1500 calories a day, with 150g protein to keep hunger away. DON'T try to exercise the pounds off, counterintuitively enough.
Consider it a nice round number. They say the average man needs 2500 calories a day just to maintain his weight (a little more if you're heavy-set), and the average woman needs 2000. Consume less on an ongoing basis and you lose weight. Maybe 1500 calories is too aggressive/ambitious for your purposes, which is fine. Make it 1800 calories or whatever best suits you. (Myself, I rarely hit 1500 exactly, but I usually keep it below 1600.)
One way or another, it takes a deficit of 3500 calories to lose a pound. Expect weight loss to be a gradual thing; it's hard to lose more than two pounds a week. On the other hand, that's 100 pounds a year, assuming it's sustainable.
Protein is a source of calories too -- about as dense as carbohydrates (roughly 4 calories per gram, while fat is about 9 calories per gram) -- but protein takes a long time to process. Rather than give you a spike of energy and then you come down, it will give you a steady burn that will help you feel full. That's why I recommend protein; your mileage may vary. Eat whatever makes you feel full, so long as you can hit 1500 calories (or whatever). Drink lots of hotdog water if that's what works for you; just keep the calories within bounds.
But in my experience anyway, protein is the best appetite suppressant.
Okay, here: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/82/1/41/4863422
There's a lot of science there, but this seems to be the takeaway: "A more important mechanism by which dietary protein promotes weight loss appears to be its ability to produce greater satiety than do other macronutrients."
Another consideration from that article: it may be the reason that low-fat and low-carb diets sometimes work is because they involve increased protein. It's really the protein that's doing the important part.
Surprisingly, no. That protein thing seems to really work. There are days I want to eat more, and as with all diets, I allow myself some "cheat" days. It's better to give in once in a while than to give up. But most days I can keep it to 1500 calories or thereabouts.
For the first few days, yes. I admit it involved a couple false starts. Eventually my body figured out what was going on and started tapping into fat reserves, while expecting that I'd be consuming high levels of protein. After a while it became the new normal.
In retrospect, what I should have done was introduce high protein foods into my diet so that I got used to them, and then started dieting. Then it would have been easier to make the change.
And I don't know if anyone else is this way, but I discovered that I had a psychological hurdle to clear. At some point I realized that I was so unnerved by hunger pangs that I had spent most of my life eating so as to never experience them. That meant eating too much. That meant eating as soon as I reached that point of no longer feeling full. I was 100% certain that I was not eating until I was genuinely hungry, but my brain was subconsciously telling me I needed to eat before I was actually hungry. I had to understand that about myself, and then practice feeling comfortable(-ish) with hunger pangs, to move past it. I wonder if other people are in the same boat, just as unwittingly as I was.
It really works! I lost eight inches around my waist in six months, and kept them off. If it worked for me, it might work for you too. I'm not selling anything; I just know how demoralizing it is to not know how to shed pounds, so I thought I'd share my success.
No! Atkins is terrible; it functions by tricking your body into thinking it's starving. I'm just advocating a significant caloric deficit and then a way to make that deficit comfortable, with no Atkins-style metabolic trickery.
Here are some protein sources to turn to. Each of these portion sizes is 250 calories, so you could do six of these a day, in whatever combinations or schedules you prefer:
I try to observe a ten-to-one ratio: if you're getting 250 calories, you want at least 25g of protein to go with it. Not all those foods quite hit that standard, but they're at least ballpark.
This is not an exhaustive list! It's a few ideas to get you started, and help you spot groceries that might be in line with the ten-to-one rule.
Sure, why not. Some taste better than others, and some of them have no taste at all. Throw a scoop in whatever you're cooking, and recalculate the numbers accordingly.
Yes! And the good news is, despite the rumors among vegans, you don't have to balance the amino acids you consume to construct "complete proteins". That idea was popularized in the original printing of "Diet for a Small Planet" in 1971, but by the second printing, on the basis of better information, the author retracted that whole point. Yes, you do need to eventually consume the entire set of amino acids, but you needn't get them all at the same time with some ridiculous food juggling act. Per the second edition (1981): "With three important exceptions, there is little danger of protein deficiency in a plant food diet. The exceptions are diets very heavily dependent on  fruit or on  some tubers, such as sweet potatoes or cassava, or on  junk food (refined flours, sugars, and fat). Fortunately, relatively few people in the world try to survive on diets in which these foods are virtually the sole source of calories. In all other diets, if people are getting enough calories, they are virtually certain of getting enough protein." Long story short: keep your diet varied and you'll get the full amino acid set. (If you have any doubts, eat some soy, which contains the whole set.)
