Lifestyle Shape Up

What keeping a food and activity diary taught me about my overall wellness

Our writer learns that the first step to adopting a healthier lifestyle can be as simple as recording what you eat and do every day.



Looking at me, you’d never think that I was fat – I stand at 1.85m and weigh just over 70kg. But underneath my T-shirt lies one of my biggest secrets: a tummy. It’s the classic “skinny fat” syndrome, which means that I have a relatively high percentage of body fat and low muscle mass — despite maintaining a normal Body Mass Index (BMI).

To address this, I turned to Mr Muhammad Khir Bin Mohd Saleh, Fitness Trainer Assistant at HomeTeamNS Fitness Workz. “The biggest misconception about shedding belly fat is that more high intensity exercises like running, skipping meals and sit-ups are the only ways to achieve it,” he explains.   

Mr Muhammad Khir Bin Mohd Saleh, Fitness Trainer Assistant at HomeTeamNS Fitness Workz
Mr Muhammad Khir Bin Mohd Saleh, Fitness Trainer Assistant at HomeTeamNS Fitness Workz

He adds that there’s no point in doing those exercises if you don’t pay attention to your daily diet. “One of the main reasons why burning calories through exercise may still not result in weight loss is due to overexertion, or inflammation of your body. If you exercise too hard on a daily basis, there is excess inflammation in your body, which in turn makes you gain more weight,” he advises. Instead, he says a low-calorie daily diet is ideal for shedding belly fat. Getting at least seven hours of sleep from Monday to Saturday, and nine hours of sleep on Sundays, can also help you achieve your weight loss goals.

To help me achieve my goals, I documented my fitness routine and food consumption over the weekend. The diary didn’t just help Mr Khir make sense of where I could improve; it also forced me to take note of what I was putting into my body and how much I was exercising.

I’m not alone: according to Harvard Health, keeping a food diary can help you understand your eating habits and patterns. Research shows that for people interested in losing weight, a journal can be an effective tool to help change behaviours. And it worked. For example, only after recording my food intake, did I realise the significant amount of carbohydrates I consume.

Here’s Mr Khir’s review on my food and activity diary and his tips on how I can adopt a healthier lifestyle for the win:


Breakfast: Three wholegrain WeetBix squares with fresh blueberries, blackberries and banana, topped with fresh milk

Lunch: Pan-seared salmon, basmati rice and snow peas/baby corn stir-fry

Dinner: Pork dumpling noodles

Snack: Wholegrain bread with peanut butter

Mr Khir says: Try reducing your solid carbohydrate intake and concentrate on consuming liquid proteins such as protein shakes. With that being said, consuming foods that are high in protein and fibre, and contain iron, healthy fats and vitamins can also help maintain your healthy diet.”

Activity: A quick workout of 180 squats and 180 jumping jacks

Mr Khir says: “So far so good. To challenge yourself more, consider applying some intensity to your squats by hugging a 5kg packet of rice or a weight plate. You can keep yourself motivated by scheduling regular workouts and aiming for fun and variety – swimming, weight and interval training, jogging, walking and cycling are all great ways to lose weight.”


Breakfast: Minced meat noodles

Lunch: Rice, boiled chicken, broccoli

Dinner: Baby spinach salad with chicken thigh, egg (no dressing)

Activity: None

Mr Khir says: “Don’t be afraid of the occasional cheat day. You can plan this for when you’re not exercising, and return to a high protein diet on the days you do work out. The rationale is that by allowing yourself brief periods of indulgence you’re less likely to veer off course for your diet. Cheat meals can help to reset hormones responsible for metabolism and insulin regulation, replenish glycogen for increased energy and keep fat torching mechanisms high. Cheat meals really work for those who are on a strict diet plan or an intense workout regimen. A cheat day or cheat meal should be a small break before returning to your healthy diet.”


