DSMrob (and everyone else!) I noticed that some of you in this thread have talked about a "diet'. Please use that word to mean your food intake. What I mean is if you keep trying "diets", like the Hollywood thing or the Adkins thing or the 3Beans-a Day thing or whatever the hell the latest trend is you will languish in failure and get discouraged.
Change your DIET....dont "diet"!
I started riding on my Trek FX 7.5 over 2 years ago as a 6'3" 260 pounder who couldn't go 2 miles and walked his bike the last half mile home for a month. Now as of this morning I am a 211 pounder who stays out on my Cervelo race bike for 4 hour training rides on Sundays along with my weekday training and who just passed 3000 miles year-to-date.
Rob, and Jarrett, and Ursa....you can all do it!!! Just ride to feel good and push yourselves a little bit...enough to sweat more than you are and burn your legs....the feeling is astounding and will make you want to eat 2 pizzas when you're done.....but then you'll think about negating that good feeling you just gave yourself and you'll change things... you'll eat better, and drink better, and soon you'll notice yourself changing, and all the time feeling better and better. It is progressive and takes time, but you'll very quickly understand how much this simple machine can change your life!!!
Don't let anyone discourage you!
I agree with other posters, the relationship with the LBS is more important than the brand. Especially for a new cyclist who may not be comfortable doing their own maintenance. I also agree, that you should get wheels with a higher spoke count. Not sure what you budget is, but you could always but a second set of wheels.