By Nicole T. Smith, LAc.
You may not eat your shampoo, but that doesn’t mean what’s in it is harmless. From the book Skinny Genes: “As you know, there are many processes and reactions occurring in the body that keep us at a certain weight. And there are many variables that can disrupt these processes.
This is where your personal care products come in. Most contain what are called hormone disruptors, which affect our endocrine system, nervous system, and metabolism. And you are using these daily.”
What common chemicals disrupt our bodies and create fat genes?
Is your shampoo making you fat?
We all know that Americans — leading the way for the rest of the developed world — are getting fatter. We hear about the “obesity epidemic” on the TV news, with footage of people depicted from the waist down shuffling around in XXL sweat pants and carrying super-sized sodas. The majority of us are overweight, complaining about how our jeans are getting tighter and wondering why, despite all our efforts to diet and go to the gym, the number on the scale keeps edging higher.
For years, the explanation for weight gain was straightforward: it was all about energy balance, or calories-in versus calories-out. This Gluttony and Sloth theory held that obesity simply came from over-eating and under-exercising, and the only debate was about dieting — whether it was better to join the low-fat or the low-carb camp. Some scientists explored genetic differences associated with fat, but others said genes couldn’t possibly explain the rate at which Americans were gaining weight: “We just aren’t evolving that fast,” one obesity expert noted.
Environmental scientists have long suggested that there were likely external factors at work, but until recently, the traditional obesity-research community rejected such claims. Now it seems that the tide is turning: This month’s issue of Obesity Reviews features an extensive look at the accumulating body of research linking the environment with obesity.
The idea of our surroundings contributing to weight gain is nothing new, of course. But past discussions about the role of the “environment” focused mostly on the fast-food culture that we live in, where highly-processed, highly-caloric foods are constantly available, eating times are chaotic, kids run around drinking sugar-saturated sodas all day, no one has time to cook, fruits and vegetables are scarce in low-income urban areas, a venti frappuccino has 760 calories, and muffins are the size of melons. Add to that our changing physical environment — the fact that everyone sits in front of computers every day, instead of working out or working on the farm — and the “calories in” excess of the weight equation seems obvious, and obesity over-determined.
But even allowing for such influences, something wasn’t adding up. There are plenty of people out there who eat well and exercise like Gwyneth Paltrow and still feel like their weight is out of control. Then there are those annoying people who eat everything they desire, never work out, and stay thin. There had to be more to it than calories. We know that hormones — the chemical messengers produced by our endocrine system to control things like blood pressure and insulin production — can fatten up animals for slaughter; that some drugs increase your weight; and that a change in hormones at midlife shifts where your fat is distributed. Researchers began to recognize that obesity is much more complicated than calories in and out, and that a lot of other mechanisms involving the hormonal regulatory system are involved in our bodies’ delicate weight balance.