How to manage weight healthily?

Trying to manage weight can be difficult and confusing at first, but once you get started on an exercise and healthy eating programme, you will see a big improvement in your health and weight. It is important to set realistic and healthy goals. If you are overweight, aim for a weight loss of not more than 0.5 to 1kg per week or 10% of your body weight over 6 months.

Here are some great starter tips and advice that will help you get on the right track to your ideal weight and fitness.

Related: Portion Control with My Healthy Plate


Make sure you get at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week to achieve a healthy weight.

What are Moderate-Intensity Activities?

During moderate-intensity activities:

  • Your heart rate increases.
  • You can talk in short sentences, but not sing.

Examples of moderate-intensity activities:

  • Brisk walking (at a walking pace of 1km in 10-15 minutes)
  • Recreational badminton
  • Leisure bike riding on level ground, or with a few hills
  • Recreational table tennis
  • Leisure swimming

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Besides aerobic activity, one should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities (also known as resistance or strength training) that work all major muscle groups (e.g. arms, shoulders, chest, back, hips, legs, abdominals) on 2 or more days a week.

Muscle-strengthening activities make the muscles stronger by overloading the muscles - this is highly recommended for weight control. Engaging in regular muscle-strengthening activities will also increase muscle mass, which helps increase your resting metabolic rate and burn calories.

  • ​You should do 8 to 10 different exercises.
  • Adults should aim to do 8 to 12 repetitions for each set of exercise.
  • Give yourself a rest period of at least 2 days between each session.
  • Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include:
    • Free weights
    • Weight-lifting machines
    • Resistance bands
    • Bodyweight exercises, e.g., push-ups, sit-ups, squats

Having difficulty starting an exercise programme? Here are some ways of overcoming the barriers you may have.

Lack of time
  • Monitor your daily activities for one week. Identify available time slots where you can get any duration of physical activity.
  • Add physical activity to your daily routine. Walk or ride your bicycle to work or shops, and integrate physical activities into your daily activities, e.g, walk the dog, exercise while you watch shows, park farther away from your destination.
  • Select activities requiring minimal time, such as walking, jogging or stair climbing.
Lack of motivation
  • Plan ahead. Make physical activity a regular part of your daily or weekly schedule and write it on your calendar.
  • Invite a friend to exercise with you on a regular basis
  • Join a workout group or class.
Lack of resources
  • Select activities that require minimal facilities or equipment, such as walking, jogging, jumping rope or simple bodyweight exercises.
  • Identify inexpensive, convenient resources available in your community such as fitness corners, community clubs, parks, workplace and community workout sessions.
Weather conditions
  • Develop a set of regular activities that are always available, regardless of the weather (e.g. indoor cycling, aerobic dance, indoor swimming, home-friendly exercises, stair climbing, rope skipping, mall walking, dancing)
Family obligations
  • Trade babysitting time with a friend, neighbour, or family member who also has small children.
  • Exercise with the kids, e.g. go for a walk together, play ball games, ’catching’ or other running games, play a dance video and exercise together. You can spend time together and still get your exercise.
  • Skip rope, do home-friendly bodyweight exercises, ride a stationary bicycle, or use home gymnasium equipment while the kids are busy playing or sleeping.
  • Try to exercise when the kids are not around (e.g. during school hours or their nap time).

Busting Exercise Myths

Don’t let the myths about exercise keep you from reaching your target weight and goal. The sooner you learn the real facts, the closer you’ll be to achieving a healthy weight.

Related: Exercise vs. Diet - Which Really Leads to Weight Loss?

Myth 1: Women who engage in muscle-strengthening exercises will get big muscles.
Fact: Muscle-strengthening exercises are helpful in preventing age-related muscle loss. Women should do such training to improve strength, bone health, and to tone up.

Myth 2: In order to get into shape or lose weight, I have to run or do other vigorous exercises.
Fact: Any form of aerobic activity can help you gain the benefits of exercise. Brisk walking or other moderate-intensity aerobic activities are great ways to burn calories.


Myth 3: You need special clothes/attire in order to exercise effectively.
Fact: No special clothing is needed. Safe and effective exercise can be performed wearing comfortable sports shoes and loose-fitting everyday clothes.

