I Got “Skinny” When I Stopped Obsessing Over Fat

by Nikky Manausa on February 11, 2014

It’s Not My Fault that I Hate(d) Fat!

I am a proud product of the 90s when Backstreet Boys made girls scream, Cindy Crawford’s face was on every magazine, Britney Spears hadn’t embarrassed herself yet, and every female age 10 and up had the “Rachel” haircut. Don’t forget that the Florida State Seminoles were crowned National Champions  in 1993 and 1999, too!  It was also the time that low-fat foods were IN and foods with more than 3 grams of fat per 100 calories were OUT!

If It’s Low-fat, It Must Be Healthy, Right?

After having low-fat foods crammed down my throat for more than a decade, it has taken me a VERY long time to recognize that “marketed” low-fat foods often correlate with empty calories. Finally people are starting to realize that <eating too many> empty calories are what make us “fat” in the first place! The USDA’s website, Choose My Plate uses examples of empty calories that are directly associated with fats and added sugars. They use donuts, sausage, and cheese, as examples of empty calorie foods and suggest opting for “low-fat” HOTDOGS instead of real Oscar Meyer Wieners (I do love their theme song!). REALLY?! I’m officially ticked off about the low-fat hot dog reference. I realize that they are trying to identify America’s “trouble spots,” but I think they are sending the wrong message by even suggesting that we eat a processed, God only knows what is in it, “low-fat” hotdog. Plus, they mention finding these foods in the low-fat “form.” Are they stuck in the 90s?! I bet they are still drinking Crystal Pepsi!

USDA Choose My Plate - Empty Calories

I have been too hard on Choose My Plate. I am actually very thankful they are trying to educate people on making better choices.

Empty Calories Re-Defined 

I believe that empty calories are ANY calories that you put in your body that have little-to-no nutritious value. Empty calories, in my opinion, have less to do with the amount of fat or sugar in a food, and everything to do with what your body can, or cannot, do with them. Take an avocado for example. This jewel of a fruit is packed full of delicious FAT, fiber, and vitamins. There is nothing wrong about that! Or what about prunes? Not only does Grandpa need one every day, they are high in antioxidants, potassium, and guess what, sugar! (Moderation, moderation, moderation!)

Pretzels, rice cakes, saltines, baked chips, white breads, white pastas, white rice (do you follow my theme?), Jello, fruit roll ups, fruit snacks (that name makes me angry), many cereal bars, etc… are all low-fat, but are full of empty calories. That’s why after you eat a whole bag of Veggie Straws (another loser in my book), your stomach still cries out for something else!

We Have Entered the “Fortified” Generation

I do applaud manufacturing companies for now “fortifying” and “enriching” their foods with essential vitamins and minerals. Fortified foods have extra nutrients added to them. I fortified my smoothie this morning by adding whey protein. The fruit in it did not provide the protein I needed, so I found an outside source and added it in. They often do this with foods like cereal and granola bars to make them more nutrient dense. Often times junk foods will be fortified (such as PopTarts) so that they can have labels like, “A good source of iron.” This kind of labeling misleads the shopper to think the item is healthy.

When foods are enriched, the nutrients lost during processing are added back in. We commonly see pasta boxes labeled as “enriched.” Eating a non-processed diet is not always practical or convenient, and it can be expensive. Therefore, I completely understand why people (including me at times) opt for off-the-shelf options. I am thankful that children who do not have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats on a regular basis can at least still have some nutritional gains from more accessible, and often more affordable, processed items.

Pregnancy Changed Everything

My German genes have blessed me with an athletic build, but my American jeans remind me I still have to watch what I eat. Before I had kids, as I mentioned, I was in the low-fat craze. Once I became pregnant with my daughter, I made a vow not to obsess over the weight gain and to eat what I would want her to eat. I replaced things like reduced-fat peanut butter with all-natural peanut butter, because if I could not pronounce a word on the ingredient list, I did not feel good about eating it. I began sautéing my vegetables in a little olive oil instead of just steaming them plain because there is a correlation that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil may decrease the risk of heart disease. Salmon, although a fattier fish, was something I added to my diet because its Omega-3 fatty acids are linked to increased brain development in infants and children. Basically, I added more healthy fats in my diet, and tried to eliminate sources of empty calories, replacing them with nutrient-rich foods instead. Guess what? I gained the recommended amount of weight during both my pregnancies (30 pounds for my daughter and 25 pounds for my son), lost the baby weight shortly after birth through continued healthy diet and exercise, and knew my body, and my babies, were healthier than ever.

A Change in Body Composition

By 2005 my weight peaked for one reason or another.  I was so unhappy with myself.  In 2006 I had my daughter. Six months after giving birth I was back to a weight that I felt comfortable with. Over the last few years my weight has maintained about the same, fluctuating a few pounds here and there. However, I am definitely leaner and more toned than I was when I tried to eliminate fats from my diet completely. No doubt, this change has happened because I spend more time on my feet, but I also believe it’s because I follow a pretty “clean”  and balanced diet. I am proof that eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Eating more calories than your body needs is ultimately what causes weight gain.

I barely recognize myself in the picture below from 2005. I learned I actually gain weight when I try to follow a low-fat diet, probably because low-fat processed foods never made me feel satiated. This picture was taken in St. Maarten. (Please note that we are all different, and although I know I was not technically overweight, I was still not at my “ideal” weight, either.)


Nikky Bo 2005


Here I am in Key West in 2007, about 7 months after having my daughter. Following a balanced diet works for me!

Nikky 2007

Finally, a lean, mean, clean machine! This picture was taken in June of 2013 in Costa Rica.

Nikky 2013

Sometimes LowER Fat Options are Better

I do agree that sometimes lower-fat options are a better choice, especially when it comes to dairy items like milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice-cream. Often the “less is more” principle applies, too. Using chopped walnuts instead of larger pieces will help spread the flavor and texture in salads. Including a little healthy fat with your fruits and vegetables will ensure that you are able to metabolize the fat soluble vitamins they provide. The fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K. For a list of suggested lower-fat food substitutions, please read my post Light Foods Done Right.

A Balancing Act

Just to be clear, I am not promoting fried chicken or salads laden with blue cheese dressing! The reality is, if you commit your family to eating a balanced diet of healthy, minimally-to-no processed carbohydrates, lean proteins, and heart-healthy fats, then you can occasionally treat yourself. I will never pass up a piece of my mother-in-law’s triple chocolate cake, my mom’s pecan pie, or my husband’s fried grouper fingers (freshly caught!). Thanks to the rules of moderation, I don’t have to.

Thank you for reading my blog!  Please consider subscribing to my blog so that I can help you stay motivated to keep your family fit for life!






Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: