When we think of our waistlines and how to lose weight, we commonly focus on exercise and diet. If we don’t eat “x” food we’ll lose some pounds, or if we only would start running we’ll finally slim down. That’s what all the blogs and magazines have certainly led us to believe. I am all about the importance of exercise and diet on health, but what if I told you there was something else just as important that many of us overlook?
Let’s say you do eat well and exercise regularly and still the weight doesn’t budge. Maybe you’ve been recently diagnosed with a thyroid condition or hormone imbalance and have no idea where it may have come from. Perhaps you have endometriosis, horrible PMS, and acne up the wazoo.
All of these conditions can be caused by obesogens, or toxic compounds (toxicants) that have been found to accumulate in fat tissue, leading to fat loss resistance, and to disrupt the endocrine system, leading to the hormonally-derived conditions I listed above.
In short, obesogens can make us obese by accumulating in the fat tissue, making it difficult to burn fat, and trigger the body to store more fat. On top of this, if these toxicants disrupt your endocrine system to the point of negatively impacting your thyroid (the master regulator of your metabolism and many, many functions in your body), it may be even harder to lose weight.
Obesogens can also create oxidative damage in the body by the production of free radicals, which wreak havoc and damage our DNA and cells. This can lead to decreased energy and fatigue, a slower metabolism, and an increase the body’s inflammatory response, which leads to increased disease risk and rate of aging.
I don’t know about you but obesogens sound like substances that I want to avoid at all cost. So where can we find them in our everyday life and what can we do to minimize them?
5 Sources of Obesogens:
Phthalates - Chemicals found in cosmetics and common household products known to disrupt the endocrine system and negatively impact the thyroid. If a label includes the words “fragrance” or “perfume” it more than likely contains phthalates. Other sources include plastic food and beverage containers, insect repellants, hair spray, nail polish, deodorants, air fresheners, laundry detergents, and perfumes.
BPA - Chemical found in plastic and the lining in canned goods that has been linked to cancer, increased risk of heart disease, and hormone disruption and is thought to be harmful to child development. Common sources include ziploc bags, water bottles, baby bottles, and tupperware.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) - Toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment which persist and accumulate over long periods of time and can pass from animal to animal up the food chain. These are the synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that became household names following WWII. Commonly known POPs are DDT, PCBs, and dioxins.
Metals - Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic. If you’ve heard anything about the Flint water crisis in Michigan you will know that lead is no good.
Added Hormones - If we eat meat and dairy from livestock treated with hormones, there is a pretty large chance we will consume traces of these hormones in our food. Unfiltered tap water can also contain traces of medication from people flushing pills down the toilet.
5 Ways to Eliminate Obesogens:
Use glass or stainless containers and water bottles. If you use plastic, make sure it specifically is labeled BPA free. Also look for canned goods labeled as BPA free. Most importantly, do not heat food in a plastic container that is not BPA free.
Eat the rainbow. This will help ensure you get plenty of antioxidants to fight free radicals produced by obesogens you may be exposed to. Also, eat organic whenever possible, especially with meat and dairy, and with produce in the Dirty Dozen list published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Get your sweat on. Obesogens can be excreted through the sweat glands. If working out isn’t your thing spend some time in a sauna.
Take an epsom salt bath. Hot baths can help you sweat (see #3 above) and epsom salts help draw toxicants out of the body. You can buy a huge bag of epsom salts on Amazon or at your local drugstore for a pretty reasonable price.
Clean up your personal care products. Do not buy products with the ubiquitous “fragrance” or “perfume” on the label. Take a good look at the chemicals in your household cleaning products, make-up, skincare products, and air fresheners. The Environmental Working Group is a veritable gold mine of information. EWG’s Skin Deep Database rates cosmetics and the Healthy Cleaning Guide ranks 2,000 household cleaning products.
If you’re anything like me, all of this information may be a little overwhelming. Do I really have to throw out all of my tupperware, cleaning products, and make-up?!? My recommendation is to start small and as you use things up, replace them with healthier, cleaner alternatives. And yes, kick the plastic tupperware and water bottles to the curb pronto.