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Eating better/losing weight?

This came up as a popular goal for 2009. And some have said they accomplished it in 2008.

If losing weight while eating better is part of your plan, why not let us know who might be interested in working on it together.

If you already have, how about sharing what worked for you and what the pitfalls were.

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  1. I did the whole using food to lose weight summer of 2008. Lost about 25 pounds and ready to lose another ten so I would love to be apart of this. I made a few food rules that I will share but by no means do i expect anyone to follow my personal rules just posting them to give an insight on how i made eating and weight loss work for me.
    1. I would not give up anything meaning simply I would not say not to particular foods just because they had calories deemed to high including liquor and dessert. I am too self indulgent and liked it that way.
    2.I refused to use low fat, fat free or any low cal substitutes instead opting to find things I would normally use. I did join WW to learn their process and when I mentioned on the board my refusal to use lowfat products I was told they would rather have 4 fat-free tablespoons of sour cream than 1 tablespoon of whole fat. I knew I was in trouble then and just tried to learn the science.
    3. Meal planning ahead whenever possible particularly cooking a few choices on the weekend to mix and match often left me able to have my glass of wine and dessert too nightly.
    There are a lot of little things to go along with the losing weight thing that will help a food lover in my opinion Such as knowing you CAN eat, that was my biggest worry and once I learned the science of food and calories things changed quickly. An example was using honey and maple syrup with cinnamon to sweeten my oatmeal as opposed to just plain sugar. Quantity of those trouble ingredients come into play here too:honey imparts more flavor than say sugar so I could use a half tablespoon as opposed to 3 tablespoons of sugar, no idea about that splenda stuff, too scary for me or another example is just using less oil as we cook. We are all used to just eyeballing the oil before we saute something, try to use less than you normally would, 1 tablespoon less of oil does make a difference in caloric intake for the day but probably not that much in flavor which brings me to my next point.
    Choosing sides and toppings wisely made huge differences. Ultimately being in control of what you eat as in preparing your food yourself I think is the best tip as you know hey if my chicken is seasoned the way I like it I don't need a crazy fattening sauce everyday. Pick a marinade combo you like, I used mango chutney as a base for a lot of marinades. And spices are free such as curry and paprika but keep in mind to be easy with the salt, spices are there to do some of the heavy lifting in the flavor department so salt can be moderate. Some of the best veggies dishes are when just their flavor shines through and i have a ton of them if anyone is interested.
    For most of the summer I was on a 5-6 meal a day plan to make sure I was eating enough. I was totally not used to eating that much regularly as breakfast was a whispered rumor to me let alone an after breakfast snack and you really have to consume enough calories to make your body burn some. Kind of crazy but the truth is the whole starvation method really does not work and not fun either. I found with a solid morning foundation I was able to keep on track and eat what I felt like because you naturally end up eating smaller portions when you eat so many times throughout the day. Mostly my after breakfast and after lunch snack would be a variety of cut up fruits and variety really worked to stop craving sweet things and if I did, eating something decadent would be ok because I was eating healthy everyday.
    Another thing I did was look at my healthy eating/ weight loss as a game to see how i could get the most bang for my buck so to speak or most tasty food for the amount of calories I needed to take in. I would take peeks on the WW or other diet message boards read how they had water soup for lunch but a bag of funions as their snack( which I really don't get why have horrible snacks and then say your are starving) and giggle as i had hamburgers with buns and toppings plus my fruit snack. The difference was I made my burger so I portioned the size, I added my toppings and I never went hungry or deprived after all I am a chowhounder I could not do that to myself. Sorry to write so much, I hope my tips were/are useful, I just went through it so I guess I felt I had a lot to share.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kayEx

      Sounds like you've got it nailed!

      My own plan -- which I made up myself and did unguided -- was much like that. I had what I was used to eating except that I eliminated salt, sugar, artificial ingredients and all junk food including most restaurant meals. I managed to lose 40 pounds.

