Basic dieting DONT'S -
Don't drink regular coke, dr. pepper, sprite, etc. or other sugary drinks. This includes sweet tea for southern people
Don't add table sugar to anything
Don't skip breakfast
Don't overeat (duh!)
Don't eat processed foods like twinkies, little debbie's ANYTHING, or most anything that comes in a box, etc
Don't eat fast food (unless you have to then look for a salad with low fat dressing)
Don't eat candy bars
Don't eat carbs (rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, etc) with your last meal of the day
Don't go too long without eating
Don't eat only once or twice a day
Don't eat haphazardly
Don't eat your kids leftover food. Moms sometimes have a bad habit of eating those last few chicken nuggets or fries left over from the little ones. When you're dieting you don't have a lot of room for error.
Don't think of dieting as "dieting". That implies that it is temporal. Think of it as a new lifestyle of eating. After all, what's the point in putting in the hard work if you don't make permanent changes to keep it off?
Don't sit around and do nothing. MOVE!
Now for the Do's -
Do drink water. Add lemon or some crystal light to it if you need to for flavor. A gallon a day is a good goal. I generally drink two. Water with lemon added is a natural appetite suppressor. Diet drinks aren't bad but they are a distance second option, and you should still be getting in as much water as you can each day.
This is good.
This is bad...on so many levels.
Do use Splenda or Equal to sweeten instead of sugar. This one is pretty simple.
Do eat breakfast. Do not violate the processed food "don't" by eating pop-tarts or some "breakfast bar". Have oatmeal and a yogurt or some malt-o-meal and a glass of milk. Yes oatmeal and malt-o-meal come in a box, however these are exceptions to the "don't eat anything out of a box" rule. These are simple meals to get you started for the right way for the day. Make the time for them.
You should get to know this guy ladies. He can make you feel good.
Do learn portion control and DO learn how to count calories. Losing weight/fat is still nothing more than calories in vs calories out. A portion is around the size of your fist. And do not put on Incredible Hulk Halloween gloves to justify larger portions. Counting calories is the one sure fire way to lose weight. If you burn more calories than you eat each day, you lose fat. It really is THAT simple. That's it! No tricks!
You cannot buy and wear these to figure out portion size.
Do eat natural foods. They don't have to be organic (though that is great if you can do that), but I'm talking about things that can be killed or grown for the most part (there are some exceptions, like bacon). That means lean protein sources like fish, chicken, turkey, and occasionally beef. You can eat all the vegetables your heart desires so long as they aren't fried (I'm a southern guy so I know what goes on).
Do eat snacks like peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and fruit. Nuts have good fats in them that will satiate you longer and keep your blood sugar in balance. Fruits will give you a sweet tooth fix without adding in 1 bazillion calories like that super sized snickers bar (and yes I think a snickers bar tastes damn good too, but I don't eat em. Ok sometimes one sneaks in but it's one of those tiny ones).
You should experiment with a variety of nuts.
Do eat a ton of veggies at your last meal along with some sort of good fat to satiate you longer. Most people overeat carbohydrates in the evenings, then do very little afterward. This is fat gain waiting to happen. Sticking with a lean protein source, vegetables, and small amount of good fat (like safflower or olive oil) with your last meal of the day is a better choice.
Do have snacks between meals. That's right, have snacks between meals. It's pretty easy to figure out what a small snack would be if you read the "DO" section more closely. A small cup of yogurt with a half a handful of almonds will work. A small bowl of cottage cheese with pineapple isn't a bad choice either. Look for healthy eating between meals to keep your blood sugar stable through the day and your appetite under control.
Do eat multiple times a day. This is far better than skipping breakfast, eating a modest lunch then eating like a ravenous male lion upon arriving at a fresh buffalo carcass. Most people I talk to trying to lose weight eat this way. It doesn't work (duh that's why they are talking to me). Even if you were going to eat two meals a day you'd be better off eating a gigantic breakfast, a moderate lunch, then no dinner (bet you don't like the sound of that!). Shoot for 3 solid meals a day with two or three small snacks.
This will not be listed on any weight loss diet in the galaxy.
Do plan your meals and eat at home a lot. Get a sheet of paper out and write down breakfast, lunch, dinner, and your snacks for the whole week. This way you don't feel like you are dieting aimlessly. People also tend to overeat when they eat out because portions can be bigger or they can be tempted by their favorite foods. You should figure out the calories of the meals you plan and see what your daily total adds up to. I highly recommend caloriecount.about.com to get started. I use it and my wife does as well. You can eat healthy at most fast food places now, and if that's the only choice you have go with something like a grilled chicken salad with a low fat dressing. However most people don't eat healthy at fast food places, so just avoid them for the most part unless you have no choice.
