​5 Healthy Weight Management Strategies

Weight management is a lifestyle that incorporates the principles of healthy eating and active living. Here are simple things you can do every day that can help you achieve sustainable weight management because we don’t want to lose weight only to gain it back the next day.

1. Balance Your Food Choices

Caloric balance is the key to managing your weight. You do not have to give up your favourite foods just because they are high in calories.

The average recommended daily caloric intake is 2200 calories for males, and 1800 calories for females. These values are based on the average weight and physical activity levels of male and female Singaporeans.

For a more personalised and accurate caloric requirement, you would need to take into account your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level. Here’s a useful calorie calculator that you can use to generate your recommended caloric intake figure.

When you eat more calories than what your body uses, these extra calories will be stored as fat in your body, leading to weight gain. Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) refers to the total number of calories your body expends in 24 hours, including calories burned through physical activity and basic metabolic activities. Therefore, if you want to lose weight, the number of calories you consume should be less than your TDEE.

To balance your calorie intake, you can try one of the following:

Smaller serving sizes

Exercising portion control by reducing your food intake can help you lower your calorie intake so that you do not consume more calories than you burn. Control your food portions by using a smaller serving plate, sharing desserts and packing home leftovers if you can't finish your food.

Budget your calories

If your favourite foods are high in calories, you do not have to give them up just because you need to control weight. Furthermore, studies suggest that avoiding your favourite foods altogether makes them irresistible and may cause you to give in to food cravings, which could in turn lead to overeating.

What you can do is to include them but make sure you eat within your caloric allowance. If you choose to have a high-calorie meal, choose a lower-calorie option for your next meal so that your total calorie intake does not exceed your daily calorie allowance. For example, if you meet your friends for a buffet in the evening, try to have a lighter and healthier meal for lunch!

2. Watch What You Eat

Healthy food does wonders for the body. Be mindful of the food choices you make and select healthier options whenever you can. Here are a few simple rules to bear in mind:

Abandon the refined grains! Switch to wholegrain foods

Wholegrains could help you manage your weight as they help keep you feeling full longer. It is because wholegrain foods are higher in fibre, which provides bulk. In addition, they are generally digested at a slower rate, hence prolonging the feeling of “fullness”. You can include a wide variety of wholegrain foods (e.g. wholemeal bread, brown rice and oats) in your diet. When shopping for groceries, be sure to look out for the Higher in Wholegrain Healthier Choice Symbol.

Choose and prepare food with less fat

Cutting down on high-fat foods will reduce your daily calorie intake and prevent unnecessary weight gain. Did you know that 1g of fat contains 9 calories while the same amount of protein or carbohydrate only contains 4 calories?

When you cook:

  • Choose healthier oils which are lower in saturated fats, such as sunflower, soya bean, corn, canola and olive oil.
  • Choose fresh, lean meats/poultry over processed, fatty meats, and remove any visible fat.

When you're eating out:

  • Avoid coconut cream or coconut milk as these dishes are high in calories (e.g. curry chicken, laksa).
  • Order soup-based dishes (e.g. Yong Tau Foo, Sliced Fish Soup).
  • Remove visible fat from meats (e.g. fried chicken).
  • Choose plain rice over flavoured rice, or better still, choose brown rice. In addition to the health benefits of brown rice, it can help us feel fuller for a longer time.

Choose food and beverages with less sugar

Sugar supplies calories with no nutritional value. These empty calories can spoil your appetite and increase calorie intake. In particular, people with diabetes need to be careful with their blood sugar levels. Here are some tips to reduce your sugar intake:

  • Choose plain water instead of sweetened drinks to quench your thirst. When we drink water, it helps fill up the stomach and reduce the amount of food we eat.
  • Avoid adding too much sugar to tea or coffee.
  • Ask for less sugar or syrup in desserts.
  • Choose food products labelled with unsweetened, less sugar, reduced sugar, or lower sugar.

Up your fruit and vegetable intake

Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories and high in nutrients and fibre. So increase your intake to provide bulk to fight the hunger pangs! Also, prepare vegetables with healthier cooking methods such as blenching, steaming or stir-frying with less oil.

Include protein-rich foods

In addition to the above strategies, always make sure you include protein-rich foods at each meal. Studies suggest that protein may help increase your metabolic rate and stave off hunger for a longer period, and help you manage your weight. Examples of protein-rich foods include lean poultry/meat, fish, egg, low-fat dairy products such as low-fat yogurt/cheese, tofu, beans, lentils etc.

3. Get Your Recommended Physical Activity Minutes

Physical activity is essential for effective weight management, as it burns calories that we have consumed over the day. To prevent weight gain, you should accumulate at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week while being mindful of your diet. Exercise helps increase the number of calories your body uses as energy and may also contribute to reducing body fats.

Young woman jogging and engaging in physical activity as part of a sensible weight management strategy.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity raises your heart rate to 64-75% of your maximum heart rate. You are still able to talk but not sing during the activity. Your maximum heart rate can be calculated using this formula: 220 – (your age).

Some examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity are recreational badminton, brisk walking, leisure cycling and tennis.

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity raises your heart rate to at least 76-95% of your maximum heart rate, During such activity, you will find it hard to hold a conversation with someone. Some examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity are basketball, running, soccer and swimming laps.

As a rule of thumb, 1 minute of vigorous-intensity physical activity = 2 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity. Therefore, you can try a combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic exercises to get the recommended amount of 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week.

Remember, daily activities can also be a form of exercise! Start incorporating more movement into your everyday life with these tips:

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator.
  • Even an extra 15 minutes of walking a day can bring many health benefits. Get off the bus one or two stops before your destination, or park your car further away from your destination and walk the rest of the way. 
  • Doing household chores like mopping the floor or cleaning the windows can help keep you active even while at home!

4. Building Strength

Strength-building activities provide additional health benefits. Strength training not only helps to improve bone and muscle strength but also contributes to greater muscle mass, which boosts resting metabolic rate, therefore helping your body burn more calories. It is recommended that you do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week which involve all major muscle groups (legs, hips, abdomen, back, chest, shoulder and arms).

To build muscle, you need to repeat an action. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like an arm curl or sit-up. During weight lifting, you should aim to complete 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. Examples of muscle and bone-strengthening activities are hand-held weights, resistance bands, callisthenics, strength training equipment, and rock climbing walls.

5. Have Regular Meals

Skipping meals can cause you to snack more often or binge eat, leading you to consume even more calories. Some tips to remember are:

  • Fill your stomach first thing in the morning with a healthier breakfast comprising wholegrains, lower sugar options, lower fat options and/or fruits/vegetables
  • Keep high-calorie snacks (e.g. chips, chocolates) out of sight so you avoid feeling tempted to snack

So Remember

  • Balance your calories by reducing your portion size and choosing healthier food options.
  • Choose and prepare food and beverages with less fat/oil and sugar.
  • Do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity each week.
  • Do strength-building exercises at least twice a week.
  • Have regular meals so you're not tempted to snack or overeat.
  • Don't go back to eating unhealthily just because you've successfully lost weight quickly or reduced your body fat percentage.

One last tip before you embark on your journey to achieve healthy weight naturally: It’s important to get enough sleep as studies have shown that sleep-deprived people tend to experience an increase in appetite, so get a good night’s rest each night if you haven’t already been doing so.

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    BLOODGOOD, and K. L. PIERCY. (2019). Physical Activity and the Prevention of Weight Gain in Adults: A Systematic Review. MEDICINE &SCIENCE IN SPORTS &EXERCISE, 1262-1269. Retrieved June 2021 from doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001938