PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The weather excuse is gone, the mask reason is no more, so is it finally time to tackle the “COVID-15” or 20 as the case may be.

Levi’s says sales of jeans are up 30% and so are sizes as most Americans tacked on a pound and a half per month of lockdown.

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The hardest part may be getting started.

“You need to work on increasing your activity and exercising,” says Dr. Marie Schaefer is a Sports Medicine Specialist with the Cleveland Clinic.

She says exercise is only part of the formula.

“Decreasing the calories that you take in or the diet component,” she explains.

But she points out since it took a year to put it on, don’t expected it to fall off overnight.

Especially when it comes to exercise.

“I think small incremental steps and changes are the most beneficial they’re the least intimidating and the most sustainable,” Dr. Schaefer says. “You don’t need to be in the gym every day you can do some things outside like do cardio through biking, walking, running outside.”

Dr. Schaefer adds that if you are going to put in the work it helps to keep track.

“I would also encourage people to use some type of fitness tracker that can really help you understand how many steps that you’re actually getting in a day or how active that you really are,” she says.

She also recommends pacing yourself to avoid injury and discouragement.

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The same principles apply to weight loss.

“Really stay away from those fad diets, they’re very effective at losing weight quickly, but people tend to put that weight back on and sometimes even more weight when they stopped that diet,” she explains.

Instead, she says start tracking what you eat and be honest about it.

“It’s always surprising when you haven’t done it for a while and then you take out your calorie counter and you see exactly how many calories you’re consuming a day, and then simple math would be to try to decrease your calories by about 500 a day and that can be through a combination of diet and exercise,” she says.

If you’re looking for a non-scale way of tracking your progress Dr. Schaefer says try on some of your pre-pandemic clothes.

“That sounds kind of silly but if you have, you know your clothes that you wore pre-pandemic and you put them on, it’ll give you a little bit of biofeedback as to where you are in your journey,” Dr. Schaefer says.

There is one other critical area Dr. Schaefer says you cannot ignore.

Stress.

There is no question the lockdown, the rules, the masks, job pressures, and uncertainty have taken a toll.

“Our bodies have really been in this fight or flight scenario really, you know nearly the last year and with those increase in cortisol levels, it really causes us to gain weight,” she says. “Just taking some time out in the day to really provide some type of self-care is going to be really important.”

Again, make whatever you do achievable and sustainable.

If you try to do too much too fast Dr. Schaefer says discouragement could follow.

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So take small steps and revel in the small successes as they come.