Man having difficulty buttoning his pants after suddenly gaining weight

You look at yourself in the mirror. Your once muscle-toned body is now a dad bod. You look like an uncle. You have a healthy self-image so your uncle bod doesn’t bother you at all. But you can’t help but wonder to yourself at times, “What happened here? Why do I keep gaining weight in my stomach?”. In your more inspired moments, you might even wonder “Are there easy ways to lose weight?”

Many of us can’t quite figure out what happened – especially when we are eating the same amount as in our 20s. While we might feel a tad tempted to blame it on our slowing metabolism, the truth is that we could simply be consuming more than we can burn. The data certainly points in that direction. According to a 2010 survey , men 25-40 are eating 35% more calories than the recommended daily intake of 2,200 Kcal. Three years later, another survey found that one in every two men in their 30s in Singapore is overweight!

The first step to reversing this “sudden weight gain” is understanding the why - why we have gained weight. Learning the why gives us clues on the tweaks to our lifestyle that we might need to turn things around – to go from overweight or at-risk of being overweight to being a Hunkle that has a healthy BMI.

Reason #1: One Too Many Drinks

Alcoholic drinks pack plenty of calories which could lead to weight gain

Today, Happy Hour is part of some work cultures. After a few months at the job, we may start to attend Happy Hour. Most of us don’t realise how many calories alcoholic drinks pack. One gram of alcohol provides 7 calories, just a teeny bit less than fat. 1 can of beer is 158 kcal. A half glass filled with wine is around 140 kcal.

Given the recommended daily calories intake for men is 2,200 kcals, just two cans or two glasses of wine on top of our 3 square meals could easily cause us to exceed our limit by 10%. If we are also snacking as we drink at the bar, our once flat abs can quickly become an apple belly with abdominal fat disguised as adorable love handles.

Hunkle Secret #1: Have Strategies for Handling Happy Hour

Hunkles know a man needs a plan, especially when it comes to Happy Hour. Here are some strategies you can use the next time Happy Hour comes around:

  • Cut back on the number of times you go for Happy Hour
  • Nurse the drink in your hand for as long as possible
  • Order your drink with extra water and ice
  • Wear a pair of tighter pants on these nights
  • Not finishing your drink

There are also other small steps you can take to burn more cals or consume less cals, they include:

  • Do more exercises (e.g. start skipping twice a week for 10 minutes)
  • Walk more briskly to and from lunch every day
  • Eat more healthily the next day
  • Give up sugary beverages completely for that week

Try them out. Use the ones that best work for you. Some of us find it criminal to leave our drinks unfinished. If that’s you, we totally “get you”. Asking for more ice and water when you order instead. Or work out an extra couple of hours during the week.

Reason #2: Home Sweet Home

Nest at home while doing light exercises together

Some of us newly-weds love to nest. We look forward to coming back from work, plopping ourselves on the sofa with the wife, eating dinner in front of the TV and then rolling into bed. We want to enjoy the new home which we may have spent a ton of time and effort renovating into our dream home.

This seemingly harmless behaviour could be the reason why we gain weight. While we might be eating the same amount, we are not as active as we used to be. When our jobs are also sedentary, we burn little. Over time, the calories we have not burned by the time we drift off to bed gleefully gather as fat around our bellies.

Hunkle Secret #2: Form a Dynamic Duo

Even though both you and your wife are nesting, your wife may not be overweight. In the 2013 Survey mentioned above, 26.9% of females aged 30-39 were overweight compared to the 47.7% of men. If women are able to manage their weight better, to increase your chances of staying at a healthy weight: join forces with your wife.

Start small. One weekday night, go for a nice stroll together after dinner. Do this until it becomes a routine then get a bit more aggressive by signing up for one of the free workouts HPB offers together. And when National Steps Challenge comes around, sign up.

If either or both of you find TV dinners something you cherish, try starting a routine of taking morning walks together before heading off for work. Once you’re ready to pick up the pace and get your heart skipping to a greater level of health, join Sunrise in the City. This programme by HPB offers over 60 types of workouts from HIIT to Body Combat and Jumping Fitness over 30 locations.

The best part for Hunkles on a tight budget? They’re 100% free. Get your free cardio, strength and resistance training weekly. Most are conducted commercial gyms near workplaces. For couples who prefer to snuggle in bed in the morning, you’ll be happy to hear these free workouts are also available at lunch!

On TV dinner nights, do some light exercises while watching TV together. All these little efforts add up to the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week.

The key is to do something with your spouse that’s active and also releases those warm and fuzzy hormones nesting produces.

Reason #3: Daddy’s Little Girl (or Boy)

A baby may be one of the reasons we have more abdominal fat than before

Babies! When they are in the making and after they have arrived, it’s a whirlwind of lifestyle changes. Exercise-filled weekends give way to catching up on lost sleep during the week. Weekday badminton or bowling is replaced with an errand schedule of picking up diapers and other necessities for the baby.

Once the baby has arrived, finding a block of hours for a game of squash, cycling or a long run is a luxury. While we might feel busy and “active” bustling around to keep our little one (and mommy) happy, these activities are at a much lower intensity. If we’re eating the same amount, we’re storing those extra calories which eventually morph into fat.