Myth 4: Daily lifestyle physical activities such as taking the stairs, standing more than sitting, and leisurely walking makes no difference in managing my weight.
Fact: Everything counts. While daily lifestyle activities may not improve aerobic fitness significantly, they still burn more calories than simply sitting in front of your TV or computer. Along with your regular exercise programme for weight management, daily lifestyle activities can contribute to your goals of a healthy weight

Myth 5: I can also lose weight by using vibrating machines.
Fact: To achieve a healthy weight, one must do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. There is no scientific evidence suggesting that spot reduction exercises such as vibrating machines or ab machines result in weight loss

Myth 6: After I lose weight and I am happy with my weight loss, I can cut back on the amount of physical activity I do.
Fact: This is a common mistake made by those who are eager to lose weight.

  • To maintain weight loss, individuals should continue to aim to do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly.
  • It’s important to remember that you are making a sustainable lifestyle change, and not just a one-off attempt to lose weight.

How to manage your weight with a healthy diet

The key to managing your weight successfully is in ensuring that the calories that you consume do not exceed the calories that you use.

Related: Calculate How Much Calories You Should Eat

Go for lower calorie options

Take in fewer calories by controlling the type and amount of food and drinks you have.

You can go for:

  • Lower-calories meals offered by participating food courts and restaurants.
  • Smaller portions which mean fewer calories.
  • Zero calorie drinks such as plain water or plain tea.

Switch to whole grains

Be it bread, rice or noodles, natural is always best! The less processed your options, the more wholegrain it contains – it also satisfies your appetite faster and for longer.

They are also rich in nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre. So you get more goodness in these foods for every mouthful of calories you consume.

Don’t fret about limiting your whole grains to just bread and rice. Singaporeans can enjoy a wider variety of wholegrain products such as wholegrain noodles, kway teow, mun tou and biscuits.

Related: A Guide To Carbohydrates


Go for the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) Products

Consume more HCS products as these are generally lower in saturated fat, sodium, sugar and are lower in calories too.

Myths about food

Myth 1: Certain foods, like grapefruit, celery, or cabbage soup, can burn fat and make you lose weight.
Fact: No food can burn fat. However, fruit and vegetables are naturally low in calories and high in fibre. Incorporating more fruit and vegetables into your diet if you’re trying to lose weight is a good strategy as they make you feel full on fewer calories.

Myth 2: I shouldn’t snack between meals when trying to lose weight.
Fact: You can snack and still lose weight, if the total amount of calories you consume is less than the calories you use. If you choose to snack between meals, eat smaller main meals and choose healthier snack options (e.g. fresh fruits, low fat yoghurt) to keep your total calorie intake within your allowance.

Myth 3: Skipping meals or taking meal replacements can help to lose weight.
Fact: Our body, especially the brain, requires a regular supply of glucose from food to function optimally. Stick to a regular eating schedule as missing meals may lead to impulsive snacking and overeating and may lower the rate at which the body burns energy. In the long run, such dietary habits may also lead to nutrient deficiencies.


Myth 4: “Going vegetarian” means you are sure to lose weight and be healthier.
Fact: Vegetarians, like non-vegetarians, can still make food choices that contribute to weight gain such as eating large amounts of high-fat foods (e.g. deep-fried items) or foods with high sugar content (e.g. soft drinks). Vegetarian diets should be carefully planned to make sure they are balanced. Nutrients that non-vegetarians normally get from animal products, but that may be lacking in a vegetarian eating plan include iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and zinc.

Related: Eating Right: The Vegetarian Way

Myth 5: Cut out desserts
Fact: You don’t need to cut out all sweet foods to lose weight. People who deprive themselves may end up eating more. You can treat yourself occasionally but don’t overindulge – just have a small portion of dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Myth 6: Never eat at night
Fact: It doesn’t matter what time you eat; what’s important is how many calories you consume. If your total calorie intake is less than the calories you use, you'll be sure to lose weight.

Myth 7: Meal replacements can be used for weight loss
Fact: Meal replacements can be used for weight loss but only under medical supervision as there are various factors a doctor or a dietician will consider when prescribing meal replacements. They are usually prescribed for short periods as meal replacements are not long-term solutions for weight management. They also lack the full complement of beneficial phytochemicals to keep your body healthy.

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