      Slowly, salt and artificial sweeteners crept back into my diet. They didn't do too much damage and I managed to lose half a pound to a pound and a half most weeks. But then the holidays hit. =o I did OK over Thanksgiving enjoying our feast in much smaller quantities and only gaining, losing and regaining a pound or two at a time. Once Christmas came and I had the goodies out for everyone else, I just couldn't hold the line. I had all kinds of naughties and my cravings for simple carbs returned with a vengeance accompanied by 10 pounds that I'm having to lose all over again.

      As far as losing it all over again goes, I'm onboard for that and considering it part of this whole process. I just want to get back on the right side of it.

      Glad to have your company and input.

    2. I, too, did the Weight Watchers thing in 2008. WW used to have two plans, one called flex where you counted the points and another called "core" where you focused on eating (only to satisfaction, i.e., not stuffing yourself) lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, "healthy" fats (e.,g. olive oil) , and nonfat dairy without counting. I followed core and saw some wonderful results (in weight loss, yes, but also in overall improved energy and better skin, etc.) and, except for the non-fat dairy (I usually opt for low-fat dairy, which, unlike the previous poster, I don't mind), felt like it was pretty consistent with common sense eating habits and an overall healthy lifestyle. And, of course, regular exercise has to be part of whatever approach you decide to pursue. For 2009, WW has merged the two plans and are trying to steer EVERYONE (even those counting "points") towards eating more what they call "filling foods", e.g., lean meats, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables and nonfat dairy (they give you a small allowance for "treats" every week that I typically spent on upgrading from nonfat to lowfat dairy).

      For me, my biggest issue was eating out too much because I was either tired or didn't think what I cooked at home was flavorful enough. So, I've really focused on developing some skills in the kitchen in 2008. I learned to can and use a pressure cooker I experimented with grains and proteins I'd barely ever heard of; some I loved, some I said "no thank you" to.

      Some great books are Sally Schneider's "A New Way to Cook", Mayo Clinic's New Cookbook, Peter Berley's Flexitarian Table (though, you still have to watch the fat quantities) and Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking (or her website http://www.101cookbooks.com/ ). And, actually, some of the WW cookbooks aren't bad either, though, I've gotten in the habit of doubling the spice in every one of their recipes as I find them a little bland otherwise.

      I've also learned that I can indulge in a small amount of dark chocolate, or a glass of wine, or a bit of cheese, but that I really can only afford to indulge in one of those a day. I seem to have a feast or famine/all or nothing kind of personality that isn't very helpful at times. And, yes, I've tried to steer myself towards choosing foods and spices (honey vs. sugar that the previous poster mentioned is a good example) that are as flavorful as possible so I don't feel deprived.

      I bought some nice Swiss Diamond nonstick pans, an immersion blender, a pressure cooker, a pressure canner, silpat baking sheets, and learned how to use them. ;-) I joined a CSA.

      As far as pitfalls, well, I really needed to overcome my all or nothing mentality. Because when I'm "good" and stay "good" for extended periods of time, I start to feel deprived. I'm starting to realize that I'm not just going to be on a diet, lose a bunch of weight, and return to normal, but that these are habits I need to incorporate into my way of living forever. If I eat healthy most of the time, and indulge once in awhile, and keep active, I can continue with my Chowhoundly ways.

      Good luck to you! As far as would I be interested in working on it together, I am always interested in hearing about delicious ways of eating more healthy and would love to read about everyone's healthy recipe finds here on the home cooking board!

      ~TDQ

      1 Reply
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Thanks for the book and site recs.

        I am sooooo with you on the feast of famine thing! It's part of my personality and, even more, it's part of my physiology because when I have certain things which include the "healthy" whole grains I am like an alcoholic. It's problematical because not only do I *love* those grains, but they are usually cited as important nutritional needs and useful "filler" foods.

        Also with you on the "rest of my life" thing and, since I'm in my 60s now, it's also got to be a permanent adjustment to a changing metabolism that will be moving into low gear more and more.

      2. It's better to get over the concept of good versus bad foods and instead deal directly with portion control by measuring - weighing, especially - until you become a very good judge by eye (with occasional help from measuring). A food diary - there are many electronic ones with good food databases to which you can add your own information, such as Calorie King - is also very helpful. I've kept one for years. After many months, you may only need to enter your meals for the first half of the day in order to budget for the second half, et cet.

