Forget about the number 2,000, there is a new government calculator that uses the latest research to give you an exact calorie count and exercise regimen you’ll need to achieve your weight loss goals.
The calculator, called the Body Weight Planner, is now available online for public use, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been using it for research since 2011. “We originally intended the Body Weight Planner as a research tool, but so many people wanted to use it for their own weight management that we knew we needed to adapt it with more information about how to achieve a healthy lifestyle,” said Kevin Hall, PhD, one of the creators of the tool and a senior investigator at the NIH, in a press release last July.
The calculator starts out by asking your weight, sex, age and height. These are the standard measures often used to prescribe a calorie plan, but it also uses more recent research about exercise to further personalize your plan.
Then you are asked to estimate your physical activity level on a scale of 1.4 (sedentary) to 2.5 (very active), to name your goal weight and to pick a date by which you want to reach it.
Many people will get that far in thinking through a weight loss plan, but the calculator doesn’t stop there. It also asks you to name a percentage by which you plan to increase your physical activity and tells you what kind of exercise, how much, how often and how much intensity it’ll take to get there.
Adding in a routine of light running isn’t the same as starting an intense cardio program, and one of the cool features about the calculator, is it doesn’t weigh all physical activity equally.
The resulting calculations tell you three things:
- The daily number of calories you’ll need to eat to maintain your current weight
- The calories you’ll need to reach your goal in your specified time
- The calories you’ll need to maintain your goal once you’ve met it.
You can then use SuperTracker a tool developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to come up with a meal plan based on your calorie stats.
If you are the type of person that needs constant proof of progress, there’s even an expert version of the calorie calculator that breaks down your goal daily, so you can see exactly how your weight loss will likely progress, decimal by decimal, but obviously, only if you stick to your program.