I used to weigh 260lbs 2 years ago, and my original goal was 180lbs. I now weigh 190lbs and have stopped actively losing weight because I feel comfortable in my body now. Right now my goal is to maintain a healthy body.
Some things I learned along the way:
Calorie budgets are the *only* way to lose weight. Just like making more money than you spend is the only way to save money, burning more calories than you consume is the only way to lose fat.
Don't fall for those "low-carb", "low-fat", paleo, or any other restriction diets.
Eating less is a *lot* easier than burning more. If exercise is your thing, then power to you, but it's way easier for me to not eat a hamburger than it is to run 2 miles. Saves time too.
Eat food you like - in realistic portions. Don't try to eat nothing but soybeans and rice or starve yourself. You'll go nuts and binge.
Packaged food is designed to be addictive. Try to cook your own meals. It's also cheaper. I'm terrible at this lol.
Use "filler" foods. Lettuce and most veggies will fill you up, but have virtually no calories. Same goes for unsugared liquids, so make sure to drink enough.
Only eat when you're hungry. And don't force yourself to eat breakfast if you aren't hungry in the morning.
Celebrate every 5-10lbs - but not with food (maybe a little is ok...)
Don't snack when you're bored.
Count. Every. Calorie. After a while you can accurately guess, but I know when I started I had an unrealistic perception of how much I was actually eating!
Okay, I had to highlight the first two, because - well let me just say that what works for you doesn't necessarily work for everyone.
On your last one, I agree. For anyone embarking on a weight loss journey, that first day/week/month of calorie counting is an eye-opener! When I first lost weight in 2002, I "cut back" my food intake, then wrote down every bite for a month. After a month, I went back and counted the calories. It was freaking 2400 to 3000 !! After cutting back! (5'2" and female, and active, but not that active!)
Well, 14 years and two kids later, and now over 40 - calorie budgets *may* work but they might not. "Necessary but not sufficient" is a term my boss used.
In my own personal experience, I've found that over 40 weight is more stubborn, and *what* I eat matters much more. When it comes to any food that affects my blood sugar especially.
As an example, in 2014 I was focused mostly on losing the baby weight. I started the year at 168 pounds. By September I was in the low 150's.
I wasn't counting calories, per se, but I was using a portion program, where each type of food was a different color/ size of container. So, it's basically calorie counting.
In September and October, I lost 2 pounds each month.
In November, I decided to try something different - I stuck to the same plan. I changed my carbs. I was eating two 1/2 cup servings of "high carb" foods per day - whole wheat bread, corn, peas, beans, oatmeal, pasta, rice. Treats also fell into this category, so a glass of wine could be subbed occasionally, or a little bit of dark chocolate, or some raisins/ dried fruit.
For November I eliminated sugar, wheat and alcohol. I had the same # of carbohydrate calories and servings per day. But they were *only* beans, corn, peas, oats, rice, corn tortillas, potatoes. No treats whatsoever. I lost SEVEN pounds that month.
A calorie is not necessarily a calorie. And when it comes to finding what works, you may find that what works when you are 20 doesn't work when you are 30, or 40. I've certainly had to make tweaks over the years.
Luckily I lost all the baby weight by end of last year, and at 46, no more babies here. Now it's about maintenance.