I find that seitan is especially useful. Wheat gluten is cheap (online), you can flavor it how you like, and it's so protein-dense that it "allows" you to be bad. You could eat seitan made from a half cup of wheat gluten, have a Klondike bar for dessert, and the totals would be 490 calories and 48g of protein. Yes I am saying that seitan allows you to cheat all over the place and still hit your numbers. (Though you still have to monitor your numbers for this to work!)
Sure, try The Protein Chef. Recipes upon recipes, with calorie and protein counts (see below).
You heard correctly! Chicken paprikash, when prepared per this recipe (i.e. fat-free sour cream and TVP), will yield ten 10 oz servings of 250 calories and 40g protein. And it's a seriously good recipe, and simple too.
Yes! Lean pork fits into this system, so add the appropriate sausage spices to ground pork and you've got sausage.
Here's a very basic recipe: 1 cup wheat gluten, 2 tsp ground mustard, 1 tsp minced onion, 1 tsp granulated garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper. Make a ball of dough out of the gluten and spices. Knead it for a few minutes. Bake for 20 minutes at 275 degrees, flip it, bake for another 20 minutes. 500 calories and 92g protein.
Try this: 1 cup wheat gluten, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, and maybe add raisins if you like. Make a ball of dough out of the gluten and spices, knead it for a few minutes. Bake it for 20 minutes at 275 degrees, flip it, let it cook another 20 minutes. 600 calories and 92g protein, plus however many calories apply because of raisins.
Lentils are very good with tomatoes and basil, and there are a thousand lentil chili recipes online. Wheat gluten can be fashioned into pseudo-meat. Italian sausage plus mozzarella cheese plus tomatoes is delicious. Tofu, a potato masher, and spices can simulate all kinds of food.
Not so many great ones. The biggest problem with fast food is how carb-centered it is: there's usually bread, and bread tends to be high calorie but low protein. Unsurprisingly, your best options will involve lean meats like chicken, with a minimum of bread. A lot of salads too.
Here is my best stab at some fast food options that are within the ten-to-one range, or thereabouts.
I do a lot of diet beverages and sugar-free Jello. And on days when I haven't reached 1500 calories, I might eat something that's delicious but bad for me.
Yeah, you will. You'll also have to count protein. That sounds like a pain, but remember: you got heavy exactly because you took in more calories than you were expending. To fix the problem, you'll need to start paying attention to how many calories, so you can figure out best options. It's just two numbers to keep track of.
This is where portioning ahead of time helps: if you know that a one-third pound sausage patty is 250 calories and ten ounces of paprikash is another 250 calories, put them together and you're a third of the way done for the day.
No, but bear in mind that calories add up, and 1500 calories isn't much to work with. You'll quickly find you need to choose your calories strategically.
Bread, in particular, is probably something you'll largely cut out of your diet. As nutritious as bread is for normal people, in the weight loss arena it's basically empty calories.
I said not to try to exercise the pounds off. That does not preclude limited exercise; the goal isn't to be bedridden, after all.
But, exercise doesn't burn many calories, but it makes you hungry (or at least it makes me hungry). That makes exercise the ENEMY of weight loss, surprisingly enough.
Consider that walking a mile consumes around 120 calories. That means you'd have to walk around 30 miles to sweat off just a single pound. Now, how hungry will 30 miles of walking make you? Hungry enough to consume 3500 calories, I bet.
So let your metabolism do the heavy lifting here. Go about your normal routine with a 1500-calorie/150g-protein diet, and let the pounds take care of themselves. Besides, it'll put less stress on your body to exercise after you're lighter.
It's funny, after losing a bunch of weight and then getting tired of a fairly restrictive diet, I found it hard to get back into the swing of dieting. Part of the problem was that I no longer felt the sense of panic as when I first started this diet: I'd reached a point where I was so confident that I knew how to take the weight off, I could just start tomorrow and it would be fine.
What I wish I had done -- and therefore will recommend you do -- is keep a journal of triumphs. Make a record of all the rewarding changes you notice as the pounds come off. "October 4 - can finally zip up that jacket comfortably." "May 15 - walked through Home Depot and was not even breathing heavy." "June 27 - pulled the belt one inch tighter (total of five inches lost)." Keep a record of that sort of thing and then revisit it if you need a reminder of how far you've come.