Yeah, I used to be part of that crowd: trying different diets, shelling out the cash for fitness programs, and just hoping to figure out the mystery of the "skinny people."
There is no mystery.
The summer after I graduated college, I bought a health book that actually seemed to work. I did not own a scale, however I could feel the difference. Looking back now, I realize it was not the book itself but what the book was guiding me to do: eat unlimited fruits & vegetables and eat certain types of foods at the correct time of day for that food. Also, I was pushing myself to run or jog almost every day that summer... that was not in the book, although exercise was mentioned.
Fast forward to the year before my first pregnancy. I vowed to get back in shape prior to getting pregnant. I met with a trainer and a nutritionist at the gym where I had a membership. I LOVED the trainer!! He really listened to my fitness goals & what I like to do at the gym and tailored a plan that I wanted to do. I still see him occasionally around town; I'm sure he doesn't remember my name but he always recognizes me and stops to chat. The nutritionist mostly listened to me and created a meal plan that was pretty good (I don't like rice, sheesh), however she did not include chocolate.
Now there are many things I have cut out of my life in the spirit of "good health," but some things are REQUIRED to stay. Chocolate. Coffee. Wine. Seriously.
I followed the meal plan anyway, although I did have 2 pieces of chocolate every afternoon :) Between the training and the meals, I reached my goals.
Then I got pregnant. Then I gained 60 pounds, including the baby. And when 2 weeks after the baby was born I still had 40 pounds to lose (you mean to tell me they aren't born at the weight of a 3-year-old?), I pulled out the good ol' meal plan. I tried it for a couple of weeks and decided that I do not like to be told what not to eat.
I remembered the fruits & veggies book, but couldn't find it on my shelves or remember what it was called. So I got an app for my phone (Old School: Palm Treo... yeah, baby!) and decided to just log my food, count the calories, do physical activity, and WANT it to work. Oh, and my work was doing a "Biggest Loser"-type contest so I joined in that fun bit of motivation. I won the contest and 14 months after the baby was born, I was back to being me.
Whenever I feel that I am physically not at my best, I go back to eating more fruits & veggies, and try to squeeze in more activities. The second pregnancy was better: I only gained 40 pounds total and lost them all in 7 months. No, my body is definitely not what it used to be (Is THAT my belly? MY boobs look like that?!?), but I am healthy and happy and definitely not food deprived.
I do not claim that what works for me will work for anyone else. I listen to my body and figure out what I need, and that usually works. Although your needs may be different, I bet if you listen you can figure it out.