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

Samantha Lee/Business Insider

  • It's almost impossible that your lifestyle hasn't changed during the coronavirus pandemic, and small tweaks can result in weight gain.
  • Don't beat yourself up for this though: It's been an incredibly tough time for everyone, so keep that in perspective.
  • If you want to get a handle on your weight gain, that's entirely doable, you just need to ensure you're in a calorie deficit.
  • Don't worry about training the "right" way — the most important factor is to be active in the ways you enjoy.
  • Read more Working It Out here.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Dear Rachel,

I've gained about 30 pounds over the last six months. I lead a fairly active lifestyle, and go hiking, rock climbing, or biking weekly. I eat a well balanced diet, but I know I could use more veggies. I haven't changed what I eat in the last few months nor my lifestyle activity levels. I can't seem to lose this newly gained weight no matter what I try.

I began weight lifting after reading some of your articles, but I'm worried this is not enough. I'm about 5-foot-4 and weigh 160 pounds and this number keeps steadily climbing up. The weight has mostly been gained on my stomach area when I previously had a fairly flat stomach. I would appreciate any advice you have!

— Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,

Firstly, don't panic. It's important to take a step back and keep some perspective.

We have all been living through a pandemic, and if you've gained some weight, that really isn't the worst thing in the world.

However, I completely understand your dismay at not feeling your best — and feeling like it's out of your control.

The good news is that it's not. If you want to lose some of that weight, you absolutely can, and you shouldn't feel shamed for doing so.

But at the same time, please be kind to yourself. Gaining weight doesn't make you a bad person or less worthy.

Everyone's lifestyles have 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 used to walk my commute (and nearly everywhere else I went), I'm now home most of the time so have to make a conscious effort to get my steps in every day.

Even so, my daily step count is about a third of what it used to be.

For some people, working from home has meant more snacking without realizing. For others, less eating out has meant consuming lighter meals.

My point is, even if you're still doing the same amount of formal exercise as before lockdown, your lifestyle has probably changed in ways you haven't noticed. And these small differences can have an effect on your body composition.

Hayley Madigan is a personal trainer based in Portsmouth.
Hayley Madigan

"Gaining weight gradually can happen over a period of time without realizing or even being aware of any changes to your diet and activity levels," personal trainer Hayley Madigan told Insider.

"As we are still in a global pandemic, having gone through a lockdown and in most places still isolating and quarantining, our daily movement will dramatically decrease without realizing, and this will affect the amount of energy we burn every day.

"When we couple this with eating the same amount that we are used to, over time we will be giving our body more calories than it expends and therefore you will gain weight/body fat.

"This isn't something to be upset about nor feel like you've failed, because the whole world is going through a pandemic that has made drastic changes to our lifestyles."

Look at your portion size

At the end of the day, losing weight comes down to being in an energy deficit: taking in less than you're consuming.

So whether your lifestyle has changed or not, if you want to lose some fat, the best way to do that is eating less (keeping active is important, but formal exercise only accounts for around 5-10% of daily calorie expenditure).

"If you want to get back to feeling your confident self, that is perfectly OK, and I would advise to start tracking your calories so you know how much you're consuming," Madigan said.

"By reducing this amount of calories you consume, it will enable you to start eating in a deficit (consuming fewer calories than your body is expending) and therefore you'll be able to drop body fat.

"Remember, it is important that you don't drastically drop your calories too low so you can sustain this whilst feeling energetic and remaining healthy with a strong immune system.

"Tracking your calories can help you make more informed decisions when it comes to food choices whilst increasing your vegetable, fruit, protein, and fiber intake to also help with this."

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Everyone starts somewhere. You just gotta start. Aaaand then keep going. Left: December 2018 Right: September 2020 (Haven’t done a cheesy #transformationtuesday for a while so here you are and you’re welcome.)

A post shared by Rachel Hosie (@rachel_hosie) on

If you don't know where to start with calorie-tracking, have a read of this previous column, which explains all you need to know. 

I recommend fat loss coach Jordan Syatt's methodology for setting your daily calorie target: Take your goal body weight in pounds and simply multiply it by 12. So for you, that might mean around 1,560 calories per day.

Try an app such as MyFitnessPal for logging your food — it helped me a lot when I lost 35 pounds last year.

However, if calorie-tracking isn't for you and you find it stressful, that's fine. You don't need to count calories to lose weight, as I previously explained.

Train in a way you enjoy

It's great to hear you're active, and I hope you're doing the things you love, because that's truly the most important thing.

No fitness regime will ever be sustainable if you don't enjoy it.

