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Getting started on the NHS weight loss plan

Is this for me?

  • This guide is intended for use by healthy adults with
    a body mass index (BMI) of 25 and over. Find out if you need to lose weight using the BMI healthy weight calculator.
  • It is not suitable for children and young people or pregnant women.
  • If you suffer from any medical condition you should consult your GP before starting.
  • You are urged to seek the advice of a health professional before starting on any weight loss programme. 

Use the panel above to download the NHS weight loss guide, our popular free 12-week diet and exercise plan.

The plan, which has been downloaded more than 2 million times, is designed to help you lose weight safely – and keep it off.

Weight loss plan features

The plan is designed to help you lose weight at a safe rate of 0.5kg to 1kg (1lb to 2lb) each week by sticking to a daily calorie allowance.

For most men, this means sticking to a calorie limit of no more than 1,900kcal a day, and 1,400kcal for most women.

If you go over your limit one day, don't worry: it simply means you'll have to reduce your calorie intake on the following days.

For example, if you're a woman and you have 1,700kcal on Tuesday, that's 300kcal more than your daily calorie allowance of 1,400kcal.

To stay on track, you'd need to cut out an extra 300kcal from your remaining calorie intake over the rest of the week.

The calorie allowance is based on NICE guidance, which states that to lose weight, the average person should reduce their daily calorie intake by 600kcal.

If you find it hard sticking to the calorie limit, use our BMI calculator to get your own personal weight loss calorie allowance.

Weekly packs

The guide is delivered through 12 weekly information packs full of diet, healthy eating and physical activity advice, including weekly challenges.

Each information guide contains a food and activity chart (view sample PDF, 545kb) to help you record your calories, exercise and weight loss so you can see how well you're doing at a glance.

Print the chart out and stick it somewhere you can see it, such as the fridge or a kitchen cupboard, and update it at the end of each day.

In addition to a healthier diet, regular physical activity is an important component of your weight loss journey.

Not only will it help you burn extra calories, but it will also keep you motivated and improve your general health and wellbeing.

As you work through the weeks, you'll get lots of ideas and structured programmes to help you get active, from easy ways to gradually build activity into your day, to the popular Couch to 5K5K+ and Strength and Flex podcasts.

Getting started

The links below provide the tools and knowledge you'll need from day one on the plan. Before you download Week 1, it's worth taking a look so you can:

Is this plan for me?

This guide is intended for use by healthy adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 and over. Find out if you need to lose weight using the BMI healthy weight calculator.

It is not suitable for children and young people or pregnant women. If you suffer from any medical condition, you should consult your GP before starting.

You are urged to seek the advice of a health professional before starting on any weight loss programme.

*The NHS Choices weight loss guide has been developed under the supervision and advice of specialist dietitians from the British Dietetic Association, which represents registered dietitians in the UK. Thanks to dietitians at DOM UK (Dietitians in Obesity Management), a specialist group of the British Dietetic Association.

Page last reviewed: 05/12/2014

Next review due: 05/12/2016


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The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

JMRBSB said on 27 July 2015

Would really like the weight loss guide, but can't get it to download!

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Jgalea1965 said on 19 May 2015

This has been the best and the cheapest bit of advice I've ever taken, the 12 week NHS plan is good guidance and common sense, I love the healthunlocked web site & quite often get good tips and made some friends.....

I would recommend this and have told my GP how helpful it's been,
Thank you NHS ?????? you have helped me through a difficult time in my life.

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LIPLADY said on 01 May 2015

As a woman who suffers from LIPOEDEMA I do not feel that the BMI calculator is giving true and correct information. The Hip to Waist Calculator is better for women who suffer from LIPOEDEMA and who are obese through no fault of their own. It is not possible to diet or exercise away LIPOEDEMA FAT...there is no cure for LIPOEDEMA!

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gkg42 said on 22 April 2015

A calorie controlled diet in my opinion is not the best way to lose weight. It's far better to control carbohydrate intake, which might not necessarily be the same thing. What I have found is that by cutting down on bread and potatoes has enabled me to lose about half a stone and I'm keeping it off. I'm still having sugar in my tea and coffee though!

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The NHS Choices health apps library

Get a healthy recipes app

Find NHS-reviewed apps that offer recipes for healthier eating

Food and activity chart

View a sample of the weight loss guide's weekly food and activity chart (PDF, 545kb)

Lose weight

Weight loss resources to help you lose weight healthily, including the NHS 12-week diet and exercise plan

Get running with Couch to 5K

Our C25K plan is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks

Strength and Flex

Download our Strength and flexibility podcast series and get a free personal trainer