Top tips to manage your weight

10 September 2021
A selection of fruit, vegetables and nuts.

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. Remember, everyone is different, it’s about finding what works for you.

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 ways to eat healthily with arthritis.

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.”

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.

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.

Let's move

Let’s Move is a programme for people with arthritis who want more movement in their lives. It's designed to find the level of movement that’s right for you and build confidence in your body. Sign up today, and we’ll be there to support you every step of the way. 

We’re here whenever you need us.

If you’re feeling isolated from family and friends during these uncertain times, we’re here for you.

  • If you would like to talk to someone, you can call our free helpline on 0800 5200 520 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm).
  • Chat to our Arthritis Virtual Assistant, using the blue icon in the bottom right corner of this page.
  • Join our online community.
  • Stay in touch and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.