At this point, I made a rapid transition to counting every day. I actually felt uncomfortable not doing so. I felt as if I didn't have enough of a feel for how much I was eating on the days when I wasn't counting. I also had grown sufficiently used to the laborious task of calorie tracking that it didn't seem quite as troublesome as it did initially. It simply became part of my regular routine at this stage.
The final stage is to calorie count every day of the week at a level which you can manage. For me, that level is 1600-1800 per day at present. Note that it may become easier as you lose more weight to eat less as you will be operating with a body that demands fewer calories. For example, at around 300 lbs, your body will want 3500 calories per day to stay at that weight. Cutting back to 1800-2000 calories per day is a large deficit at that weight and will be hard. When you reach around 200 lbs., that number drops to 2700 for maintaining your weight. The lighter body will demand less so cutting back more should be less hard on your body.
My plan from now until I lose all of the weight I'd like to, and possibly beyond, is to vary the numbers a little based on how I'm feeling or how hungry I happen to be. I try to hit 1600 everyday, but sometimes land at 1500, 1700, or 1800. I'm okay with this, and I think it is better to mix up the number of calories you consume. With any luck, at this point you've learned a bit about the way you eat and the way your body works and can know when you want to eat because you are genuinely hungry and when you want to eat out of boredom or to ease stress.
Once you have lost all of the weight you want to, you can then adjust your eating slowly upward to the point where you can maintain your weight. It shouldn’t be appreciably different from what you have been doing all along. If you’ve been eating 1500 calories, for instance, another 500 calories may be as little as adding a latte and a Danish into your daily eating plan. (A clarification since I seem to have worded this poorly based on comments: I'm not suggesting anyone eat these things, but rather showing just how close this eating pattern is to your total daily number even at a healthy weight. If you are eating 1500 calories per day, you are near a style of eating that you can continue forever. You can add occasional splurges, or you can eat a little more, but you can never eat a ton more. Following this will put your eating in a place where you won't have to change much after you lose all the weight you want to.) You will already have a good idea of what you can eat based on your calorie counting habits. This is my hope for myself as of March 2010. I'll see if things work out that way in the future.
For me, I have been able to develop a relationship with food whereby I can eat small amounts of “treats” daily. I can have one or two squares of a chocolate bar, a small amount of cake or one cookie. I can have some salted treats. I can do this because I used the plan detailed above to get control and to work out an understanding of the relative ‘cost” of a food to my overall food consumption for the day. Generally, I view my calorie totals like a budget. I can’t spend more money than I make or I go into debt. I can’t eat more than I burn in a day or I gain weight. Eating less than my body requires is like saving money. Every calorie I don’t consume will allow me to lose weight.
Some days, I do very well and things are easy. Other days, I struggle and bump up against or go slightly over what I’d like my day’s total to be. That being said, if I were to eat like this for the rest of my life, I would never gain weight since I so rarely consume more than 2000 calories and so often eat between 1500-1800. Even on this slow plan, I have lost 100 lb. in about 6 months.