How Much we Eat
I couldn't do it by myself. I couldn't just "eat less" without help, and I suspect nobody can. Years of trying and failing convinced me I needed help, and I found it. Diet Power is a computer program which tracks your foods and your exercise. If you actually measure what you eat (estimating doesn't work very well at first, but after two weeks you can stop measuring everything) it will come very close to an accurate record of the calories in your food. And if you actually measure the time you spend vacuuming, doing calisthenics, or playing ping pong, it will measure the number of calories you spend each day in exercise. It knows about thousands of foods and hundreds of exercises, and you can even add your favorites to its list. (http://my.dietpower.com/MonicaRay - ordering from that page gets you a $5.00 discount.)
Given three numbers - calories eaten and calories expended, along with a daily or even weekly weigh-in, Diet Power will adjust the number of calories in your metabolic rate, over time, to be your actual metabolic rate, and the difference between calories in and calories out will really be your weight gain or weight loss. Using this program (well, actually I used a similar program at first, but I've used Diet Power for years, now) I lost about a pound a week for 33 weeks in 1991. And whenever I gained a few pounds, I used it again to take off the extra.
That's the gist of the eating method - write down (or enter into a computer program, 'cause it's easier) all that you eat, and write down or enter your exercise. If you keep it up, and measure fairly accurately, you'll find yourself eating less and exercising more. You are in control. If one more apple before bedtime will put you over the top of your desired calorie count, you'll know. Sometimes you'll eat it anyway, but most of the time you won't. Unconscious eating disappears, by definition, if you record everything.
What we Eat
Whether or not you're counting calories at this moment, what you eat makes a difference. I found that if I increase the carbohydrates in my diet, I increase my weight. If I lower the carbs I eat, I decrease my weight (or at least, I decrease my weight gain). Tony and I eat a moderately low-carb diet most of the time - about 1/3 of our calories are from carbohydrates, 1/3 from protein and 1/3 from fats. We don't eat bread, rice, crackers, chips, or other grains on a regular basis. We eat very few high-carb vegetables such as potatoes, yams and corn. Fruits are mostly berries, with an occasional tree-fruit such as apples.
Of course, we do cheat occasionally. When we go to a movie, sometimes I eat popcorn and Tony eats nachos. The occasional piece of birthday cake is also on the list. I was going to say "unavoidable", but it's not really unavoidable - we just choose not to avoid it. But mostly, we eat lots of low-carb veggies, meat, eggs, butter, cheese - a healthy diet.
Note: Fast food is mostly forbidden. Some fast-food salads are OK, but no burgers, fries, soft drinks, nachos, etc. There's a direct, strong relationship between the number of fast-food, or similar meals a person eats and their weight.
A Typical Day
Breakfast: I swallow my morning vitamins with a protein shake made with CytoSport Complete Whey and water. I put about three ounces of fresh yogurt in for consistency, taste, and to keep my intestinal flora healthy. I add one drop of iodine solution (for thyroid health) and a bit of magnesium citrate ('cause I don't eat enough greens to get my magnesium). Usually I also have an omelet, 'cause breakfast is my most important meal. I get hungry!
Lunch: Tony makes really great salads every morning: spinach or leaf lettuce (higher in vitamins), red bell peppers, fresh mushrooms, a sliced hard-boiled egg, tomato, olives, shredded cheddar cheese, some kind of meat, 1/4 cup of nuts for crunch, and salad dressing. Not a low-calorie meal, but definitely a low-carb one. Contrast this with fast food - ouch!
Snack: We keep cheese sticks and maybe some eggs or apples in a mini-fridge at work for snacks, along with some almonds or other nuts. Sometimes we snack, and sometimes we don't.
Supper: Some kind of meat or fish or eggs for protein and fat, broccoli or kale or carrots or yams. In the summer, some vegetable from the garden. Often we'll have two vegetables, or a veggie and a fruit.
Bedtime snack: We take more vitamins before bedtime with another protein shake.
Use real butter, not margarine. Fry with butter or coconut oil or olive oil, depending on the dish. Fry at low heat to avoid turning the good oils you started with into bad oils.
For creamed soups, try - well - cream! Or sour cream. Pour a bit of cream into chicken vegetable soup and it really dresses up the taste.
For creamy salad dressings, try a mixture of sour cream and cream or yogurt. Put a spoonful of sour cream in a small bowl and stir it until it's creamy, then add cream or yogurt, xylitol and some almond extract, and you have coleslaw dressing.
Keep xylitol in the house instead of sugar. Xylitol is good for teeth and bones, and you should have a little bit every day anyway - why not cook with it? Add a bit to the coleslaw dressing above, and it tastes great. It also helps the taste of sugar-free kool-aid. I make kool aid with ½ gallon water, ¼ cup xylitol, ½ teaspoon stevia (an herbal sweetener), and 2 teaspoons of crystalline ascorbic acid.
Make super-healthy omega-3 salad dressing yourself. Buy flax-seed oil from the refrigerated section of your co-op or grocery store (if it smells fishy, it's rancid). Use it as the oil in Italian dressing. Be sure to keep it refrigerated - flax-seed oil spoils quickly.
If you have the space, grow a garden. Picking your own organically grown vegetables is much cheaper than buying them, and they're absolutely fresh as well. No spots, and no lost vitamins due to age. You can sneak a few vegetables into a flower garden if that's all the space you have.
Cook extra turkeys in the winter time, and freeze the meat for salads and fresh soups. Maybe it's not organic, and maybe it has hormones in it, but at least it doesn't have the nitrites and other preservatives that seem to universally come in ham and lunch meats. I'm personally convinced that a lot of the health hazards cited in the studies of eating meat are caused by preserved meats, such as sausage, ham, bacon and lunch meat. According to a Harvard study reported on CNN ("Eating Processed Meat Raises Heart Disease Risk" CNN, 3/10/11, inhealth.cnn.com) It's only processed meats which raise he risk of heart disease and diabetes. Unprocessed meats, eaten in any quantity, do not.
Save the turkey broth (I skim off the fat) in the freezer, to use in the soups and in bean dishes and goulash. It adds body and flavor without monosodium glutamate.
Make your own yogurt. The bacteria in store-bought yogurt are mostly dead - a certain percentage die every day it's refrigerated. Yogurt you make yourself and eat within a few days is much more alive. Get a yogurt maker with individual cups, not a single large container, so you can use the last cup for a clean starter. Here is how to make yogurt reliably without a lot of work:
1. Pour a can of canned milk (it's already sterilized) into a clean pitcher. I use a 4-cup measuring cup because it has a handle and a pouring lip.
2. Add a can of water which has been mostly sterilized in your hot water heater. Run the hot water tap for a few seconds to flush out the cold water, then measure before the water actually gets hot.
3. With a clean spoon, skim the top off some existing yogurt, then moosh (yes, that's the technical term) what's underneath back and forth with the spoon long enough to break up any clumps. Add about a half teaspoon of this yogurt moosh to the pitcher, swirl it with the spoon a bit, then pour into the clean yogurt cups and incubate overnight.