Many of us gain weight as we get older, and about 40% of Singaporeans are overweight or obese.

They say the world has shrunk—and Singapore, at its crossroads, has happily benefited through the years. With development, we’ve also seen better nutrition, more food choices and more comfortable lifestyles. All this means that far from shrinking, our residents are growing larger!

Obesity Rates in Singapore and Around the World

Woman measuring her height and weight to check her body mass index (BMI)

It’s a trend that is becoming too obvious around the world. Global obesity has more than doubled since 1980, and has health professionals terming it a “rising epidemic”. Last year, the World Health Organisation reported that 39% of adults were overweight, and 13% were obese. Regionally, the Americas topped the overweight list at 61.3%, followed by the Europeans at 58.6%; weighing in at 26.8% and 23% respectively for obesity. Here in Singapore, we fare a little better, though that is little consolation: 2010 numbers put 40% of the population as being overweight, of which 10% are obese.

Before we start patting ourselves on the back, we should be aware that our obesity rate is rising at about 1% per year. It’s not good news for youth, either—11% of our 18-year-olds enter adulthood already obese.

What’s the Big Deal about Being Overweight or Obese?

Young kid riding a bicycle and staying active to reduce the risks of becoming overweight or obese.

Putting on pounds is not just a matter of getting a new wardrobe with every inch gained. Every kilogram over your ideal weight really strains your body, literally from head to toe! Those painful knees and that overworked heart are crying out for a little care.

Consider how many health problems are associated with obesity: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes, certain cancers… It’s no wonder obesity is now the fifth leading risk for global deaths.

As for the young ones, that baby fat that just won’t go away could indicate an increased health risk of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. Don’t imagine that it’s early days yet—obese teens and children often experience adverse effects such as breathing difficulties, more fractures, hypertension, insulin resistance, heart complications and psychological problems.

You might already know that obesity increases the risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease and other medical conditions, But did you know that being overweight hits your wallet too? We’re not talking about having to buy new pants a size up—obese people spend 20% more on healthcare over their lifetimes.

So if you are overweight or obese, it might be time to adopt some lifestyle changes and see the improvements to your physical and mental health. Maintaining a healthy BMI for your height and weight is the best medical advice you can get for free.

Are You Overweight?

Obesity occurs when your body has accumulated excess body fat to the extent that your health is adversely affected and you become at risk of developing chronic diseases. Here are two ways to give yourself a quick check-up:

Body Mass Index (BMI)

This is the most widely-accepted method of categorising your weight, based on a formula derived from your height and weight.

Body Mass Index or BMI is calculated as:

weight (kg)

height (m) x height (m)

A BMI of 18.5 – 22.9 is considered healthy, whereas a result over 23 means your health is at risk. You are considered obese if you have a BMI of 30 and above.

Waist circumference

Monitor your waist circumference as well as your weight. Compared to BMI, waist circumference is a better measure of body fat and is often used to assess cardiovascular risk. If your waist size is above 80cm for Asian women, and 90cm for Asian men, take care! This implies abdominal obesity.

You can measure your waist circumference using a measuring tape. This is done close to the skin and ensuring that the tape is in between the lower ribs and navel. Measure during exhalation.

Related: BMI Calculator

Respect Your Body, Respect Yourself

Women with a high BMI going to the park to stay active and prevent excess weight gain.

Beyond the way you look (because everybody is unique), your goal should be to be healthy. According to the Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Board, obesity is not so much a lifestyle disease as it is a lifestyle choice. That means you can decide to live life better!

When you make that decision to live well and eat well, your health, fitness and self-esteem all get a mega boost that leaves you feeling good inside and out.

Needless to say, the best time to start with healthy habits is when you are young. You’ll be doing your future self a huge favour because it’s going to get that much harder to lose weight and change bad habits once they are part of you.

Related: Loving and Accepting Yourself

Don't Just Sit There, Do Something!

Before you jump the gun, know that it’s important to set a realistic goal. Be flexible, and adjust this along the way. You could aim to lose 0.5kg to 1kg per week.

Young woman leading an active lifestyle as advised by Health Promotion Board by doing sit-ups at the park.>

Exercise

Exercise offers substantial health benefits regardless of what shape you’re currently in! Start with small measures: Take the stairs. Take exercise breaks in between study or work hours. Make time for play. Your goal is to get regular physical activity throughout the day—that’s 60 minutes per day for teens and 150 to 250 minutes per week for adults.

When you’ve got that going, why not add an extra dose of fun and fitness with a gym class or outdoor activity? To drop more kilos (especially for those of us with a high BMI and carrying too much excess weight), gradually increase your aerobic activity and include muscle-strengthening exercises. Muscle building promotes overall body fat loss, especially keeping that dangerous fat around your organs in check.

Nutrition

Little changes count. Cut down on sugar, fat and salt; increase your fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake. Make those calories count with nutrient-rich foods. Try to eat in moderation and do not exceed the recommended calorie intake. Use My Healthy Plate as a guide, and stick to regular meal times.

Those of us who have started work may find it difficult to adhere to regular meal times because of a busier schedule. But it is important to take some time out for a quick healthy meal instead of skipping meals as we may end up feeling hungry and overeating later.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water! If you are counting calories, consuming 500kcal less than your estimated daily requirement should see you lose half a kilogram a week. How’s that for weight loss!?

Mental Stamina

Once you’ve got the mindset to succeed, nothing’s going to hold you back! Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Learn to ignore marketing tactics when you buy food. Instead, train your eyes to spot Healthier Choice Symbols for a wiser choice.

It may take a little while, but the excess weight will come off. You’ll discover more energy and think more clearly too. Uncover a confident new you!

Give yourself an incentive by joining one of our programmes. You’ll be more likely to succeed and might even surprise yourself by exceeding your expectations. Not least, it’ll be a whole lot of fun.

Lose To Win™

Lose To Win™ is a holistic weight-loss programme by HPB. It aims to help you lose weight in a healthy way—and sustain your great new shape. Offerings run the gamut from nutrition workshops, physical activity sessions, fitness assessments and motivational incentives, all to ensure you benefit holistically. You'll also enjoy being cheered on as part of a group of like-minded people with a common goal.

Other Programmes

HPB has a whole range of physical activity programmes suitable for anyone, anytime, anywhere! You’re bound to find something that fires your enthusiasm.

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

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