Well I did it. I've gone from a size 18 to an 8 (and a 6 in some things).
Honestly, when I decided about 9 months ago that I was DONE being so heavy, I didn't think I would get this far. I figured if I got 40 lbs off, that would be huge, and probably the best I could hope for.
I credit much of my success to reading posts here. I cobbled together my own diet/exercise plan from reading what others have done. Initially I cut out the junk/fast food, and replaced them with the fresh fruits and veggies I had basically ignored for years. I didn't write down calories etc, but had an awareness of if I was eating low/high calorie.
I started Curves, going 6 days a week religiously.
As I started to see results, I started paying more attention to the food I was eating, and learned to not just see high calorie/low cal, but to understand what actual nutrition I was getting from everything. I can honestly say that the way I eat now, which I am extremely satisfied with, is not something I ever would have imagined. It's like once I started giving my body a chance to have REAL food, GOOD food, that's what it began to crave, and I have no desire to ever go back to the way I used to eat.
After about 6 months, I didn't feel like I was going to get any more out of Curves (though it was an excellent place for me to start, I think) and joined a real gym, working with real weights. Again, my motivation for this came from reading so many posts here. I read the New Rules of Weightlifting, do some of the things from there, and some I worked out with a trainer at the gym.
Trying not to write a novel here, but I really want to say to anybody just starting your weight loss project- just start. I did this in a looonng series of baby steps, and they led me further than I ever thought I could go, or even wanted to go. The most important thing I learned was that, once I got started, I felt sooooo good, that it was not only easy to keep going, but fun. I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined myself as a person who prefers the healthier fare in a restaurant, or who would be happy that my vacation spot had a gym handy (which I used!), that I would ENJOY working out....
I started this all because I was sick of the way I looked and knew I'd be less tired and achey if I took the weight off. I thought getting to a size 12 would be great. I can't tell you how fun it is to go to a clothing store and look forward to trying things on, having them look good on me, not having to buy things just because they fit... I love getting dressed for work every day in flattering clothes. And I thought that would be the most important thing. But knowing that I have muscles, tone, stamina, energy- I can't even describe how much better I feel. I feel about 10 years younger!
I'm going to call this goal, because this was my "unrealistic" number that I chose, since it puts me in a non overweight BMI. I feel pretty good about where I am, but figure continuing to lift weights, my body will still change some (still have some gut I'd like to see disappear!) I quit actively trying to lose a few weeks ago and seem to be doing pretty well on maintenance (fingers crossed). A great thing about lifting 3 x a week is I seem to burn a lot more calories now than I did even when I eating less and doing Curves 6x a week.
Anyway this has been long enough, but I'm so excited, and I have to say again that I got so much great advice and inspiration from here. Thanks to all of you, and good luck to everybody working towards your goals!