        That said, don't get overhooked on data and numbers. Understand that metabolisms are individual and can vary seasonally. You can have a slow metabolism that tests perfectly "normal" endocrinologically (on I will spare you details of my own history in that regard). Most information is merely based averages, and not every body fits averages. Don't pathologize your body.

        Get a healthy amount exercise to the best of your abilities.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Karl S

          Good thoughts. I'll check out Calorie King.

        2. I've been using Calorie King as a food tracker since June. I have lost a fair amount of weight (76 lbs), and started cooking again more towards the end of Summer. Since mid-september, I've been cooking a lot. I find that I don't eat out as much if I cook - and what I cook ends up being considerably more healthy..

          CK & WW are two systems I see mentioned - they're rather similar. One thing that I like about CK over WW is that I've actually learned what the calories are to various foods - not just some point value. The general gist behind CK isn't so much a 'diet', but more of a lifestyle change - eating better, getting more exercise, and keeping track of it all. CK has 'Calorie King University' in which they talk about poor eating habits, good eating habits, and the ideas of why one overeats. The life style change aspect of CK (And probably WW) is important - you probably didn't get overweight overnight, you're not going to get thin overnight, either.

          If you do decide to use a food diary - I highly recommend that you start keeping track, and just do that for a few weeks. It's a pretty quick way to identify parts of your diet that are especially bad. After you've done that, slowly start modifying your diet changing or removing the foods you decide are bad. If you change everything at once, you'll most likely end up getting discouraged and stop. If you do it over some time, then it'll be less painful.

          My general theory about eating is eating at least 4 food groups in a meal. With some whole grains. And a lot of vegetables. Perhaps different types of vegetables. I still eat meat - I just have a lot of vegetables to go with it. As an example, I'll cook a chicken breast, and have some sauteed spinach and a cup of brown rice as dinner. The spinach will be about 2 cups worth cooked.

          I'm not anti low-fat items, I just prefer to pick my battles. As an example, I'm not a milk fan, so having 1% or 2% milk on my cereal isn't that big of a deal for me. I'd rather have those calories to use elsewhere.

          I'm also for good quality and fresh ingredients. I've been trying out various Jamie Oliver recipes, and beyond those things, his recipes also tend to be pretty simple. Just with a nice combination of foods.

          Finally, there's the completely non-cooking aspect of things. The exercise aspect. With the CK program, they allow you to 'eat back' your exercise calories. So, say, if you exercise 400 calories in a day, you can eat those back. I live in NYC and walk partially to work, so that gives me about 550 calories a day extra to play with. I don't eat it back every day, but it's always there. While exercise isn't a requirement, even something as simple as walking for 30 minutes at lunch can make a huge difference.

          I've decided to get better at cooking and do more exploring and cooking different types of food. I've signed up for a class at the Institute of Culinary Education (The Fine Cooking 1 class). While I'm already an okay cook, i hope this will improve my skills and give me some other ideas to try out.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mortini

            it's also worth pointing out as far as exercise goes that there's a number of non-gym ways to do this. Personally, i hate the whole idea of going to a Gym. But, there's a 'Couch to 5k' program, wherein you work up to running 5k. There's a '100 pushups' program, where you work up to doing 100 pushups. There's probably others out there, but they're an easy way to gradually build on doing some regular exercise.

            1. re: mortini

              "Fair amount of weight"? 76 pounds since June is AWESOME!!!

              I managed about 45 pounds since the end of July but then put 10 back on between Thanksgiving and now.

              Somewhere along the line I started exercising too. I found the right gym for me and I do water stuff including aerobic and pilates work as well as some weights and cardio stuff. Of course, I missed about 3 weeks of that getting ready for Christmas and have to push myself back into that groove too. ;>

            2. portion control beats cutting out foods you love, and you are more likely to stick with it

              1. I was already eating well (lots of whole grains, loads of veg and fruit, very little meat) and treating junk food and most processed foods as poison. Going to the gym kept my weight in check for a while, but then I turned forty and like magic, my weight climbed 2 lbs. So I had the classic 40th meltdown and then I joined WW. In the last year, I've lost 28 lbs. I've been frustratingly close to my goal for several months, but those last two lbs have proven a lot more difficult to shed than the first two. I think it's because I've started to feel deprived so I'm not as strict with myself. Still, I'm now a size 8 instead of the size 14 I was turning into!

