This is what worked for me: Eat small, balanced meals, avoid alcohol, and work out as though your life depends on it.
I counted calories for a couple months, until I got a pretty good handle on what my intake was. I eat 3 meals a day, but keep them relatively small. ALOT of fresh fruits & veggies, not so much fatty stuff (if anything I eat has fat in it, it’s cheese). It seems like I’m constantly eating, but my total calorie intake for the first half of the day adds up to around 500, which leaves me around 1000 to work with for my 3rd meal (I also blow a couple hundred calories on wine - gotta have my wine!).
It’s important not to starve yourself because your metabolism will ultimately slow down and it will make it much more difficult to lose weight. Keep your food intake fairly regular so your body doesn’t think it’s starving, just keep the calories low. Snack alot on low-calorie stuff. Don’t skip meals. I started noticing that when I skipped meals, my weight tended to stay the same for much longer and didn’t start to drop again until I started eating more regularly.
I try to stay within 1,500 calories a day. I also make an effort to burn at least 500 calories a day. This is where alot of people have problems because most people I talk to who are trying to diet don’t have time, or won’t make time, to exercise. I have a cheap membership at a local gym and I spend close to 2 hours a day there - mostly cardio because that’s where you burn the most calories, but also some weights to build up muscle.
My original goal when I started this “diet” was to lose 20 pounds. Now I’ve lost around 13 pounds, but I’ve also gained alot of muscle where I used to have fat so I’m actually pretty close to my target body image, even if I’m still above what I thought was my target weight. (the fact that my BF gets a hard-on when I walk in the room helps reinforce this idea)
It’s also important to remember that weight is completely relative. I have a close friend who is the same weight as me - actually a couple pounds lighter normally, she’s also the same height, but she’s got a lot more body fat, and less muscle mass, than I’ve got because she rarely works out.
Finally (I know, enough already!), it’s unhealthy to lose more than a couple pounds in a week. You’re also much more likely to gain the weight back if you go on that type of a diet. Weight that is lost more gradually will tend to stay off.