So I thought it would be worth it to try to put all the best information I've come across in one place.
Losing weight is a basic science principal: burn more calories than you are taking in.
No miracle pills, no secrets, nothing really confusing about it, if you intake fewer calories than you output in a day you will lose weight rather than gain it.
So, count your calories.
I use LoseIt, which is a pretty great free app and website with a large database of foods with calories already figured out. I plan ahead the meals that I can and try to make overall healthy choices. But by knowing the calories in all my favorite food I'm still able to eat pizza and enjoy chocolate. If you decide to do LoseIt feel welcome to add me as a friend (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Schedule your workouts.
I'm serious. If you think, I'll go for a run sometime Saturday, but haven't set an actual time and location, you won't do it. I speak from a whole lot of experience here, and unless you are a person that really really just loves to workout, you need to schedule it.
Here's what a typical workout week looks like for me (in case anyone was curious):
Monday: 6:30-7:20am Swim Laps
7:00-7:45pm Refit Dance Fitness
Tuesday: 6:00-6:30am Workout Video
Wednesday: 6:30-7:20am Swim Laps
6:30-7:00pm Run or Family Walk
Thursday: 6:00-6:30am Workout Video
Friday: 6:30-7:20am Swim Laps
Saturday: Varies by week depending on what we're doing.
Drink water. All the time.
Yes, water is boring compared to the possibility of ___________ (insert your favorite soda here). But water is 0 calories. Your body needs it. Drinking more of it helps other systems in your body and helps clear up your skin if you're like me and still struggle with acne. I aim to drink 64oz a day, because if your body feels it's not getting adequate water the scale will tell you that you're gaining weight.
I'm sure there's science behind that, but I'm not enough of a science person to understand it.
Track your progress.
And do it in multiple ways. Yes, the scale is a fantastic tool. Personally I weigh myself first thing every morning because it gets my day started thinking about my goal and what I'm working toward. But the scale won't always tell you what you hope to see. Measure to count inches, take weekly progress pictures, time your run or how long you can hold a plank. Seeing improvement in any way is the absolute best motivation to keep going.
Don't reward yourself with food.
You're not a dog, you don't need a food treat when you've done something good.
This was hard for me, because in college my reward for finishing a paper was to go get a milkshake. Or a burger. Or mozzarella sticks. So what I've had to do is find other ways to reward myself. For example, when I hit 165 lbs, I gave myself $10 to go to the bookstore in town and get a couple new books. When I hit 150, I get a pedicure.
Obviously this is going to look different for everyone, but write it out, post it where you will see it, and do it in increments that make sense for you (for me it was every 5 lbs).
Plan your meals.
If you have a menu and all the ingredients already in your house, the temptation to run through a drive through on the way home from work shrinks considerably. Do the same with lunch and snacks. Currently at work here are the snacks I keep on hand for my morning and afternoon snack:
Protein Balls (oats, honey, peanut butter, dark chocolate)
When I get something new, I get super excited to use it, and since I know that about myself, I've basically tricked myself by purchasing things used for workouts.
New workout tank top? I should go for a run!
New pretty tumbler? Guess who drank all 64 oz of water today!
And when I got down 28 pounds I needed an extra push, so I got a Fitbit Flex. It taps perfectly into my competitive side and I went down two pounds last week.
Take advantage of your Sunday.
My work week runs 8-5 M-F. So on Sunday I take some time in the afternoon to pack my gym bag, pack snacks to take to the office, make sure all my workout gear is somewhere near, charge my iPod if I'm going to need it, and declutter my house. If I wake up in the morning and the house is a mess I will sometimes avoid my workout by loading the dishwasher and picking up toys off the living room floor. If those things are already handled there is no excuse to not get my workout on.
Down 30 pounds!