Top tips to manage your weight

12 August 2020
A selection of fruit, vegetables and nuts.

Updated: 17 February 2021

Do you dread the thought of healthy eating? No problem. A few small changes to your eating habits and exercise routine can make a big difference to your weight – which can help your arthritis symptoms.

Here’s our top tips on ways to help you manage your weight.

Am I a healthy weight?

Being overweight can increase the strain on your joints, so keeping to a healthy weight can help . Eating fewer fats and less sugar can also improve your heart health and help to manage conditions like diabetes.

Being underweight can also have health risks. This can be a symptom of some conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis. Being underweight is linked to an increased risk of fractures, which is related to osteoporosis.

One way to work out if you’re a healthy weight is to use a BMI calculator.

BMI stands for body mass index and works out if your weight is healthy based on your age, gender and height.

Check out the NHS BMI calculator to see what your score is. The tool also gives advice on how to achieve and maintain a healthy BMI.

A BMI score between 18.5 and 24.9 is in the healthy range. If your BMI is in a range below or above this, you may need to consider making changes to your diet.

Eat a balanced diet

Keeping to a healthy weight is all about making sure the amount of food you eat is equal to how active you are.

Try to eat a low-fat, healthy, nutritious and balanced diet that has the right proportion of foods from the main food groups:

  • fresh fruit and vegetables
  • starchy foods, such as potatoes and wholegrains; bread, rice or pasta
  • foods containing protein, such as beans, pulses, meat, fish or eggs
  • dairy or dairy alternatives
  • unsaturated oils and spreads

Wholemeal options are particularly healthy as they contain more fibre and nutrients.

If you have a condition like arthritis, you might need to speak to your doctor or another healthcare professional for specific diet advice.

Make simple swaps

Try to cut down on sweets, cakes, biscuits and sugary drinks.

Although it’s important to limit the amount of fat that you eat and drink, it’s important to have a healthy proportion of the right types of fatty foods.

Try these options to cut calories with minimal effort.

  • Olive oil and rapeseed oil are healthier options if you're frying or roasting food.
  • Swap sugary cereals for wholegrain cereals.
  • Fish can be a healthier alternative to meat as it’s lower in saturated fat.

Registered dietitian Dr Sarah Schenker ( recommends only introducing changes that you believe you’ll stick to and warns against making too many changes at once.

“You know what works for you,” she says. “If you try to make too many changes it becomes impossible, and you’ll lose motivation.”

Use smaller plates

Measuring out your portions can be helpful, particularly for rice and pasta. Look at replacing high-calorie foods with vegetables and salad.

Dr Schenker says: “You can even buy plates with graphics on them to show how much of your meal should be vegetables, protein and carbs, which can be effective.”

Make meal plans

Planning meals is one of the most effective changes you can make, according to Dr Schenker.

She says: “If you don’t plan meals, it gets to 7pm, there’s nothing in the fridge and you say, ‘Let’s just get a takeaway’. Whereas if you’ve planned and shopped and used the weekend to batch cook and freeze portions, you’re much more likely to stick to your plan.”

Get inspired with our range of healthy recipes and try some of our kitchen hacks to make the most of your store cupboard staples.

Get moving

It’s recommended that adults between 19 and 64 need to do at least 75 minutes high intensity or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week – this includes activities such as cycling, swimming or walking briskly.

For people who have arthritis or a related condition, exercise can:

  • improve the range of movement in your joints
  • reduce stiffness
  • increase the strength of your muscles, which support your joints and
  • boost your wellbeing.

Find what works for you, many people find yoga, Pilates and tai-chi beneficial.

While others prefer to go walking, running or cycling to help stay fit. Find out more about arthritis and the benefits of keeping active.

Why not download the NHS Better Health app to help you kick-start your healthy living plans.

Let's move with Leon

Let’s Move with Leon is our free exercise programme featuring weekly 30-minute movement sessions delivered to your email inbox.  Sign up today, and we’ll be there to support you every step of the way. 

Everything in moderation

Treats are ok and rest days are recommended.

Remember, your goal is to sustain a healthy weight in the long-term, rather than a quick fix, so be realistic and allow yourself the occasional treat.

Dr Schenker says: “You can lose weight by following the 80:20 rule. That means 80 per cent of the time you’re very aware of eating healthily and 20 per cent of the time you’re a bit more relaxed. So, you might allow yourself your favourite treat at the weekend, whether that’s a cake or a pizza or a takeaway.”

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