What to remember when keeping a food and activity journal:

  • Write everything down, no matter how small it seems.
  • Don’t rely on your memory at the end of the day. Instead, record your meals and activity using your phone’s notes app as the day progresses.
  • Be specific. Had fried chicken? Write it down instead of just stating, “chicken”.

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Lifestyle On The Edge

The kiasu parent’s guide to ChatGPT

You’ve caught the buzz about the artificial intelligence tool that’s taking the world by storm. But how is it changing the way our kids learn?


Are we at the cusp of witnessing machine sentience? Will the world soon be controlled by intelligent robots who then proceed to enslave humanity? Well, not quite.

ChatGPT is the latest innovation by San Francisco-based research and development firm OpenAI. The artificial intelligence language model has the ability to generate text that simulates human communication, based on user prompts.

Here’s what you should know about ChatGPT and how it affects students.


Farshad Ismail of The Write Edge
Farshad Ismail of The Write Edge

For local English education centre Write Edge’s curriculum lead Farshad Ismail, the opportunities range from having a personalised learning tool for students, to being an administrative instrument for teachers.

Teachers, too, reap the benefits of increased efficiency, when they tap on ChatGPT to craft quizzes, generate sample learning plans and brainstorm. “We all know how much a teacher’s workload can sometimes be bogged down by administrative and planning duties. With ChatGPT’s assistance, teachers can spend more time on actual teaching,” asserts Farshad.

For Cleophina Chan, founder of tuition centre BlackBox Learning Centre, the biggest perk is how it saves users time, effort and the “frustration of wading through dense details on Wikipedia just to find one nugget of information.” As compared to “plain vanilla Web search”, ChatGPT delivers a succinct answer to a user-defined question. “The answer is an elegantly packaged summary of what is already out there on the world wide web,” says Chan. That said, it’s important to note that the software has been shown to generate inaccurate information, so answers derived from it should still be carefully assessed.


Cleophina Chan with students from BlackBox Learning Centre
Cleophina Chan with students from BlackBox Learning Centre

On the flip side, despite being a unique stand-in for after-school tutors, an overreliance on ChatGPT can lead to a decrease in human interaction. By diluting the interactions between students and teachers — a core part of education — it can lead to a reduced emphasis on critical thinking and creativity, contends Farshad.

In highly competitive Singapore, students may turn to ChatGPT not as a way to enhance their education, but to direct it, thus raising the possibility of plagiarism. ChatGPT may also have trouble processing the nuances of the Singaporean context, hindering local students’ ability to effectively learn in this system.

The dangers of ChatGPT lie not in its technology but in the attitude of its users, adds Chan. A reliance and trust in tools like ChatGPT may affect critical thinking and judgment. If users believe that ChatGPT answers represent the entire body of knowledge on a subject, they may have little incentive to look beyond that single source of information.


ChatGPT is a generative AI-powered platform

In Singapore, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is guiding teachers in schools and institutes of higher learning on how to use ChatGPT, while professional discussion groups among educators have sprung up, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament in February. MOE will also equip students with the skills to use AI tools responsibly, he added.

Schools have adopted a range of practices to guard against technology misuse like plagiarism and cheating. Teachers use multiple modes of assessment such as examinations, presentations and field notes to assess students’ capability, while online tools can also flag AI-generated content, said Minister Chan. Already, students in International Baccalaureate programmes in Singapore are allowed to use content created by ChatGPT in their assignments. To avoid plagiarism, they must reference it in the bibliography.

Weighing in on MOE’s stance, Farshad says that it is a “good balance between being liberal and cautious.”  Currently, Write Edge is assessing the potential of applying ChatGPT in the classroom, starting from secondary school students. For instance, the team floated the possibility of it being used as a personalised homework tool to help students grasp the PEEL (Point, Example, Explain, Link) format, or revise writing concepts. It may also aid curriculum writers in drafting a skeletal essay or comprehension pieces that they would then refine.

