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NIH Body Weight Planner Cuts Through Calorie Confusion

The National Institutes of Health has made public its Body Weight Planner, which helps you calculate caloric intake for weight loss.

By Mikah Sargent | July 22, 2015

Weight loss and fitness are about a whole lot more than sticking to a 2,000 calorie diet.

And the National Institutes of Health wants to help you figure out the “whole lot more” with its Body Weight Planner, a calculator that uses your weight, sex, age, height and physical activity to help you determine what your diet and exercise should look like in order to reach your goal weight.

And here's some good news: Unlike some weight loss plans and strategies, this one's backed by actual science.

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"The math model behind the Body Weight Planner ... was created to accurately forecast how body weight changes when people alter their diet and exercise habits. [It] was validated using data from multiple controlled studies in people."

If you want to calculate your calorie and weight loss goals, head over to the website and plug in your information — the planner will guide you every step of the way. And if you're a little more experienced, there's even a detailed Expert Mode.

As an example, a 25-year-old, 5'5" woman weighing 150 pounds who leads a moderately active lifestyle would need to add some light running to her exercise regimen and reduce her diet to a little over 2,000 calories in order to reach her goal weight of 132 pounds in half a year.

OK, that was certainly a lot to take in. We'd encourage you to give the planner a try yourself — there are quite a few knobs and gears to turn. Now, there are a lot of calorie and fitness trackers — with plenty of knobs and gears — on the market. So what makes this one any different?

TIME points out the Body Weight Planner is unique because of its detailed calculations. "Adding in a routine of light running isn't the same as starting intense swimming, and in a distinctive feature, the calculator doesn’t weigh all physical activity equally."

The planner actually asks how, when and what kind of exercise you'll incorporate into your daily life to reach your goal weight, all while giving you a timeline for that goal — 180 days for our aforementioned example.

After you've figured out your calorie count and exercise plan, the site encourages you to sign up for the USDA's SuperTracker. SuperTracker gives you a detailed meal plan and help you stay on track with your physical activity goals.

A USDA executive explains how the two work together"The NIH Body Weight Planner helps consumers make a plan to reach their goals on their timeline, and SuperTracker helps them achieve it."

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Tools like the USDA's SuperTracker and the NIH's Body Weight Planner can help us achieve, and then maintain, a healthy weight. (Video via Cleveland Clinic)

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Brenticus / CC BY 3.0.

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