Weight loss is a sore subject with many Americans and it's been this way for decades as more and more of us become overweight or obese in spite of our best efforts at losing the extra pounds. Who hasn't tried at least one of the many, many weight-loss programs offered on TV or through a local group, at least once in their lives? If the truth were known, most Americans have tried more than one of these diets in the ongoing battle of the bulge. Most older Americans have tried to lose 20 pounds or more at least twice by the time they reach their 60's. In spite of these efforts, Americans in general continue to gain weight at unprecedented levels in what has now become a serious epidemic of obesity.
Researchers recognize that adults in today's environment are having a harder time keeping their weight steady than people in the 1980s did, even while they're consuming the same amount of food and getting the same amount of physical activity. In a 2016 study from York University in Toronto, researchers compared body mass index (BMI), total calorie intake, intake of carbs, protein and fat, and physical activity levels of 36,377 adults in the United States between 1971 and 2008. While they found that BMI increased by 2.3 points, the weight increase couldn't be explained by caloric intake, consumption of certain foods, or levels of physical activity (which actually increased by up to 120 percent) over that time period.
The researchers concluded that, "Factors other than diet and physical activity may be contributing to the increase in BMI."
A professor of developmental and cell biology, pharmaceutical sciences, and biomedical engineering at the University of California, Irvine, believes he may have discovered why weight struggles may not be entirely the fault of the individual who's eating less and exercising more but isn't experiencing the associated weight loss that such a regimen should provide.
His belief is that chemicals in our environment promote weight gain because they are silently reprogramming our biochemistry and physiology in ways that allow them to sabotage body weight.
These chemicals are called endocrine disrupters and they can change how energy from the calories we eat are stored and used in the body. These changes can promote weight gain, produce more and larger fat cells, regulate appetite and satiety, and control metabolism. In other words, the individuals affected by exposure to these chemicals become "thrifty phenotypes," meaning they have a lower resting metabolic rate and store more of the calories they eat as fat.
Unfortunately, these chemicals are now in the foods many of us eat, the containers (plastics) we store our food in, in our water supplies, furniture, floor coverings, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics and personal care items, clothing, toys, cleaning supplies, and other items. And even more alarming is that they appear to be passed on to future generations.
One of the best things we can do to protect ourselves from these chemicals is to clean up our environments by switching to natural cleaning products, avoiding plastic bottles and containers, and upgrading the quality of foods we choose. And, of course, continuing to exercise, even if it's just small amounts of exercise per week. Omit high-fat and high-sugar foods or at least keep these foods to a minimum. Eat lower on the food chain, that is, more plant based and much less animal products. And buying organic whenever possible is probably the best way to do this.
Recognizing that every person uses calories differently and adjusting our lifestyles to match is the surest way to reverse or modify the effects of exposure to these chemicals.