Given that tools like ChatGPT are here to stay, the most important thing is to equip students to use them ‘critically, creatively and thoughtfully”, says Farshad. This will also reflect their future experiences at work, and not see it as a way out to cut corners in their learning.

How can I encourage my child to use ChatGPT responsibly?

“Tell children that devices, applications and platforms are enablers of learning. They enhance speed, accessibility and the breadth of informational sources. Learning to solve the novel problems of the future requires learners to quickly absorb the information available today and apply their minds to create solutions. Artificial intelligence cannot solve human problems because human problems require human solutions.”

Cleophina Chan, founder of tuition centre BlackBox Learning Centre

More to learn

Help your young ones develop a range of skills with these sweet HomeTeamNS member deals.

Owl Readers Club
The book club, designed to cultivate good reading habits, is offering a 10 per cent discount on children’s books with every purchase. Promotion is valid till 30 December 2023.

Enjoy a 10 per cent discount on student/adult membership at the bookstore chain. Promotion is valid only for new sign-ups, till 30 Sep 2023.

Create your own rug at this tufting studio, where you’re entitled to a 10 per cent discount on tufting sessions. Promotion is valid till 20 Sep 2023.

Help nurture your child’s motor coordination skills and dexterity with rollersports classes at Ernsports, which is offering a 10 per cent discount on classes and a special trial class rate.

Star Learners Child Care
Here’s one for time-strapped parents: Star Learners is offering a $300 cash rebate when you enrol your child at any of their child care centres. Promotion is valid till 31 December 2023.

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Lifestyle On The Edge

Flame out

On International Firefighters’ Day, we discuss the basics of home fire safety.



House fires often start with something small – a forgotten meal simmering on the stove or an overcharged power bank in the bedroom. But within minutes, entire lives can be destroyed.

International Firefighters’ Day, which falls on May 4 every year, pays tribute to the bravery and the sacrifices made by all firefighters. We can honour their dedication by doing our best to observe basic fire safety rules – and by doing so, prevent more fire-related tragedies from occurring.


Hoarding has always been an obstacle to fire safety. In August, a residential fire at Jurong East Street 21 resulted in the death of a resident. Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel reported difficulty in extinguishing the blaze as the flat was filled with items from wall to wall, obstructing firefighting and damping down operations.

Combustible materials such as newspapers, books, clothing and cardboard boxes can spread flames quickly. As hoarders in Singapore tend to be elderly, they may also have mobility issues that make it more difficult to escape a fire, especially in a narrow, cluttered space.


When power points are overloaded with multiple appliances, they can overheat and become a fire hazard. The SCDF has noted that a majority of residential electrical fires are caused by overloaded sockets or short-circuited appliances.

Keep wires organised and don’t run them under carpets or rugs, as that can prevent heat dissipation. Broken or exposed wires are a fire risk, and if you spot a frayed or damaged electrical cord it’s best to call in a licensed electrical worker than attempt a DIY solution. 


A battery explosion – whether from an overcharged power bank or personal mobility device (PMD) – can have devastating consequences, such as when a 20-year-old man died from burn injuries after his PMD exploded in the lift last December.

If you use a PMD or any other kind of active mobility device – such as a power-assisted bicycle or personal mobility aid – remember to check that your device’s battery has a valid SAFETY mark and is compliant with official regulatory standards such as UL2272 and EN5194.

Inspect your battery regularly for any damage or deformities, charge it away from heat sources and combustible materials like fabric, and don’t charge your battery immediately after using your device. Avoid overcharging and leaving your battery to charge overnight.


It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so don’t forget to invest in portable fire extinguishers which are available at hardware stores and online retailers and smoke detectors for your home. Once you have these resources in place, check regularly to ensure that they are in good condition. Lift the fire extinguisher to assess its fullness, inspect it for any corrosion, leakage or clogging in the nozzle, and make sure the pressure gauge indicator is in the operative range.

