Are "Obesogens" Making Me Fat?
Obesogens and Our Health
The traditional “eat less, exercise more” approach to weight loss and health is a two-legged stool. Yes, the macros you put into your mouth and the frequency with which you move your body are important. But there are a host of other factors in modern society that affect our ability to lose weight and stay healthy.
What are Obesogens?
Never in our 6 million year history on this planet have we faced this kind of assault…
We are exposed to an overwhelming number of synthetic chemicals and toxins on a daily basis. It is estimated that every man, woman, and child comes into contact with more than 700 chemicals every day. We breathe them, eat them, and put them on our skin.
Many of these chemicals are not tested for safety (we are the guinea pigs), and of the few that have been tested, the “safe” limits are based on a one-time exposure. Problem is we’re being exposed to these chemicals every day.
Many chemicals ubiquitous in our everyday environment have come to be known in the medical community as “obesogens”. These man-made chemicals are found in everything from clothing, furniture, and toys, to drinking water, food, and all the stuff we put on our skin. Science has established a clear link between obesogens and the disruption of normal metabolism leading to weight gain. Yikes!
There are ways to lose weight and improve health that having nothing to do with diet and exercise: do an obesogen detox!
No, it’s not the kind of “detox” you’re thinking of! Dietary cleanses and detoxes are all the rage right now. Forget about them! How much good will a liver detox or gallbladder cleanse do if the toxins you are trying to eliminate are still present in your environment? You need to detox at the source! Luckily, this kind of detox is a lot less painful than going on a seven-day green juice fast!
A word of caution: when you begin learning about all the toxins and chemicals in your home environment the information can be scary and overwhelming. The bad news is that it’s not possible to completely protect yourself or your children from exposure to all chemicals and toxins. The good news is that you can reduce a great deal of the worst ones by taking some of the simple steps that I’ve laid out here. It’s all about reducing exposure, so don’t get overwhelmed…just get started!
Reduce obesogens by doing a simple home detox
The following suggestions in each category go from easiest and least expensive to those that require more of an investment in time and/or money. These recommendations are also not an exhaustive list of all the ways you could possibly detox your home environment, but it’s a great place to start, and every little bit will help!
Let’s start with the major obesogens lurking in your general household
Problem: Indoor air quality and mold. Studies show that household dust contains pesticides, flame retardants, and plasticizers. Mold can also be a major health problem. We are breathing all this stuff into our lungs! And before you freak out about dust and mold and break out the Pledge and bleach (more chemicals)…read on for solutions that don’t cause additional toxin exposure.
Simple Solutions: Make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter. Open the windows whenever possible to allow fresh air to flow through your home – especially if you are cleaning or dusting, or using noxious chemicals like paints. If you live in a cold climate, open the windows every few days to allow new air flow through the house. Sleep with a window cracked open – even in the winter. Get some house plants – Jade and spider plants are particularly helpful in improving indoor air quality. Have your home inspected for mold. Invest in a whole-home high quality air filter.
Problem: Pesticides and herbicides, both outside and inside your home. Pesticides, herbicides, fecal matter…all of it gets tracked into your home and attaches to surfaces that we touch or dust particles that we breath.
Simple Solutions: Make your home a shoe-free zone. Stop dousing your house and lawn with toxic bug and weed killers. Dandelions and bees aren’t harmful to you…but the chemicals we use to kill them are!
Obesogens in your kitchen
Problem: Municipal water contains antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, fluoride, and chlorine. Measurable levels of birth control (from people peeing it out) have been found in tap water. Fluoride interferes with the thyroid’s ability to synthesize iodine (causes sluggish thyroid). Long term exposure to all of these is known to cause health and weight problems.
Simple Solutions: Invest in a reverse osmosis water filtration system. Ideally this would be a whole-house system, but the expense can be prohibitive. Luckily, you can buy an under-sink mounted R/O drinking water system for relatively cheap.
Problem: Plastic, Teflon, and aluminum leach harmful chemicals into our food and drink. These chemicals can alter hormones or block the chemical receptors on cells that need to receive hormones. Studies have linked in-utero exposure to heavier weight in children.
Simple Solutions: Start replacing plastic containers and water bottles with glass. Glass Mason jars work great or invest a good set of glass storage containers! Never reheat food in plastic containers or Styrofoam. Get rid of aluminum foil and use parchment instead, or cover aluminum foil with parchment when grilling or baking. Replace plastic cutting boards with wooden ones – have one for meats and one for fruits/veggies. Start replacing Teflon-coated and aluminum pans and baking sheets with cast iron, titanium, or enamel-coated cookware.
Obesogens in your bathroom
Problem: Personal care products contain artificial dyes, fragrances, and chemicals that are absorbed through the skin directly into your body. This one is tough, I know. It’s hard to make switches when you find products you like, but you need to remember that your skin is not a solid barrier…it’s a living, breathing organ…and it’s porous! The reason that birth control and nicotine patches work so well is because our skin readily absorbs those chemicals into our bodies! Many of the chemicals found in personal care products are shown to affect thyroid hormone and may also cause insulin resistance.
Simple Solutions: My bathroom cabinet looks more like a kitchen cabinet! As often as possible use food-based products for skin such as almond or coconut oil mixed with essential oils for moisturizing skin, homemade sugar scrubs for exfoliating face and body, and witch hazel or apple cider vinegar as an astringent for the face. Shower less and/or use less soap. Think that’s yucky? Most of us are not “dirty” enough to require a daily shower. The use of soaps and shampoos strips skin and hair of the valuable oils that make them beautiful! If you absolutely must shower daily, consider just rinsing quickly with water and only using soaps every other day or so. Switch to plain old-fashioned soap and water for washing hands — instead of anti-bacterial soaps or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Switch to organic, fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, aluminum-free lotions, shampoos, deodorant, and makeup. Switch to non-fluoride toothpaste. Read labels!
Small Steps Lead to Big Success!
Everyone is looking for fast or easy ways to lose weight and get healthy, but there is no simple solution because the problem is multi-faceted and exceptionally complex. Poor food quality, malnutrition, lack of exercise, exposure to toxins, lack of sunlight, chronic stress, lack of sleep, and genetics are all confounding factors causing our current health and obesity crisis. None of these problems can be completely fixed (unless we start living like cavemen again). Chemicals and toxins are here to stay too. You’ll never completely eliminate exposure - it’s not possible - but every effort you make to reduce exposure counts, and will make a big difference in your long term health!
Blog Author: Kelly Bailey, IIN certified holistic nutrition coach, and NPTI certified personal trainer
Learn more about the author here.