To top it off, we might not be getting enough sleep. According to a survey in 2004, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese. When we don’t get enough sleep, our hormones cause us to crave high-fat, high-carb foods.

Hunkle Secret #3: Focus on All The Small Things

Let’s face it. When you have a baby on the way or a tiny bundle at home, “somethings gotta give”. It’s common to hear mommies and daddies profess they’ve neglected their health because of the baby. Some of us, parents, are willing to sacrifice our health to take care of our little one.

Without the ability to create more time, our best option is make tiny tweaks to our lives:

  • Order siu dai and then gradually move to kosong for freshly brewed drinks
  • Reduce sugary drinks then gradually ditch them from your diet altogether
  • Remove the chicken skin & any visible fat before you tuck in
  • Choose wholegrain rice so you’ll feel fuller after every meal and reduce snacking
  • Leave the gravy behind when eating mee siam
  • Ask for more vegetables when you order wanton mee
  • Have fruits instead when you feel like something sweet
  • Ask for less gravy more often until it’s your new normal
  • Walk briskly everywhere we go
  • Get creative! Sit your little one on your shoulders while you do squats

The trick here is to identify a list of things we can work into our natural daily routine tasks. If we can also find time to schedule in a badminton game, a run or a workout at the gym, it’s a bonus. Your baby and belly will both benefit from your efforts.

Reason #4: You’re Stressed

Stress eating may also be why we’ve gained so much weight

Single or married, parent or not, we could still have a weighty problem on our hands if we’re stress eating into our 30s. All of us, at one time or another, are going to be stretched – by our jobs, our girlfriends, our parents, etc. As the saying goes: We are either going into a storm, coming out of one or in the middle of one. Stress is part and parcel of life.

When we stress eat, it’s usually comfort food we crave and consume. These nerve-calming foods tend to be high in fat or sugar. A bag of chips, fried chicken, a bar of chocolate – everyone has their own favourite go-to food.

When we are not managing our stress well, we may also stop exercising. That’s the double whammy – eating high-fat, high-sugar foods and not burning them off quick enough. Sooner, rather than later, our pants tighten, our belts loosen and we’ve upsized our wardrobe.

Hunkle Secret #4: Stock Up Stress Busters

To get into Hunkle shape when we’re stress eating is going to be near impossible. If we really want to stop our bellies from broadening and being at risk of the nasties like heart attack and stroke, we have to be hunker down and tackle how we manage stress head on.

What we can do right way is pick up more ways to relief stress or healthier coping strategies like:

  • Taking a cat nap to reset our minds
  • Stretching to relieve tension on our bodies
  • Going for a walk in nature
  • Calming ourselves with music
  • Going for a massage
  • Breathing meditatively

To relieve stress and also burn calories to lose the weight we have gained, we have to ramp up the intensity of our activities. HPB offers 4 free activities which you can participate:

  • i-Run and Downtown Run – Weekly runs led by professional trainers and pacers
  • Kaki Sports – Team sports like football and Ultimate frisbee led by coaches
  • Quick HIITT – High-intensity training at 23 locations in Singapore
  • Gladiator Training – Circuit training which will transform you into a gladiator

In many cases, stress eating worsens our stress. Sugary foods immediately make us feel comfortable but causes us to go into a sugar-low which makes it even harder for us to complete the task that we are stressing ourselves about. Hunkles are aware of this and adopt healthier stress management strategies. Hooya!

Reason #5: You’re Starved (for Time)

As we get older, we feel more time-starved

Even without a baby on our hands, we could be starved for time. As we get older, we have more responsibilities and find it harder to leave room in our tightly packed schedule for workouts.

An urgent or particularly difficult project crops up, we say “yes” to a challenging deadline for a promotion or we take on a seemingly impossible project that fuels our curiosity and passion. All of these, on top of our added responsibilities, may be reasons we find ourselves no longer exercising.

Most of the time, it happens gradually. We reduce our routine from three times to twice a week. Then to once a week. Eventually, we stop. And when we do have time, we find it hard to wind ourselves back up again. Like a crank toy that hasn’t been played with for a while, our stiffer joints start to squeak and that makes it even harder for us to convince ourselves to workout.

Hunkle Secret #5: Get Sneaky

Hunkles first accept that life gets in the way of long runs, bicycle rides and workout sessions. Instead of whining, being frustrated or giving up on exercising altogether, hunkles get sneaky.

They look for opportunities to sneak in physical activity when they are sedentary by doing small spurts of activity like:

  • Inclined desk push-ups
  • Squats at their cubicle
  • Brisk walks to the pantry
  • Seated crunches and push-ups
  • Twists and shoulder shrugs while seated

These simple stretches and breaks can be done in the office and also at home. They also make us feel energised and refreshed, giving us that much needed boost to tackle our challenges. Hunkles hustle for their health the same way they would hustle for their goals.

These are the 5 reasons we may have gone from Hunks in our 20s to Uncles in our 30s. To get back into shape, we have to burn more than we consume. Choose the ideas and strategies that best work for you. From one uncle to another, remember: When there’s an Uncle with a will, there is a Hunkle with a way.

Health Promotion Board offers a variety of free workouts to help keep you and your bros in shape. Join Kaki Sports together for a game of Floorball, Ultimate Frisbee, and many more. For more practical tips on how to go from uncle to hunkle, check out the Go Hunkle page!

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.