                WW is a just system like any other system, an overlay, a grid, a method you use to reduce calorie intake. The biggest lesson I learned was portion control.

                I'm a tiny woman married to a giant of a man, so my portions suffered size drift. And when he makes me a plate, it's always too generous (we used to go halfsies on treats and other foods, but actually I've realised it should be 1/3 and 2/3!). And the husband has decided to join WW this month, so it's helping me refocus and also get a better grip on his portion size too. I make sure he leaves for work with lots of snacks so I don't have to watch him eat the entire evening while I'm done with all my points (he gets 35, I get 19).

                WW certainly has helped me cut on using oil and sugar as much in my cooking. It's easy to go over 1Tbsp of oil if you don't measure!

                EDIT: so I'd like to be part of an effort to continue our home cooking: it's gotta be tasty and it's gotta be light. It's a challenge to say the least. And frankly this board is a lot more fun than the WW boards (one peek at those and I ran like heck: awful).

                5 Replies
                1. re: TheSnowpea

                  Your comment about portion control is so true! I've been eating my dinner on a sandwich/lunch plate for years now (was surrounded by spouse who was a triathlete--you can imagine those portions--and 3 very hungry sons!) and it really has helped keep pounds off. Americans are notoriously out of whack with our portions.

                  1. re: Val

                    Isn't that the truth, about how out of control our portions in America are?

                    I'm interested in this thread because my hubby is upset that he's gained a few pounds and wants to lose them. He walks almost every single day, doesn't eat much besides fruit between meals, and I don't serve much processed food around here, at all, other than some storebought bread. But...he'll go back for two or even often enough three servings at dinnertime. Doesn't matter how healthy it is, if it's just too many calories to burn off. So, he's asked for my help, and I think what I'm going to do is try to judge better about amounts to cook, and refrigerate or freeze *before* serving dinner anything more than a normal, filling portion. Also, we've decided to have more "soup nights" for dinner. I don't make cream-based soups; I either use a clear broth or pureed veggies, so those are hearty and healthy. I honestly think, looking at his eating habits, that the portion control is his issue, especially when it's the last meal of the day.

                    1. re: Steady Habits

                      Steady, I almost said in my post that the portion situation is because of restaurants...fast food AND otherwise...telling us what our portions should be...when we eat out and are fed these gi-normous amounts, then we come home and tend to do the same thing, really bad! I would not be the one to say how much your spouse or anyone else should be eating but there are good medical/dietary/nutrition websites such as Mayo Clinic etc., that might help guide you as far as portions.

                      1. re: Steady Habits

                        My husband does the same thing. He'll go back for seconds and thirds and say 'it's healthy so it's ok.' I started to serve directly onto our plates to get used to what a serving looks like. Also, I leave a lot of food in the pot and put only two servings into the serving dish. It takes about 20 minutes to process that the stomach is full, so I put out a platter of cut vegetables after we finish our first portion. If he's still hungry after chatting for a while, he'll ask for another serving from the pot. Otherwise, we snack on celery, carrots, radishes, and fennel.

                      2. re: Val

                        Amen! And, for me, my appetite was correspondingly huge.

                        I don't think so much in terms of portion control or cutting out foods (except for a few that are like drugs to me) as in terms of "managing" my appetite. I had a fortunate, blissful period in which I had it completely in control and only got appropriate cues that my body needed fuel. That's when I lost the bulk of my weight. Now the appetite is out of control again and I'm not sure what I need to do to make it a partner in the effort again.

                    2. While I am overweight by most people's standards, I have been the same weight for the last 13 years (since I was 17), so I'm inclined to think that I'm destined to be 190# forever. I am very healthy otherwise--low blood pressure (lower than "normal"), low cholesterol (and actually this dropped a lot once I started eating more avocados, olive oil, and nuts), and my blood glucose levels have always been normal. I have blood work done every year to monitor all this because Type II diabetes and heart disease does run in my family.

