Diabetes Discoveries & Practice Blog

NIH Body Weight Planner

A mathematical model for estimating weight loss that you can use with your patients.

Kevin D. Hall, PhD, is section chief, Integrative Physiology Section, Laboratory of Biological Modeling. He discusses how The Body Weight Planner can predict lifestyle changes needed to reach and maintain a particular weight goal.

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The Body Weight Planner is really about trying to calculate how the body will respond to changes in calories in the diet and calories in your physical activity, in such a way as to try to figure out if you were to make those changes in your diet and physical activity, what kinds of weight changes would you expect?

The 3500 calorie per pound rule has been used for decades and decades to try to evaluate the relationship between changes in diet calories and how the body weight will respond. The problem is the body is not that simple. As you change the calories that you consume, your body responds in a way to offset that calorie deficit over time, and so your weight loss will slow down and you will lose much less weight in reality as compared to what the 3500 calorie per pound rule promises.

We can measure in very carefully controlled experiments where we know what people are eating; how does the number of calories that they're burning adapt over time as those folks lose weight? And so we've incorporated that science into a mathematical model that's available as a tool online for people to use to make more accurate predictions about how the body weight will respond. And the Body Weight Planner is actually the very first tool that provides people with information about what they have to do permanently to keep the weight off over time, in addition to losing it in the first place.

So one of the things that I think the NIH Body Weight Planner can help with is to allow healthcare professionals to basically sit down with their patients and interact with them and go back and forth about how their goal weight is going to translate into an absolute change in their lifestyle and are they really willing to put up with that change in lifestyle permanently because weight loss shouldn't just be about losing the weight, but it should be about keeping it off over a long period of time.

When health professionals are using the NIH Body Weight Planner, it's important to point out to the clients that it's not just the foods that they're eating that are affecting the number of calories but it's also the drinks that they're drinking whether it be alcohol or sugar sweetened beverages. And often people discount those calories. They're also discounting how big the portions are that they're eating.

And so it's important as part of the conversation that can take place surrounding the Body Weight Planner to make people more cognizant of really how many calories they're likely eating now before they've lost weight and how much they're going to have to cut in order to lose the weight that they want in the timeframe that they want and then maintain it afterwards.

Helping your patients understand that those kinds of weight loss goals are achievable with lifestyle changes they can work into their day-to-day life is something that the Body Weight Planner can help with.


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