austere appearance, the more I thought that he’d be perfect for a military romance that I was working on about a bomb disposal officer, a story close to my heart.
So I asked him.
“I write romance novels. Would you like to be on the cover of one of my romances, a military story?”
“Hmm. I have never done this. I will say yes.”
It could have sounded horribly sleazy, but we were in a group at the time and my friend could vouch for the fact that I really was a writer LOL
Six months later, I arranged the photo-shoot for Tick Tock and the sequel Bombshell in Gergo’s adopted home town of Brighton in southeast England, with his friend the photographer GG Gold.
Although Gergo had never done a romance cover shoot, he’s a fitness trainer with his own website, so he’d been photographed a lot for that – although he assured me that’s a very different experience.
Gergo is quiet and introspective, but not shy or lacking in confidence at all. He’s a very determined man who knows exactly what he wants to achieve and where his career is heading.
I was fascinated to see him with readers at a small book event in Brighton last year, British Book Bash . He was so sweet and friendly with everyone he met, bending his 6’ 1” frame in half to fit into photographs with most readers (and me).
Our interview, fittingly, takes place in the small café outside a gym, alongside his stunning girlfriend, Vivien, who is also from Hungary.
Q You told me once that you were overweight. Tell me about your journey to health and fitness.
It didn’t happen overnight. Since I was a kid, my weight was always up and down. I wasn’t at fit kid, I wasn’t active. I preferred computers and I was’t active. When I was 10, I started to shoot basketballs, and my friends played every Thursday with my father. So that’s how I started basketball, being around them. When I first started to play I was 10, and started to go to training for 2-3 years. I was on a school team at secondary school, aged 13 or 14.
I was still fat, and we were doing training once a week. I weighed the same weight as now 80kg (176 pounds) with zero muscles, but I was 5’ 5” so really overweight.
The first year of high school, they were recruiting for the basketball team and I wanted to be on it, so I started training three times a week, just doing basketball. I worked really hard that summer when everyone else went to the beach. I lost 20kg and grew 20cm and became tall, 67kg (167lb) and the same height as now, so really skinny and tall and tanned because I was always outside. The teachers thought I was a new student – they didn’t recognise me.
Every year, we had to go to the medical centre and they didn’t recognise me either – because it was such a huge difference.
Since then, I played basketball in three teams, and in an age group above my actual age, for the city and the county. Every day was basketball.
When I was 17, I had some injuries. My lower back was bad, probably too much jumping and I grew too quickly. I tore my ankles and knees – typical basketball injuries – so I had to stop. Instead, I started to lift weights.
I also began teaching 10-year-olds to play basketball, and some older kids, 14 to 16.
When I was 18 or 19 I went back to play basketball in amateur league, but the injuries came back again.
Q Were the injuries part of the motivation to move to the UK?
We were really poor, and England and America were like a dreamland and you think you’ll make a lot of money. But when you move there, you realise you have to work just as hard.
I moved to Brighton because someone I knew had already gone there. I fell in love with the city by the sea and I realised how much better it was than Hungary. I decided to stay.
I had to work as a cleaner because I didn’t speak English, and I had three jobs because the wages were low. I learned English self-taught, there was no money to study in college.
I stopped doing any exercise, so I put on weight again. I’ve always had a problem with my weight. I’m either all-out focusing on sport, or nothing. I was eating chocolate and ice creams, a very bad diet, and my weight went up to over 100kg (220lb).
I decided I needed to lose the weight. I went super hard. Eating nothing and training every day. I lost 20kg in eight weeks. I don’t suggest anyone does that! I lost 25 – 30kg after 6 months.
I hadn’t joined a gym, I was just doing a lot of running. I didn’t know much about weight training. Then I broke up with my girlfriend and I got into bad habits. I got my first tattoo. I was living a bachelor life for two years, eating and drinking too much, partying.
At 27, I decided I needed to do something with my life and figure out what I like what I was good at. So I went back to sports. Being 16 was a good experience and I wanted to find that again.
