1. Decide to act. Now. Not tomorrow or next week. Start this very minute. It's okay. Really. You don't have to give up your cake or cookies or ice cream so there's no reason to put it off.
2. Use SparkPeople.com, Fitday.com, CalorieCountPlus or a similar free calorie counting service.
3. Calculate your BMI (if the number seems absurd try the Better Ideal Weight Calculator). This will help you get an idea of where you should be weight-wise. Don't act like it's the ultimate number or something though, these things are just a guide.
4. Be willing to embrace the idea that the things you think you are doing right are probably part of the problem. We all carry around ideas of what we should or shouldn't be eating to lose weight. Guess what? They are probably wrong. Be open to new suggestions. If you can't let go of your old dieting myths the odds are very much against you.
5. Take a few days and eat normally while entering everything you eat into the calorie counter. Don't worry about dieting at this moment. What you want to do is see where your problem areas are.
6. SparkPeople has tools to calculate what your calorie intake should be to lose the weight you want in the time you want. Be careful not to be overly ambitious. Anything more than one or two pounds a week (depending on your size) is not only unrealistic, it's not good for you. Tone down your expectations and you will be more likely to succeed.
7. Once you have a few days of calorie data look at what you've been eating. Charts and data tables make this easy. Identify your weak spots. Are you doing okay overall, but your cheese intake is sending you over your target? Or was it those bagels with cream cheese each morning? Or maybe that fast-food lunch? Whatever it is will soon become obvious. And the cool thing about this site is that it's specific to you, not someone else.
8. Armed with this new knowledge, adjust your eating/cooking habits. This doesn't have to be a major change and you can do it slowly. Perhaps it's enough to leave cheese off that turkey sandwich, or switch from bagels to a lighter calorie cereal with skim milk, or select something not so calorie heavy at lunch. This is the cool thing. Doing it this way is flexible and you don't have to embark on a complete re-design of what you eat/cook. Becoming aware of the calories in food will help you make the smarter choices. And if you have that cake, cookie, or ice cream it's not a big deal, you just have to make up for it somewhere else. Keep entering your food intake into the log each day until you have it dialed in.
9. Don't give up. The first few weeks are brutal. Not only is your body rebelling, but you're having to adjust the way you see your world, the way you shop, the selections you make at a restaurant. Although these are small changes, it can seem overwhelming. That's okay. Join in the forums and support groups online. There are lots of support options available to you. You don't have to do it alone!
10. Relax. Don't obsess over your weight. Plateaus happen. Keep believing in yourself and they will pass.
11. Exercise, exercise, exercise.