Weight loss is just about quality calories in, and calories out, right? Burn 3500 more calories than you eat a week and you will automatically burn a pound of fat*. Easy peasy. Sort of. Tracking calories in takes work, but can be done with a reasonable amount of accuracy. Measuring cups, food scales, and calorie guidebooks can help you master this most important and powerful part of weight loss.
WARNING: I AM GOING TO COMPLAIN FOR A BIT, FEEL FREE TO SKIP TO THE BOTTOM FOR MY GOOD ENOUGH SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM.
Tracking calories burned is a whole other thing. First, you determine how much your body burns just sitting around. Well, my INSANITY booklet wants me to calculate my Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR), while my P90X booklet wants me to calculate my Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) instead. Sparkpeople wants me to calculate my BMR, but TurboFire wants me to use RMR, and in Chalene Johnson's book, Push (she is the creator of TurboFire) she suggests I calculate my BMR. This is nuts! How can I determine my weight loss goals when the "experts" can't even agree on how to start!?
So, I'm forced to pick one. Let's go with BMR. Ok, so now how do I determine that? Without fancy equipment I have to use a formula decades old. Fine, fine. I will start with what is basically an estimate.
Ok, now I add how many calories I think I burn each day through exercise. Got it. Then I subtract that final number by 500. The result is how many calories a day I should eat in order to lose one pound a week.
1541 (BMR) + 300 (calories burned through exercise)=1841-500 (calorie deficit needed)=1341 calorie intake
But how do I determine calories burned during exercise? When I wear a heart rate monitor during exercise, then stick my average heart rate per total minutes in an online calculator, I get one number, when I use an online activity calculator, it comes up much higher (Example: 45 minutes of TurboFire/Kickboxing=271 calories or 582 calories.)
So now I have a guess matched with an old formula matched with another guess. It's no wonder so many people give up on weight loss. The tools aren't even consistent! Why isn't there a standard in this industry?
GOOD ENOUGH SOLUTION: Understand that weight loss principles are not an exact science. Counter this by picking the smaller of the numbers. My RMR is 1815, while my BRM is 1841, so I base everything on my RMR. As for calories burned during exercise, I choose the 271 calories. I'd rather be wrong in my favor, than against it. Track and update my numbers as needed, know that perseverance is the most important weight loss skill of all, and enjoy the god damned ride.
*This formula has also recently been called into question.