I got a job in Sports Direct (a shop that sells running shoes and training clothes), and really ejoyed it selling shoes and equipment. I started to read about what sort of training gear and shoes to wear. I learned a lot. I was there for a year and I started to train in a gym. I wanted to build muscle because I’d got really skinny again. I was reading books in English about how to gain muscle. I decided to do a course to be a Personal Trainer just so I could learn to teach myself. I still had two jobs, cleaning in the mornings. I didn’t have time to go to school, so I learned online.
I started using my knowledge to train myself. Friends and colleagues asked me how I’d changed. And I realised I was coaching my friends in my free time. My friends were getting results and I started talking to them about what to eat. I was soaking in knowledge. I decided to try and do it for a living.
Pure Gym offered me a place, and I’ve been there for three years. I started teaching body transformation, and I’ve been doing that for three years.
I started training in a more athletic way – not just about losing weight. I wanted to train athletes. I looked for a course to specialise in athletes. I got my Strength and Conditioning Certificate. Mostly, I train people for team sports like basketball, cricket, soccer – but I also get people ready for marathons or the Mud Run.
Training is everyday. I’m really active, walking or running. I do fewer sports because I don’t want to get injured. That’s why free weights are good because you can get stronger without getting injured.
You need balance, in terms of training.
Q When did you make the decision to become vegan?
Three years ago. When I was getting ready for my Personal Training exams, I read a lot about nutrition and healthy eating. The more I read, the more I realised how much healthier a plant-based diet is compared to anything else. I experimented with other diets like keto, low carb, high protein, high fat etc and decided to try vegan.
I knew dairy wasn’t good, so there was no point going vegetarian, so I switched to vegan and I started to enjoy it. I saw benefits in the gym as well becasue of the high carbs and the anti-inflammatory aspects of all the fruits and vegetables, and so I was recovering more quickly. I dropped a little weight too, because fruit and vegetables are lower in calories. So I could eat more. Good for me! I’m a big eater. You can eat a lot without gaining weight and super healthy.
It’s a theory that if you’re on a plant-based diet that you can’t build muscle, but that’s not true. In fact, it’s great for endurance sports where you need a lot of carbs which is fuel for your body. It gives balance in my physique. I eat lot, but I don’t get fat. People can’t believe how much I eat. [Yep, definitely true—two piled plates at every meal!]
If you want to have a healthy relationship your body, you need to find an eating pattern that isn’t a diet, but a lifestyle. Choose food that you like to eat, not just something you do for 6 or 8 weeks then go back to something else. That’s what I used to do, but you need to find something you can enjoy for a lifetime.
Q What are your favourite recipes?
I never cook with oil, so I grill and steam vegetables. I love those. Beans is a must if you want to get healthy and build muscle at the same time. Bean stews, I like those. I eat a lot of fruit. Also baked vegetables, and I eat a lot of raw food as well.
Q What do you eat for a treat?
Scones! Baked goods and pastries are my weakness. If you don’t see my sixpack, it’s bakery season! I love baguettes. Especially in the winter.
Q Tell me about being a model
I wouldn’t call myself a model! The first time was with you for Tick Tock. I wanted to look my best, so I was dieting for 12 weeks before. The first 10 weeks was just keeping everything clean, no bakeries! The last two weeks, I went crazy hard, not much excess fat. Not much water between skin and muscles. Normally, I drink six litres of water a day. Two days before the shoot, I reduced that to one litre, then zero, so you look really shredded. It only works if you can already see your six pack. You have to work hard and then when you’re under 10% body fat for men, 15% for women. You can do a ten-day diet.
I do a lot of photos for my website and IG, but these are fitness shoots. Usually just a friend taking pictures, but that’s just me so I do’t have to pretend to be someone else, and I’m doing what I like, lifting weights. So I’m confident about that.
Q Tell me about your photo-shoot with Franggy.
I had to be a bar owner. That was familiar, I’d been drinking for 10 years, but I don’t drink now. I haven’t drunk for five years. I don’t miss it.
Q Was it hard going vegan?
My girlfriend Vivien is a big help. I was vegan first and after a while she changed to a plant-based diet too.