Smoke detectors, also known as home fire alarm devices (HFADs), should ideally have built-in batteries with a 10-year life span as recommended by the SCDF. HFADs should be installed on the ceiling along the home’s escape route, and connected to ensure that if one is triggered, all will sound an alarm. Once a month, press the test button on each HFAD to see if it’s working.


Hold twice-yearly fire drills so that everyone in the household knows how to handle themselves in event of a fire. Everyone should be familiar with the location of the nearest fire extinguisher, and those physically able to lift the extinguisher should know how to use it. Helpers should be taught kitchen fire safety, such as not throwing water on a stove-top grease fire or leaving cooking unattended.

Besides teaching children not to play with matches, it’s also important to teach them fire safety basics such as stop, drop and roll, emergency numbers such as 995, and the escape plan if the house catches fire.

What to do if a fire breaks out at home

If a fire breaks out, what should you do?

First, don’t panic. If the fire occurs at the kitchen stove, turn off the gas supply and use a lid or damp cloth to completely cover the pot or pan. Starving the fire of oxygen will extinguish it. If the fire is in a room and cannot be controlled by an extinguisher or water, evacuate everyone from the room. If you can, close the door to contain the smoke and flames and call 995. If the gas mains are within reach, switch them off.

When evacuating, don’t turn back for treasured belongings – fires can spread and intensify far more quickly than you think. Focus on avoiding smoke inhalation by covering your mouth and nose with a wet cloth and crawling under the smoke to escape. Always take the stairs to head to ground level. On very high levels, head to the nearest refuge floor – a safe holding area located every 20 floors in super high-rise residential buildings.

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In The Force

This young Home Team Volunteer may be able to give you deadlifting tips

Visiting the gym is as much about building mental resilience as it is about gaining muscle for Cadet Lieutenant (CLT) Mohammad Shafie.


Many of us face challenges that can be stressful or overwhelming, for which we have different coping mechanisms. Working out is Home Team Volunteer Mohammad Shafie’s way to destress. But the Cadet Lieutenant (CLT) from National Civil Defence Cadet Corps (NCDCC) wasn’t into sports growing up – not till his brother piqued his interest in gym sessions about three years ago. “I was not invested in working out at first, but I eventually took my training seriously because I realised that it was a good way to overcome negative thoughts,” shares the 17-year-old, in reference to moments where he felt he could have done better in his personal life and had not reached his full potential. He now works out four times a week.


You could call (CLT) Shafie a gym buff.
You could call CLT Shafie a gym buff.

And the Business Services student at Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Central might well have lapsed into gloom last year, when he suffered a back injury during one of his workouts, putting him out of the gym for close to two weeks. “I was in pain and had trouble sleeping. When I started working out again, I felt weak and had to build up my strength.” Thankfully, his training had equipped him with the mental fortitude to overcome the physical challenges at hand.

CLT Shafie’s hours spent lifting heavy equipment have also proven valuable in his volunteer work with the Home Team. “In 2022, I attended a firefighting course held at Civil Defence Academy. I was able to carry heavy equipment such as the breathing apparatus and fire hose, thanks to my increased strength and improved conditioning from working out at the gym,” he recounts. “It was mentally and physically draining but I managed to stay calm and fight through the challenges.”

CLT Shafie’s hobby has also taught him self-discipline. “If you feel like giving up, always push through because your pain or struggles are temporary. If you let yourself be overcome by negative thoughts, you will not go far,” he concludes.

(CLT) Shafie with National Civil Defence Cadet Corps members from Christ Church Secondary school.
CLT Shafie with National Civil Defence Cadet Corps members from Christ Church Secondary school.

Community calls

As someone who enjoys interacting with others, CLT Shafie regularly helps train his NCDCC juniors on their co-curricular (CCA) days at Christ Church Secondary School. You can also pay it forward. Volunteer with the Home Team Volunteer Network to make a difference in your community.

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