                      Rather than focusing on losing weight (because I'm realistically thinking that loosing a large amount of weight is just never going to happen for me), I have focused on living more healthfully. If this is your goal, you have to do three things: You must learn how to cook; you must make cooking fresh food a priority in your life; AND you must exercise on a regular basis.

                      Since I'm a culinary school graduate and work in the industry, cooking delicious, fresh, healthy food for myself isn't especially difficult (however, when my SO cooks--that can be a whole other story). I hate eating fast food because it makes me sick--so I always keep whole grain energy bars in my car, in my purse, and at home in case I just don't have any time to cook anything (a whole grain energy bar and a piece of fruit can usually get me through another 4 hours).

                      I have also come to realize that we eat our meals backwards. I am of the opinion that we should be eating our most nutrient dense, higher calorie meals for breakfast and lunch, and our lightest meal or meals should be our last of the day. This is often the opposite of how most people eat. When I know I am going to have a busy, stressful day I will focus on making breakfast a hearty, yet healthful meal for me--whole grain oatmeal cooked with milk and dried fruit, 2 eggs, a serving of raw milk cheese (raw, aged goat's milk cheese is a favorite), and fresh fruit. This is amazing brain food and I am able to focus on work without having to think about food. For lunch I will often pack an assortment of good cheese, fresh fruit, some curry tuna salad w/ avocado, and maybe some granola (it has to be stuff I can eat cold and most of it has to be finger food, because I literally eat while I work--I don't get a lunch break). I try to make dinner a lighter affair for myself (because I'm usually going to bed in 4 hours after I get home from work), so it's a small amount of lean protein (half of a chicken breast or some fish) and a couple of servings of vegetables (I've become obsessed lately with Tuscan kale--I can't get enough of the stuff). Also, when I prepare meals and pack my lunch, I focus on foods that pack big nutrient punches and flavor but that I can eat less of and still be satisfied. This is why good cheese is a big part of my diet--the richer and riper the cheese, the less I can eat of it and be very happy. I use herbs, spices, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, dried mushrooms, etc to boost flavor when cooking without having to use lots of fat, sugar, or salt that most fast food joints and food manufactures use to give their very unsatisfying food flavor. It really, really pays to learn how to cook when you're trying to live a healthy lifestyle or want to loose weight.

                      I have also read somewhere that if you reserve your green vegetables for dinner (which are nutrient packed but low in calories), your body will be better able to repair itself during sleep--and you will actually have better sleep (this seems to be true for me).

                      I also do exercise, quite a bit, and get about 80% of my daily activity through work, and I also belong to the YMCA and do a variety of activities (I love to swim and I love the Body Pump classes). I go to the Y about 3-4 times a week.

                      The result of trying to cultivate more healthful habits has been increased energy and a better sense/feeling of good health--I feel good, and I have energy enough to do just about anything. This to me is better and more valuable than just loosing weight. I know too many people are so obsessed with just loosing pounds that it ends up being their focus on life. I cannot live that way; I'd kill myself first. I also know too many people (mostly women) who become negatively obsessed with food in some manner. This is so sad to me, and I cannot imagine living a life where I view food as some sort of pariah. I love food. I love learning about it; I love shopping for it; I love cooking it; and I love eating it.
                      Food an be good/delicious, satisfying, and healthful if viewed in a positive manner, treated with respect, and prepared properly.

                      Here's to a very satisfying, healthful Chowhounding year!

                      1. I think Michael Pollan had it with "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." If you have a mostly plant based whole foods diet and exercise, you'll naturally be at a good weight for yourself, not model thin, which isn't healthy but a healthy weight (and I do believe it's different for everyone). For years I counted calories, grams of fat, etc. to maintain a normal weight. The past year or so, I've gotten away from all that, started eating real foods (no artifically non-fat, low-fat, fake sugar, processed fake flavors, etc.) and am at the lightest I've been in years. I eat regular meat, butter, dairy, etc. but make sure to have huge servings of vegetables alongside. And, I'm loving what I eat and not dealing with low fat peanut butter or nonfat cream cheese which just doesn't satisfy.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: chowser