Q I’ve noticed that you prefer to use the term ‘plant-based diet’ rather than ‘vegan’. Is there a difference?
People think veganism is militant, you’re labelled. People think of animal rights protests, so it has a negative connotation, but it should be the opposite. I just want to open people’s eyes to see how unhealthy a western diet is, but also how badly animals are treated, and its bad for the environment too. Which is worse? Killing animals or seeing a vegan being militant and aggressive. That’s not what I’m about.
Q When you go back to Hungary, what do they think of your lifestyle?
It’s a meat-eating country. Lots of meat and dairy, really old-school. I think it’s more open in the UK, and there’s a bigger culture around vegetarian, or plant-based diets. But back in Hungary, not so much. They think you’re crazy if you don’t eat meat. Any occasion, you’ll eat meat. Even bakeries prepare their food with eggs and milk.
But there are substitutes for everything you like. You can make plant-based food for everything. It’s what you get used to, I guess.
Q What would you say your philosophy of life is?
I think you should never stop learning. You’re never too old to start anything, whether it’s eating or training or learning mew stuff, never too late to change something in your life. Lifelong learning is what’s important. Educate yourself. Life is not just what you learn in school. Don’t just rely on the system. Help make the world a better place.
Q Describe yourself in three words.
[Gergo goes silent, so after an uncomfortable few seconds, Vivien jumps in.]
“He’s confident and sticks with his opinion when he believes in it.” She turns to him. “Even though you’re an introvert, when someone gets to know you, you’re a really nice person. You’re hard to get to know.”
Q Coffee – what does it mean to you?
I didn’t used to drink much, but I have for two years now and it’s become really popular. I started to experiment with different blends, different milk, soy, rice etc. I tried latte with different blends in different places. Now, I like to have flat white with oat milk – that’s my favourite, Colombia blend.
Q Vivien – what’s he like without coffee?
He’s moody! And it’s the same if he doesn’t get food! [smiles]
Q Tell me about your clothing company, AesthEthic Culture
This is my fitness clothing company that I’ve just started. It’s to show people how you can look good and be healthy, because it’s all vegan, ethically made and it looks good, too.
All the clothes are ethically made – the minimum impact on the environment. We use bamboo which you can grow a lot of without harming the environment. It uses less water than growing cotton. It’s lightweight, a little more expensive. The ink is water-soluble so no chemicals are used, there are no waste products. It does’t produce waste products that would otherwise go into the water. That doesn’t happen with water-soluble ink. Don’t wash it on high temperatures and the colour stays. Besides, it’s better for the environment to wash at low temperatures.
I describe it as Aesthetics with ethics – that’s where the name comes from.
Q When did you come up with the idea for the clothing company?
I was looking for vegan clothing that looked good, but I couldn’t find anything. I’d rather pay more and have fewer clothes but good quality or a nice design. So I decided to make my own.
I looked for material first and found bamboo and organic materials, and learned about printing techniques.
AesthEthic Culture has been going half a year now. Finding the right company to provide the materials and ink was important. We ship worldwide and try to stay sustainable. We only have 25 pieces per design right now, but that’s going to grow. The clothes are made in India where they grow the bamboo and cotton, and the providers work to an ethical standard for workers.
Q What has it been like being part of the Gift Box Team and travelling to Brazil?
They’ve been really kind, really taking care of us. When our flight was cancelled, they did everything. They always make sure we have everything we need, even though we have plant-based nutrition, don’t drink alcohol or speak Portuguese. But they make sure we have everything we need. They’re funny and friendly.
Q What are you expecting at the Gift Day book event?
I heard that Brazilian people like hugging, they’re very affectionate!
My first signing was in Brighton which was intense, but you said it was a small event. For me it was busy! If if this is going to be bigger, it will be fun as well.
Q What would you like to say to readers?
I hope you enjoy the stories and that I can be the character on the cover for you!
Q What’s your favourite joke?
Q Any final words?
Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t listen to negative words. Go for what you want, no matter how crazy it sounds. If you have big dreams, go for it. When you achieve your goals, go for new goals.
I came from a different country, working as a cleaner; now I’m helping other people. Anything is possible.