By Lisa Vonnegut, CSCS

Have you gained Pandemic Pounds? You’re not alone. A survey of 1,000 WebMD readers reported that 50% of women and 25% of men have reported weight gain since the beginning of the quarantine. A global pandemic isn’t an easy time to reverse that trend.
Turning to google for an answer doesn’t simplify the process. If you google “weight loss” there are 2.8 billion hits. Add the word “supplements” and the results are still 763 million. The sheer volume of information available –much of it conflicting–reflects the concern and confusion surrounding a vast topic.
So where do you start? Stick to the ABCs.

To create healthy new patterns, take a positive approach. Instead of feeling miserable and focusing on restrictions, imagine eating delicious foods, having an abundance of energy and increasing self-esteem. Identify sabotaging thoughts. Listen to the messages you give yourself and Eliminate the negative self-talk. Also, eradicate all-or-nothing thinking. If you make a mistake, compensate with better choices the rest of the day.

The most effective weight loss plan is one you can maintain for the rest of your life. So, avoid drastic measures. Anything overly strict leads to feelings of deprivation, creating a “binge mentality”.
You don’t need to buy products. Any weight loss program that requires investment in a line of products is about sales and not about helping you. While there are some wonderful supplements out there, they should be exactly that: supplements to a well-balanced diet.
Eat enough. The key to fat loss is to fuel your metabolism. Inadequate calorie intake causes your body to go into “famine” mode, triggering increased fat storage.
Lose fat slowly. Most people can lose up to 1% of body weight in fat per week. Beyond that, your body will release water weight and in the case of extreme calorie deprivation, break down muscle tissue for energy. Ironically, water and muscle are essential for fat metabolism, so losing this kind of weight can backfire into rebound weight gain.
Indulge occasionally. Incorporate favorite foods into your meal plan. yes, enjoy a guilt-free meal out or a slice of birthday cake. Balance means making good choices most of the time, so there is room for real life.

Calorie Deficit
You need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 lb. of fat. Figure out how many calories you burn in a day and reduce it via diet, exercise, or ideally, both. Easy right? Well, not really.
Metabolic issues affect this simple formula. Creating that deficit is not as simple as calories in/calories out. If your metabolism is resilient, small changes can have a profound effect. However, if compromised, it can take more time to see the difference. Immune deficits, hormonal issues and poor gut health keep metabolism sluggish. Yo-yo dieting with periods of extreme calorie restriction followed by rebound overeating is also detrimental to metabolic resilience.
Google your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (“TDEE Calculator”). Take that rough estimate of your caloric needs and subtract 15-20% for a very conservative, sustainable calorie target. Remember, the more slowly you lose the weight, the more likely you will be to keep it off.
Add a waist measurement to your weigh-in’s to have more than one way of tracking your success.

Finally, macronutrients matter. The ideal ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat varies greatly from person to person. Avoid diets that vilify one macronutrient–you need an adequate intake of all three.

Committing to sustainable habits is the simplest path to a healthier weight. Take the long view and make small changes–over time, they create a huge shift. Remember to keep it simple and stick with your ABC’s.

[Lisa Vonnegut is a trainer and coach specializing in neural performance and wellness. Follow Lisa @bodysynergyfitcation and PM your health and fitness related questions to her.]