                          I agree that loving what you eat will consistently keep you satisfied. Thats why for me removing phrases like bad food, too fattening or low fat from my vocabulary was very important mentally. I love veggies so I made an effort to up the ante daily for my meals. I know a wholepie will never be the best choice for me but neither will eating a crudite platter every day. I really had to get in tune with my favorite flavors and recreate them in healty ways. I learned for me variety works best. Also I believe people who cook have an advantage over those who dont when it comes to weight loss. We really know what one cup is and 1 teaspoon so portioning when I started was easier and not a habit I had to get used to, something a lot of people complain about. I Hate the thought of te gym for myself respect people who make that comittment and follow through but at least 5 times a week when I was actively trying to lose the weight. I think the reason for me I am so anti "you can't eat that"is because when I was starting to think about losing weight I was in the market buying a ton of veggies and some flank steak for a salad and this oher woman was buying a bottle of water and spinach and I knew instantly she was on a diet and that was all she would eat for dinner. I spoke to her and she said yes she was trying to lose weight and looked miserable and I knew I never wanted to be that person. If you are happy you stick with it. Misery loves company and most likely that company will take the form of a box of processed powder donuts sooner or later.

                          1. re: kayEx

                            I think there's a lot of truth to this in several regards.

                            If there's certain foods you love, it's better to figure out a way to live with eating them in a sensible manner than trying to constantly omit them. Can things be substituted, or is it all about moderation in general? Or is it not the food so much as what the food represents - like snack foods, could the snack food be replaced with something more healthy.

                            Or when you're at some family event and your family member makes one of your favorite dishes, have some. It's not the end of the world. Just don't do it every day.

                            Sure, you can loose weight by eating spinach and water, but it's not very much fun. And you won't stick to it for very long. Unless, of course, you're a masochist.

                            1. re: kayEx

                              I completely agree. I think the minute someone deprives him/herself completely is when cravings begin. Over the years (as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor who has seen it far too many times), when someone says they've completely cut out xxxx's which they love, or have jumped too quickly into working out, that it's only a matter of time when they fall off. You need to find a lifestyle that works for you, and a weight that works for you, too. I like this article by Nancy Clark about taming the cookie monster and deprivation:

                              http://www.active.com/nutrition/Artic...

                          2. Having lost 35 pounds in 2008 I don't need to lose any more, but my method is simple enough to require only limited space on this thread.
                            I try always to eat a healthy diet. I ate everything I usually ate, just less of it. I calculated the calorie content of every recipe I used, along with the calorie count for everything I consumed from commercial sources. I limited myself to the number of calories I needed to accomplish my goal of 5 pounds per month, took a 9 mile bicycle ride every day and adopted an upper body exercise routine. It was, as they say, "a piece of cake"; pun intended ...
                            I can actually walk past a plate of nuts or cookies today without surrendering to temptation and my weight variance over the holidays was one pound.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: todao

                              Thank you Thank you and Thank you for starting this one! Just having a board like this to talk on will help me. I turn 39 Jan 19 and I am giving myself the year to turn my blob of a body into a lean machine, I have at least 40 lbs to lose.

                              I know what I have to eat and what I have to do, that is not the problem. And I do eat tons of lean meat grilled, at leat 2 veg with every meal ( I love all vegetables!) ... I don't even like chocolate or sweets...My problem is I LOVE WINE ...there I said it...Red Wine is my biggest dowfall...I know I need to cut my servings down and only have a drink one day a week, work out more and, thanks to Karl S will use Carlorie King to gide me.

                              Wish me luck!

                              1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                Good luck!

                                Just remember, a regular glass of red wine is 150-200 calories. :)

                                1. re: mortini

                                  My problem with wine isn't the 150-200 calories but that after a glass, I start eating all sorts of things I don't normally eat, buffalo wings, potato chips, french fries, whatever my husband is eating at the time.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    I hear ya on that one. My problem's both, generally, but if i drink too much, I end up eating everything I have in my apartment that's remotely snack worthy.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      That is my problem also, couple glasses of wine and then the cheese, pate and crackers come out, so my 400 calorie wine (2 glasses) just went to 1500 calories ;)

                                  2. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                    Just made a post in the "member chat" portion of the forums @ CK. Stop by and say hi once you join.

