This is the big thing I want to get out there in terms of undertaking a weight loss effort... I did not do it all at once.
I did not start out calorie counting and working out.
I did not give up desserts or soda or even Mc Donalds when I first started.
I started with one thing... a food diary.
I know when I have tried to "diet" I would get all excited and geared up and buy all my "new" foods and boom within the first week or two I had fallen off the wagon. I would be starving on too low a calorie limit or eating foods that I didn't really like and before you knew it I was eating pizza feeling terrible about myself and no longer motivated to keep going. This is why calorie counting is your friend. If you are accounting for your calories you can ... really!... eat whatever you want and steadily lose weight.
I started by trying to figure out how much I was eating while not losing to establish a starting point. A very easy way to do this is to keep an open email on your desktop and just add to it through out the day (if you are work send it home when you leave and then add on from there). When you get a chance at the end of the day figure out your calories and send this email to yourself. Do this for one whole week and average out your calorie intake. If you are like me you eat a lot of the same stuff over and over and the looking up part quickly becomes faster and faster. I have always used this site to look calories up. It is also very easy to find the nutritional info for most chain restaurants online. (FYI do not ever eat at Macaroni Grill!) If you have the time to read this you have the time to do this :)
As soon as you know your average calorie intake deduct 500 calories from that and that should be your goal. This is key! You might be able to eat 2000 calories and still lose a pound a week... maybe even two. So why not eat 1500 and lose 2-3 pounds a week? you ask.... because you will be so hungry that you will end up sabotaging yourself and you won't lose as much in the long run that is why! Baby steps really do add up... believe me! It is absolutely worth taking the time to figure out how much you can eat and still lose.
When you have been doing this and consistently losing weight at a healthy rate for a month or two then add in a new habit. Or wait until you plateau, and sadly you will, then think about lowering your calories by just 50 or 100 calories or start working out or pick up the pace if you already were.
I know that many of you are resistant to keep a daily food diary. There are shortcuts out there... nutrisystem and jenny craig give you the food in the predetermined (and too low!) calorie allotments, Weight Watchers lets you use points instead of calories (I don't get why that is easier)... but when you are done "dieting" you have to eat real food and it is hard to know how many calories are in real food or even how many you can eat to maintain a healthy weight if you never had to figure this out. That spells disaster and a lot of money for these dieting companies as their clients will ultimately need continued help. I am not on a "diet". By taking things one step at a time I have been able to slowly and painlessly adjust my lifestyle. I believe that keeping a food diary is the most important thing you can do in trying to reach and maintain a *healthy* weight. It gives you the awareness you need to actually be mindful of what you are eating and that is the difference between gaining and losing! Good luck!