There once was a gal who ate food
About it she tried to be shrewd.
Eat just enough, though that can be tough...
But worth it, she's had to conclude.
One of the most important things I have learned on My Quest for Health and Fitness is that you need to choose a way to eat (and a way to exercise) that you can live with, For Life. That means you are not on a diet (and you are not "just trying to tone up for summer"), you are in it for the long haul. And for me, the only way to accomplish that is to eat the healthiest, lowest calorie manifestation of whatever it is that will satisfy me...if nothing will do besides a 12 piece nugget meal (complete with fries) at Chick Fil A, then that is what I eat. But a lot of time I will be perfectly happy with a grilled chicken and brown rice salad - a similar meal, being that it is hot, cooked protein and carb - but definitely a healthier and lower calorie choice. Doing this will cut down on your calories and up your nutritional intake more than you realize.
Thinking about some foods as "bad" and others as "good" is setting yourself up for failure. It is much better to just eat a normal portion of the food you are craving and get it over with. It is also better to make healthy foods a little less healthy if you won't eat them otherwise - I am not a big fan of salad without real bacon bits on it. If I don't have the bacon bits, I am unlikely to eat that big salad. I finally realized that it is better for me to eat it with bacon bits on it than not eat it at all.
After you have been thinking about this for a while, it will become more second nature. You will learn what substitutions you can make and still be content - for example, instead of eating a 4-inch-square brownie with probably 400 calories, see if your desire for chocolate is satisfied by two squares of really good chocolate - more like 100 calories. I recently made a perfectly satisfying pan of chicken enchiladas with green sauce, using a FULL 2/3 LESS pepper jack cheese than the recipe called for. I even used reduced fat cheese, which I don't normally do, but I actually prefer the reduced fat in pepper jack...anyway, it was not as gooey and greasy and cheesy as "normal" enchiladas, but my taste buds were happy and I did not have to feel like I squandered a whole day's worth of calories in one meal.
Occasionally, you will do that, too. And it's not a big deal.
But if you do it every day, and then eat 2 more meals and maybe snacks that day as well, you will be overweight. But if you are mindful, you will learn to balance out those nummy indulgences with a few days of lighter eating.
So, taking into consideration that I am not any kind of certified anything as far as health and nutrition, and I still have some fat on me - here is my advice. It has helped me lose and keep off 30 or 35 lbs:
1) Don't eat too much in general - watch your portions. Learn to know when you are Pleasantly Satisfied Rather Than Full. This takes time to learn.
2) Eat the healthiest, lowest calorie choice of food that will satisfy you. Make substititions and try different ways of getting that taste you want. You will be surprised how often something smaller, or with fewer calories but a similar taste, will do it. And I am not talking gross low fat pretend versions of the good stuff. Definitely, have the good stuff in a normal portion if that's what you really want. But I have found that most of the time I am just as satisfied having a full cup of non fat greek yogurt, with a spoonful of sugar and coffee powder (about 160 calories) as I would be having 1/2 cup of Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream, at 270 calories.
3) Add healthy extras to the food you are eating - put enough romaine lettuce on those chicken tacos to equal a salad; put spinach on your homemade pizza, etc. All those nutrients add up.