                                    1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                      I have the same problem with wine--it's not just the calories for the wine that I take the hit for, but anything I eat as a result of reduced will-power. Remember never to have wine on an empty stomach. Also, I often pour myself just a half glass of wine. Then I make my next beverage a tall glass of water. Then I'll allow myself that second half glass. It helps me pace it all...

                                      EDIT: Also, on the topic of portion control, I recommend (if you don't already have some) dishes that aren't oversized. Williams Sonoma has a nice set of every day dishes (dishwasher/microwave/oven-safe) that are normal sized. It helps keep portions in perspective. With those giant plates I find it really easy to load my plate up more...or, feel deprived when there's so much white space left. Another thing that is kinda cool, are these serving spoons that Weight Watchers sells that are specific portions 1/2 cup, 1 cup etc., which is a slightly more elegant way of tracking your portions at the dinner table than breaking out the measuring cups.

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        As portion control goes, I like to have foods that I think of as "all you can eat" available that I like, eg roasted vegetables, good soup. I don't have a specific ratio but I might have 3 times as much brussel sprouts as steak and potatoes.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          That's a pretty good rule of thumb. Usually I try to have my serving of protein be about the size of the palm of my hand and my serving of whatever starch be about a 1/2 cup. On those Williams Sonoma plates, it leaves about half the plate for vegetables.

                                          ~TDQ

                                  3. I lost weight kind of by accident - I changed my food habits in 2008, but having a tough time finding a job after grad school meant that cost-cutting was my #1 priority. I quit eating out, drinking soda, going to Starbucks and keeping snacks in the house. Booze consumption is way down. Except for some non-perishable staple foods I buy ONLY what I need to make lunch and dinner, which cuts down on between-meal nibbling. My goal is to keep dinner costs to $5 per serving, which means cheaper cuts of meat and less of it. But what I eat is delicious, healthy and filling, made with fresh in-season veggies from the farmers' market, and I can have dessert almost every night as long as I bake it myself. End result: living within my means and 25 pounds lighter than last year. Now if I can just get that job thing worked out!

                                    1. I'm really excited to see so much sensible advice here! I get so tired of people who worry about "bad" food and who go on fad or otherwise unrealistic diets.

                                      To summarize everyone's tips:

                                      1. Keep a food diary. Be scrupulously honest. Even if you do nothing else, you'll find that being more aware of what you eat will help you make better food choices and help you identify where your extra calories are coming from. And when you have to write down that handful of cookies or measure that big plate of pasta, you'll put some back! Sometimes I don't eat something just because writing it down would be more hassle than it would be worth!

                                      2. Portion control. Portion control. Portion control!

                                      3. Eat more veggies. Veggies are nutritious and give you lots of bulk and fiber for the calories. If you're not a veggie person, find some veggies you really like, and/or methods of preparing them that you find delicious (lots of people like veggies that have been roasted who don't like them cooked other ways).

                                      4. Don't deprive yourself or put anything "off-limits" -- instead, treat yourself to smaller amounts of really good stuff (expensive chocolate and cheese are my favorite "treats"). Choose quality over quantity -- you're eating less, so you're saving money anyway.

                                      5. Move more. If you can't do anything else, walk. If you can't walk, there are exercises you can do in a chair. Did you know that your muscles never lose the ability to become stronger? You may never become an athlete, but you can improve your health and quality of life.

                                      6. Have a buddy system/support group. Get your family involved. My friend went on a diet and her teenaged son lost his few extra pounds simply because there were better food options in the house and she was modeling appropriate portions. Choose family activities that are more physical: take a romantic walk with your spouse after dinner (don't you just love to see those old couples walking around the neighborhood holding hands -- you can be them!); go bowling or miniature golfing or play frisbee in the park with your kids instead of going to a movie (and eating popcorn) or vegging in front of the TV/video console.

                                      7. Be a chowhound! Refuse to eat anything that isn't delicious and stop any "automatic" eating or eating mediocre "filler" foods.