Do reward yourself. When I am in a fat loss mode I have a cheat meal or even a cheat day every 14 days. I used to try once every 7 days but I found I made better progress if I limited it to once every 14. I also noticed that the longer I went without cheating, the less I had cravings for anything "bad". However if I had been good long enough, I would allow myself something out of the norm. This gives you a short term goal to look forward to. Especially at first. If you have been right on the money for 10-14 days allowing yourself a piece of cake or a few slices of pizza gives your mind a break and rewards yourself. And it won't hurt the fat loss process in the long run. In fact a lot of times it may help, as the surplus of calories can give a slowing metabolism a kick start again. Just make sure and don't go overboard. Don't eat a whole cake or a whole box of doughnuts and wash it down with a gallon of chocolate milk (I've done both plenty of times and regretted it each time). Limits still exist on the cheat meal or cheat day.
Do set proper goals. I can't tell you how important this is. The scale is fine, but the mirror and your clothes do a better job of letting you know how things are going. If you have a favorite pair of pants that you haven't been able to squeeze into for a long time, set them out somewhere so that they are a constant reminder. Take pictures in a swim suit from the front and back in a relaxed pose. I warn you though, this one can be shocking if you haven't really looked at yourself in a critical manner in a while (esp from the rear in a bathing suit! Be prepared!). Glance at those pictures when you feel the urge to cheat or stray from the path, because it will happen. Everyone has weak moments. Setting goals and using visual references to help keep you straight can be a big help.
There is nothing more rewarding than setting a goal, and seeing it through!
DO EXERCISE! DO MOVE! I think how you eat is probably the biggest factor in what the weight scale reads, but how you LOOK in the mirror is a reflection of your diet AND function. In other words, the body becomes its function. If you ask your body to do sprints, and lift weights, and climb stairs for 4-6 hours a week it will reflect that. Especially if your diet is dialed in. If you ask your body to further wear your butt groove into the couch, well, people will say you do in fact LOOK like a couch potato, just maybe not to your face.
From a high level overview, here is what a good day of eating could look like -
Breakfast - Oatmeal, Raisins, Yogurt, Coffee, Water
Snack - Cottage cheese, Pineapple
Lunch - Grilled chicken salad with lowfat dressing and a small baked potato
Snack - Half a cup of almonds and an apple
Dinner - Grilled fish with vegetables and a small amount of olive oil
What you would need to do here is figure out your portion sizes and the calories in those portion sizes. There is 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. So if you are in the negative of 500 calories a day of your maintenance level, it takes around a week to lose a pound. This is not an exact science however and some people lose more or less for a variety of reasons. However a pound to a pound and a half a week is just about right.
As you can see, the DO list has a lot more words than the don't list. My reasoning for doing so is because knowing why you are doing something is more important than putting time into understand what not to do. I could expound on the DON'T list but the truth is, you probably know the answers to those. You don't really need for me to tell you that washing down two ding-dongs with a 62 ounce Dr. Pepper is bad for you, do you? No, I really don't. You already REALLY know that bacon and doughnuts are bad.
Again...not on a single freaking weight loss diet in the galaxy! You know better.
Changing your eating habits will take some time before it feels natural. But once you get into the groove of things eating healthy 90% of the time will not be hard. On our honeymoon the wife and I went on a cruise, and were able to eat all sorts of extravagant food. At first we enjoyed ourselves, but by the 4th day all we could think about was getting home to some baked chicken and rice. So don't think about "dieting" think about a lifestyle change of eating properly and your body will thank you for it.
In closing let me say that creating a diet plan is very, very simple. The difficult part is sticking to it. Make no mistake about it, you WILL get hungry. There is simply no getting around that. And your body and mind will tell you to eat. It does not want to lose fat or make changes. This is where you must find the warrior in you to push through that crap and chew some gum and drink more water with lemon. Nothing worth having comes easy. There is no weight loss lottery where you wake up thin and sexy overnight. But there is also nothing more rewarding than setting a tough goal and achieving it. So get your paper out, plan your meals, take some measurements and pictures and step on the scale. Write it all down then write what you want those things to say, and write down a legitimate time frame (remember that 1 to 1.5 pounds a week I talked about) to achieve those goals. Don't let anything deter you from achieving it. Then when you do, have some doughnuts and snickers that day! But get right back on the wagon afterwards and set new and more even more difficult goals.