Yes, weight training is optimal when in a calorie deficit as it will help you lose fat and hold on to muscle while boosting your basal metabolic rate (meaning you burn more calories at rest), but if you hate it, don't force yourself. 

It is definitely "enough," because the weight loss comes from your diet really.

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Dumbbell Only Leg Workout ??⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ A1) RDL into Reverse Lunge x 12 reps ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ (One rep = One Romanian Deadlift [RDL] with one reverse lunge, so you will complete a total of 6 reverse lunges on each leg)⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ A2) DB Swing into Narrow Squat x 12 reps ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ (Start off by gently swinging the dumbbells in front of you a few times before raising them above you and sinking down into a narrow squat simultaneously)⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Repeat x 3-4 Sets with 60-90 seconds Rest in between sets⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ B1) Front Rack Sumo Squats x 15 reps ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ B2) DB Side Lunge x 10 reps per leg⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Repeat x 3-4 Sets with 60-90 seconds Rest in between sets⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ C1) Goblet Curtsey Lunge x 10 reps per leg⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ C2) DB Glute Bridge with Abductor x 15 reps ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ (On the last rep pause at the top for 2 seconds and rep out 10 abductors)⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Repeat x 3-4 Sets with 60-90 seconds Rest in between sets⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ If you’re recovering from Amenorrhea, then I advise you to complete each exercise as a Single Set with at least 90-120 seconds rest in between sets for only 2-3 rounds. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Remember to SAVE this Workout for your next Leg Session! ????⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ *Superset the exercises with the matching letters – so A1 is supersetted with A2 – this means complete both exercises back to back before resting. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Enjoy and let me know how you find it ?? Socks are @hexxeeofficial ? ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ #legworkout #exerciseathome #dumbbellworkout #legday #homeworkout #dumbbell #legtraining #weighttraining #fitnessvideos

A post shared by Hayley Madigan (@hayleymadiganfitness) on

"Weight training is a brilliant way to improve all over body strength and health so keep doing this but try not to use exercise as a way to burn calories and more of a method to improve your health and fitness," Madigan said.

And remember, you can't spot-reduce fat — it's very common to hold weight on your stomach and for that to be the last area for weight to budge, so just be patient and don't fall into the trap of thinking endless crunches will melt the fat away. 

Look at the bigger picture and cut yourself some slack

Registered dietitian Eling Tsai suggests taking a step back to assess your relationship with movement and nutrition as part of your overall health.

Look at your sleep habits, stress levels, and habits that make you feel good, energized, and happy. Incorporate more of those into your life. 

Equally, try shifting your focus from weight loss to wellbeing — moving your mindset away from aesthetics can make healthy habits more sustainable.

Eling Tsai is a New York City-based dietitian.
Eling Tsai

"You mention eating more vegetables — I would ask what is contributing to this thought?" Tsai told Insider.

"More vegetables might mean more comfortable and regular bathroom habits or more balanced blood sugar and sustained energy between meals.

"Looking to reasons other than weight loss to make these changes might help reinforce a positive relationship with balanced eating."

Tsai points out that bodies evolve, and the fact that your body is changing size or shape does not mean that you are unhealthy.

Don't beat yourself up for gaining weight. But it's also OK to want to get back to feeling like yourself again — just make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.

Wishing you well,


As a senior lifestyle reporter at Insider and a self-described fitness fanatic with an Association for Nutrition certified nutrition course under her belt, Rachel Hosie is immersed in the wellness scene and here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you're struggling to find the motivation to go for a run, confused about light versus heavy weights, or unsure whether you should be worried about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to give you the no-nonsense answers and advice you need, with strictly no fad diets in sight.

Rachel has a wealth of experience covering fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and she has the hottest experts at her fingertips. She regularly speaks to some of the world's most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches, ensuring she's always up to date with the latest science-backed facts you need to know to live your happiest and healthiest life.

Have a question? Ask Rachel at [email protected] or fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be published anonymously.

Read more Working It Out:

  • I've lost weight by counting calories in the past but always get obsessed. How do I slim down without tracking my food?
  • I hated gym class at school and have a negative relationship with exercise as a result. How do I move past this and develop a positive mindset?
  • I've stopped losing weight even though I'm exercising regularly and eating healthy. How do I break through the plateau?
  • Whenever I do ab exercises, my neck and back hurt. How can I strengthen my core and work towards a six-pack?
  • I'm confused about whether I should eat before exercising or not. Will working out 'fasted' in the morning help me lose fat?

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  • Posted on October 12, 2020