I've gained weight over the past 6 months but haven't changed my lifestyle. What can I do to lose fat?

Samantha Lee / Business Insider
Even if you haven't changed the amount of formal exercise, small lifestyle changes can affect your body composition. Getty
Your lifestyle is unlikely to have stayed the same during the coronavirus pandemic, and small changes can lead to weight gain.
But don't beat yourself up for it: it's been a tough time for everyone so keep that in mind.
If you want to get a grip on your weight gain, it can be done. You just have to make sure that you are in a calorie deficit.
Don't worry about the "right" exercise - the most important factor is to be active as you enjoy it.
Read more about it here.
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Dear Rachel,
I've gained about 30 pounds in the past six months. I lead a fairly active lifestyle and go hiking, climbing or biking weekly. I have a balanced diet, but I know I could use more vegetables. I haven't changed my diet or my lifestyle activities in the past few months. I can't seem to lose this newfound weight no matter what I try.
I started lifting weights after reading some of your articles, but I am concerned that this will not be enough. I'm roughly 5-foot-4 and 160 pounds and that number is steadily increasing. The weight was mainly gained on my stomach area when I had a fairly flat stomach before. I would appreciate any advice you have!
- Confused
Dear at a loss,
First of all, don't panic. It's important to take a step back and keep perspective.
We've all had a pandemic, and if you've put on some weight, it really isn't the worst thing in the world.
However, I understand your dismay at not feeling good about yourself - and feeling like you are not under your control.
The good news is that it isn't. If you want to lose some of that weight, you can and shouldn't be ashamed of it.
But at the same time, please be kind to yourself. Gaining weight does not make you a bad or a less worthy person.
Everyone's lifestyle has changed during the pandemic
One massive change in my lifestyle is that my step count has fallen off a cliff since working from home - while I've been making my way to work (and almost everywhere I've gone), I am now that at home most of the time, so I have to make a conscious effort to take my steps every day.
Even so, my daily step count is about a third of what it used to be.
For some people, working from home means more snacks without even realizing it. For others, eating less means eating lighter meals.
My point is that even if you're still doing the same amount of formal exercise as you were before the lockdown, your lifestyle has probably changed in ways that you didn't notice. And these small differences can affect your body composition.
Hayley Madigan is a personal trainer based in Portsmouth, England. Hayley Madigan
"Gradual weight gain can occur over a period of time without noticing or noticing changes in your diet and activity level," personal trainer Hayley Madigan told Insider.
"Since we are still in a global pandemic, have gone through a lockdown and are still isolated and quarantined in most places, our daily exercise will decrease dramatically without realizing it and this will affect the amount of energy that we burn every day.
"If we combine this with eating the same amount that we are used to, over time we will be giving our body more calories than it is consuming and therefore you will gain weight / body fat.
"It's not something to get upset about or feel like you've failed because the whole world is going through a pandemic that has drastically changed our lifestyles."
Look at your serving size
At the end of the day, losing weight comes down to an energy deficit: you take in less than you use.
Whether or not your lifestyle has changed, if you're looking to shed some fat, the best way to do it is to eat less (staying active is important, but formal exercise only does about 5% to 10% of your time) daily calorie consumption off).
"If you're looking to get your confidence back, that's perfectly fine, and I would recommend tracking your calories so you know how much you're consuming," said Madigan.
She added, "Remember, it is important not to drastically cut your calories too low so that you can keep doing this while feeling energetic and staying healthy with a strong immune system.
"By tracking your calories, you can make more informed food choices while increasing your intake of vegetables, fruits, protein, and fiber to support this."
If you don't know where to start calorie tracking, check out this previous column which explains everything you need to know.
I recommend fat loss trainer Jordan Syatt's method of setting your daily calorie goal: take your target body weight in pounds and just multiply it by 12. So for you, that means roughly 1,560 calories per day.
Try an app like MyFitnessPal to keep track of your food - it helped me a lot when I lost 35 pounds last year.
But if tracking calories isn't for you and you find it stressful, that's fine. You don't have to count calories to lose weight like I explained earlier.
Exercise in a way that you enjoy
It's nice to hear you're active and I hope you are doing the things that you love because that really is the most important thing.
No fitness program will ever be sustainable if you don't enjoy it.
Yes, strength training is great when you are low on calories because it helps you lose fat and retain muscle while increasing your basal metabolic rate (meaning you burn more calories when you take it easy), but if you hate it, don't force it yourself.
It is definitely "enough" because the weight loss really comes from your diet.
"Weight training is a great way to improve overall body strength and health. So keep it up, but don't try to use exercise as a means of burning calories rather than a way of improving your health and fitness," Madigan said.
And remember, you can't reduce fat on the spot - it is customary to keep the weight on your stomach, and this is the last area the weight moves. So be patient and don't get trapped if you think of endless crunches will melt the fat away.
Look at the bigger picture and let yourself relax a little
Registered nutritionist Eling Tsai suggests stepping back to assess your relationship with exercise and diet as part of your overall health.
Take a look at your sleeping habits, stress levels, and habits that make you feel good, energetic, and happy. Incorporate more of it into your life.
Also, try to shift your focus from weight loss to wellbeing. When you turn your mindset away from aesthetics, healthy habits can become more sustainable.
Eling Tsai is a New York-based nutritionist. Eling Tsai
"You mention eating more vegetables - I would ask what contributes to that thought?" Tsai told insiders.
"More vegetables could mean more comfortable and regular bathroom habits, or more balanced blood sugar and sustained energy between meals.
"Looking for reasons other than weight loss to make these changes may help strengthen a positive relationship with a balanced diet."
Tsai points out that bodies are developing, and the fact that your body is changing in size or shape doesn't mean you are unhealthy.
Don't beat yourself up for weight gain. But it's okay to want to feel like yourself again - just make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.
Wish you a speedy recovery
As a senior lifestyle reporter at Insider and a self-described fitness fanatic with an Association for Nutrition-certified nutrition course, Rachel Hosie is immersed in the wellness scene and here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you're struggling to find motivation to run, confused about light or heavy weights, or unsure whether to worry about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to help you Providing factual answers and advice you need with no diets in sight.
Rachel has extensive fitness, nutrition, and wellness experience and has the hottest experts. She speaks regularly to some of the most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches in the world to make sure she is always up to date with the latest scientific facts you need to know to live your happiest, healthiest life.
Have a question? Ask Rachel at workingitout@insider.com or fill out this anonymous form. All questions are published anonymously.
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