Weight Management

By: Mr Sean Low, Pharmacist at Unity Hougang Mall

First seen in Lifestyle Magazine (February 2014), pg 83. This article is an unbreached version of the print edition.


Weight management is a long-term approach to a healthy lifestyle. It includes a balance of healthy eating and physical exercise to equate energy expenditure and energy intake. Most people put on weight because they eat and drink more calories than what their bodies need. The excess energy builds up in their bodies as fat.

So what is healthy weight? The simplest guide for assessing body weight as well as the amount and distribution of body fat is by calculating the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is calculated from a person’s weight and height to determine the amount of body fat. So the higher the BMI, the higher the amount of fat in the body.

How to calculate your BMI?

A BMI value of 23 and above indicates that the weight is outside of the healthy weight range for that height. Overweight people are more likely to develop a range of medical conditions including: high blood pressure, heart disease, high blood cholesterol, cancers, diabetes, stroke, joint problems, sleep apnoea, and breathing problems. Excess weight can also lead to social problems (e.g. poorer job prospect, low self-esteem) and can make many activities more difficult such as walking and climbing.

Many people want to find the quickest way to lose weight but these methods are not effective in the long run. Weight loss should be gradual (e.g. 2kg per month to ensure fat is lost, rather than muscle or water).

Healthy ways to lose weight

1. Healthy eating

  • Eat smaller portions, eat slowly and stop eating when comfortably full.
  • Eat regular meals each day, do not snack between meals.
  • Skipping meals is not recommended because it can cause snacking more often or binge eats which can lead to consuming even more calories.
  • Fat supplies twice as much energy as carbohydrate or protein. 1g of fat contains 9 calories while the same amount of protein or carbohydrate only contains 4 calories, so eating less fat is an important way to reduce energy intake.
  • When cooking:
    • Choose low-fat oils like sunflower, soya bean, corn, canola and olive oil.
    • Cool soups, stews and curries to remove solidified fat.
    • Choose lean meat and poultry and remove any fat or skin.
  • When eating out:
    • Choose plain rice over flavoured rice (e.g. chicken rice, nasi lemak, nasi briyani) or better still, choose brown rice.
    • Avoid dishes with coconut cream or coconut milk (e.g. curry chicken, laksa).
    • Order soup-based dishes (e.g. Yong Tau Foo, Sliced Fish Soup).
    • Remove fat and skin from meats (e.g. fried chicken).
  • It is best to drink plenty of water and limit other drinks (e.g. soft drinks, fruit juices). Drinking plain water also helps to fill up the stomach and reduce food cravings.
  • Limit alcohol. Have no more than two standard drinks a day.

2. Physical activity

  • Regular physical activity has many proven benefits, such as to help control weight, blood pressure and decrease the risk for heart diseases and stroke.
  • All healthy adults (ages 18 to 64) should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., brisk walking, badminton, leisure cycling) every week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., jogging, running) every week. Exercise should start slow then increase gradually the intensity and frequency of the workouts.
  • There is also a need of muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest shoulders, and arms), on 2 or more days a week. This can help to reduce total body fat while also improving bone and muscle strength.
  • To build muscle, there is a need to repeat an action. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like an arm curl or sit-up. During weight lifting, there should be at least 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
  • The most important thing is to do activities that are enjoyable and will want to continue.

So remember:

  • Set a realistic goal for weight loss
  • Make healthy diet changes that can be adhered to
  • Start a regular exercise routine that can be continued (at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week).
  • Do strength building exercises at least twice a week.
  • Have regular meals so as not to be tempted to snack or overeat.