I've spoken with several friends and coworkers about nutrition and fitness. Anyway, I've found myself repeating the same thing frequently, so I thought I'd just summarize it here. So, I would recommend the following for anyone trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
1. First off, there are two books I would recommend reading that should open one's eyes - The Paleo Diet (http://www.thepaleodiet.com/) and Good Calories, Bad Calories (http://www.amazon.com/Good-Calories-Bad-Gary-Taubes/dp/1400040787). Both books discuss how the inclination for fat deposition is driven by insulin - which is elevated through the consumption of carbohydrates. The Paleo Diet is more specific regarding the recommended foods and food to avoid.
2. Armed with this knowledge, clean out the kitchen. If you don't have bad foods in the house, you can't eat them. Avoid take-out and learn to cook healthy. It is not easy at first, but after a few weeks, it is real easy avoiding the bad actors. Bottom line: Get rid of the processed crap from the cupboard. Eliminate all pasta, flour, bread, rice, potatoes, and most importantly sugar from the house. Note that this includes sugar substitutes.
3. Plan and cook healthy meals. Weekends are great to decide what to make for the upcoming week, go out and shop for that stuff and have it all available for cooking later in the week. It eliminates the excuse that there is nothing to make for dinner. And leftovers are great. Avoid the temptations at work or elsewhere. This is where it helps to have a friend or spouse on board with the plan; you can hold each other accountable for behaving. The book has some recipes to get started in the back, or try this web site: http://www.paleodiet.com/ - note different source than the book, but the same idea. After a while, it will be natural and you'll know what's good and bad. Several of the links, and blog rolls also discuss recipes, etc.
4. Get active. It is not necessary to join a gym, but that is helpful. I live right off of a main road, plus there is over a foot of snow down on the ground right now, so outdoor activities are limited. The key is short-intenste exercise. Steady state cardio is not helpful. Look at the classic case of the marathoner vs. the sprinter. Which one is the one you want to look like? Art Devaney (http://www.arthurdevany.com/index.php) describes this in his theory of Evolutionary Fitness. In summary, the short, intense exercises develop fast-twitch muscle fibers that use a bunch more energy (and hence burn fat) than slow twitch muscle fibers. This also helps to promote a hormonal response and gene expression (talks for another day).
5. Do some research to see what others are doing. The links show people who have had extreme success with a Paleo lifestyle. Yes, this takes a while to read through the history sometimes, but after a few pages, I think people will see a trend of nutrition and fitness. A summary of some clear examples of success are:
Jeff Erno (http://ernoj.blogspot.com/). Jeff has been following a Paleo Diet for almost a year, has most of his family on it and has driven his body fat down to 8%. Check out the pix from July and you'll see one cut mo-fo.
Keith Norris (http://theorytopractice.wordpress.com/). This guy is ripped also - and extremely knowledgeable regarding nutrition and fitness.
Richard (http://www.freetheanimal.com/root/) who has lost 60 lb of fat and one of the most prolific posters I've seen.
Anyway, that's the crux of getting started. Here's to good health in 2009!