When we think of weight loss usually the first thing that comes to mind is calories.
And these days, after that, carbs.
Or some may think of exercise.
There may be a few that know enough to consider stress and sleep.
Others may start taking supplements.
And these are all important factors to take into consideration.
But there is one area that is generally ignored in most conversations about weight loss.
And that is the area of toxins in our environment.
However, we are exposed daily to a litany of toxins that are KNOWN TO CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN!
Why don’t we talk about these?
Perhaps because it’s a HUGE topic to tackle and it seems overwhelming.
There is a long list of chemicals in our food and environment that are known to cause weight gain. They are labeled “obesogens”. And they are ubiquitous.
Here is a quote from a major research paper about these obesogens.
Over recent years, many environmental chemicals have been shown to disrupt the actions of hormones and have been termed endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) or endocrine disruptors [2•].
Although much of the research has focused on disruption of reproduction through interference with steroid hormone actions and on disruption to thyroid hormone action [2•], there are increasing reports that some EDCs can also interfere with regulatory processes in metabolism and in the control of adipocyte function, resulting in imbalances in the regulation of body weight, which can lead to obesity [3•, 4•, 5•].
Such chemicals have been termed “obesogens” [6, 7•]. Increase in obesity, defined as a body mass index of over 30 kg/m2, has become a global problem over recent decades. Over 20% of adults are now obese in the UK and over 30% of adults are obese in the USA [8•]. Furthermore, obesity in children is also increasing in westernised countries, and in the USA, around 20% of children aged 3–17 years are obese [8•].
Although there are genetic determinants which lead to inherited predisposition, and there are environmental influences from excessive food intake combined with lack of exercise in modern life, these alone cannot account for the current disease trends.
This review will present evidence that EDCs may contribute to obesity through interfering with the control of energy metabolism and adipose tissue regulation, causing an altered balance towards weight gain and obesity, despite normal diet and exercise patterns. (1)
I’ll be the first to admit that thinking about these compounds can very quickly become overwhelming.
I will provide a list at the end of this article for your reference but my goal here is to not overwhelm you but rather to give you a few tips to avoid these chemicals where you can.
10 Tips for Avoiding Obesogens
- Avoid all paraben use. Most products these days are labeled “paraben free”.
- Avoid using plastic as much as you can. Yes, avoiding all plastic is virtually impossible in our modern world. But wherever and whenever possible, get rid of it. If you see something packaged in glass or not packaged at all (think veggies and fruit) use that over something packaged or wrapped in plastic. Buy wood, glass, ceramic, and metal (not aluminum please) products whenever possible. All of your storage containers should be glass. Throw away, or if possible, recycle the plastic ones.
- Avoid using products with plastic that comes in contact with anything you consume such as food, water, and skincare products. This may seem difficult but here are some easy fixes. You can reduce processed food, use a water filter and bring water from home in glass containers, use glass storage containers, buy bars of soap or products that are packaged in glass. Yes, some of these things may cost more. But people spend a lot of money on bottled water in plastic so this is one area it will cost less. Also, remember that spending a little extra money on your health today can potentially save you a ton of money later on.
- Always, and I mean always, avoid microwaving food in plastic containers.
- Eat mostly local food grown by someone you know (farmers’ markets) or at least buy organic as much as you can. Organophosphates (pesticides and herbicides) are major obesogens so avoiding them is critical.
- Buy red meat and dairy that are grass-fed and eggs and poultry that are pasture-raised.
- Avoid flame retardants whenever possible. This can partially be done by buying clothing, furniture, and other products used or second-hand.
- Don’t rely on BPA-free products. The replacement chemical is BPS. It is a very similar product and has been shown to cause obesity in animals.(2) We’ve been duped yet again.
- Get a really good water filter. All of the chemicals that come from our landscaping, farming, factories, and all other pollution ends up in our water. This includes herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones from farming, arsenic from chemical factories, lead from pipes and pollution, and oh so much more. Reverse osmosis (RO) is probably the best in terms of removing pollutants but it also removes all minerals. If you use RO you will need to add liquid minerals to your water at all times.
- Stop treating your yard and cleaning your house with toxic chemicals. Mulch the leaves and cut the grass high for healthy grass. Learn to love a few weeds. Start a garden in your yard rather than just having grass. Clean your house with vinegar, water, essential oils, and cleaning products that are truly natural.
The Environmental Working Group is a great resource for checking the toxicity levels of all kinds of products. If you are curious about any product that you use on your body or in your home you can search for it there and get an idea of how good or bad it is.
List of known obesogens:
- Tributyltin (TBT)
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
- Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
- Bisphenol A and phthalates
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polybrominated biphenyls
- Parabens (alkyl esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid)