Here’s a secret: organic food, in itself, will help you lose flab and maintain a healthy weight.
I still remember back to when I was just nine-years-old and my father making an impromptu and impassioned speech about how he would never, ever give up drinking full-fat milk. He was always a fit, good-looking guy and he was naturally resistant to the diet trends that he saw as out-of-control even then. Fast-forward more than 30 years and my dad, who has just lost 50 pounds, will appreciate this article. Why? Because I am about to tell you that you don’t have to give up your full-fat milk, your hamburger, or your Saturday night two glasses of wine and big, fat slice of chocolate cake. Indeed, I am not even going to say “everything in moderation” a term I believe we don’t really understand and that personally pushes all my buttons.
What if your diet is as simple as eating what you want, just eating better quality? That’s exactly what I’ve discovered through my extensive research and through my own life experience. A growing body of research into obesogens suggests that there is a lot more to weight gain and loss than just the typical calories-in-versus-calories-out or diet-and-exercise model. A growing line of scientific inquiry is examining the role that chemical exposure has in weight gain. In particular, they are finding that chemicals that mess with hormone regulation (endocrine disruptors) may make humans more susceptible to obesity: not just for themselves but for their children and grandchildren.
Despite regular assurances by American (and, in most cases, Canadian) government agencies that commonly used pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial growth hormones, and plasticizers are safe for human consumption/use, a growing amount of scientific study is showing that these items are linked to human health problems such as negatively effecting human hormonal regulation which can lead to infertility and obesity. Things that we once considered healthy are now suspect: antibiotics (and the animals fed them), soy, and fructose are all being linked to weight gain (and worse).
If you are like my dad, you just want dieting made simple and to taste good. For you, start with the TWO STEP Approach. If you are more like my step mom, you are going to want to know all the tips. In that case, keep reading to the Nine Proven Tips. And, if you are like me, you will want to read even further to see Where’s the Proof?
What are the basics to losing weight and getting healthy from my research and experience? In TWO steps.
1. Just substitute the exact foods you eat now for the organic version. For example if your typical breakfast is cereal and coffee and your typical dinner is a burger and fries and a salad and a diet coke, just take the same food and find the organic version. Not only will this protect you from the pesticide and growth hormones found in the conventional items (many of which are suspected obesogens), it also means that you will be protected form the worst of the food additives (some of which are also suspected obesogens) which aren’t allowed in organic food. Oh, and filter your water because “dirty” water can have all sorts of chemicals linked to numerous problems including obesity.
Once this has become easy (and perhaps your pocket book is suffering), you are ready for phase two.
2. Add more real foods and in particular more organic vegetables into your meals. For ideal body chemistry, I’ve heard that you want about ⅓ of calories at every meal from vegetables: that means about half of your plate. Just keep everything the same, just add (even to breakfast) more vegetables. This also means choosing real foods over the fake alternatives: real sugar (or, better, honey) over the “diet” alternatives, real soda over diet soda, whole milk over lower-fat milk, real butter over margarine, real sea salt over processed or low-sodium salts. In most of these cases, the “diet” version of these items have been linked with hormone disruption and weight gain. (Just to be clear, I’m not advocating that you consume sugar, soda, milk, etc., I am just saying IF you are going to do it, choose the real thing. It’s less bad.) Over time, these strategies will mean fewer packaged foods and more wholesome foods which are not only better for your body, they will save you money.
What the steps broken down a bit with more details? Here are nine proven tips.
(These tips are roughly in order of importance and effect, starting with the most important.)
1. Change your meat consumption to be organic. Conventional beef has some of the highest amount of growth hormones and steroids and conventional chicken and farm-raised fish have some of the highest amounts of artificial growth hormones, all of which are linked to weight gain.
2. Choose the real thing, over the imitation version. In almost all cases this works out better for your health according to all sorts of research and lived experience. Just ask Michael Pollan. For example, choose butter over margarine. Choose real milk or make your own nut milk over soy milk. Choose real soda over diet soda. Choose whole milk over skim milk. Choose real unprocessed sugar (or maple sugar or honey) over sugar substitutes. In almost all of these cases, the imitation version is linked to greater health issues, including obesity. Skim and low-fat milk are linked to weight gain and infertility. Soy is linked to both of these things as well. Margarine is full of the deadly trans fats as well as soy. And even diet soda is significantly more liked to obesity than its full-sugar alternative (both of which are linked to obesity) and sugar alternatives such as saccharin and aspartame have been linked to changes in the gut microflora that resulted in obesity.
3. Ensure your dairy is free of artificial growth hormones and is full fat (and preferably not homogenized). The easiest way to do the first is to get organic. When buying milk look for the stuff with the cream on top. Even better if you can get it raw, but that’s not easy as it’s illegal in many states and in Canada. Read more about milk.
4. Get plastics out of your diet. Truly. If you are still microwaving in plastic, buying meat or dairy wrapped in plastic wrap, cooking food in plastic bags, drinking out of plastic (even BPA-free) bottles, or cooking on nonstick pans, then you are consuming plasticizers (and possibly heavy metals), which are linked with changing your hormones and obesity.
5. Drink filtered water. Tap water and many bottled waters contain dozens of different chemicals including pesticides, heavy metals, and prescription medicines. Filter your water using a very good filtering system (better than a Brita) that is capable of removing chlorine byproducts (linked to cancer and obesity) and pesticides. I love and personally use the Berkey.
6. Replace your dietary sugar on a daily basis with honey or maple syrup or just real, whole fruit. If you want to cheat on your “diet,” it is better to let yourself go crazy once a week and eat whatever you want than eat a little refined sugar treat everyday. There is research to suggest that a sort of binge and avoidance model is more effective for sugar than the eat-a-cookie-a-day sort of moderation idea. It seems it is because that bacteria grows in your body that starts to crave that sugar. If you eat a cookie every evening the bacteria will grow and make your crave it more and more. Starve that bacteria and it will be easier to stop the cravings. Remember, artificial sweeteners have been linked to health issues, including obesity, and should always be avoided. And, while fructose when naturally found in fruit, is fine and even healthy, fructose on its own when added to your cookie or in concentration without fiber in a glass of juice is bad for your body and linked with obesity.
7. Stop snacking. I know. Everybody says this. But do you know why? It’s for healthy blood sugar. Your body is meant to go through healthy highs and lows of blood sugar during the day. When a person doesn’t eat a balance of protein and carbohydrates and instead eats simple sugars, the blood sugar spikes higher and then lower than it would otherwise leaving a person needing stimulation: like the kind that comes from caffeine and sugar. Eat more protein, healthy fats, and vegetables at each meal and then reach for a glass of filtered water between meals. An adult should go almost four hours between meals and a child three. Learn more about healthy eating and kicking the sugar habit at one of my favourite resources Margaret Floyd Barry at Eat Naked Now.
8. Add more organic vegetables to your diet (See above #2), and make some of them fermented. That can include real sauerkraut (most be made or bought from a cooler, not “canned” on a shelf), kimchi, or just about any other fermented vegetable. Similarly, if you are still a milk drinker, replace your milk with kefir or a lassi (the simplest version is yoghurt mixed with water or a bit of rosewater). More and more of the research I have seen suggests a connection with a damaged gut micro-biome and obesity. In other words our body needs good bacteria for us to live—what our stomachs need is different than our colon is different than our mouths—but because so much of life kills-off good bacteria (taking antibiotics, eating contaminated meats, drinking chlorinated water), we need to constantly replenish. Eating probiotic rich food is even better than taking a probiotic pill, but you can do that as well.
9. Eat plenty of healthy, pure, organic fats and get your Vitamin D. Get out of your mind the idea that eating fat equals fat. If you eat high quality fats, its closer to the opposite. Healthy fats include: cod liver oil (gives you both good omega fats and Vitamin D), flax oil, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, duck fat, and foods naturally high in essential fats and saturated fats such as wild-caught fish, organic and free-range eggs (fatty fish free to eat in the wild and eggs from chickens exposed to the sun both also contain Vitamin D), avocado, nuts and seeds. These fats are essential in the development of healthy brain, skin, and even weight maintenance. Never skimp on the quality of your fats because toxins—including those similar to the obesogen DDT—are stored in the fats of animals (including humans). And it doesn’t hurt to supplement your Vitamin D intake because these days its virtually impossible to get enough from our diets.
10. Clean up your skincare routine. Yes, that’s right. Many of the proven obesogens are found in skin creams, perfumes, and other beauty care products. Your skin is extremely porous and chemicals rubbed on your body can enter directly into your blood stream. Why bother to clean up the food you put in your body if you are still rubbing hormone mimickers onto your body? An easy way to start is to trade out your skin cream for an edible oil like cocoa butter or almond oil. To help you avoid artificial fragrance or perfume, you can try putting a few drops of pure essential oil (such as lavender, geranium ,or rose) in your new skin oil. Learn how to buy better skincare without getting fooled and search all sorts of recipes, articles, and inspiration on healthy skincare at thegreenmama.com.
Show me the proof
Here are links to a few of the best related articles, research journals, and studies for the super curious.
- An easy-to-read, well-researched article adapted from The New American Diet by NBC News called Fat Epidemic Linked to Chemicals Run Amok.
- Animals fed GMO corn (and soy) diet got fatter faster and stayed fat longer than those fed a similar, non-GMO diet. As well, rats fed fish that had a GMO diet had the same fate.
- Trenbolone acetate used in beef production is an anabolic steroid estimated to be eight to 10 times as potent as testosterone, which is an endocrine-disrupting chemical by definition.
- Antibiotics have been known to cause weight gain since the 1950s where experiments were conducted on children in Guatemala, mentally handicapped children in the US, and Navy recruits. And studies have shown that low doses fed regularly to lab mice cause changes in the gut flora that result in obesity.
- Data suggests that maternal beef consumption, and possibly xenobiotics (steroids) in beef, may alter a man’s testicular development in utero and adversely affect his reproductive capacity.
- Diet soda highly associated with weight gain (higher even than with regular soft-drink consumption). For each can of diet soft drink consumed each day, a person’s risk of obesity went up 41%.
Fowler, S.P. 65th Annual Scientific Sessions, American Diabetes Association, San Diego, June 10-14, 2005; Abstract 1058-P. Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, University of Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine, San Antonio. Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director, sports nutrition, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. WebMD News: “Artificial Sweeteners May Damage Diet Efforts.” Davidson, T.L. International Journal of Obesity, July 2004; vol 28: pp 933-955.
- Low-fat and reduced-fate milk linked to infertility and possible weight gain
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Jun;159(6):543-50.
Milk, dairy fat, dietary calcium, and weight gain: a longitudinal study of adolescents.
Berkey CS1, Rockett HR, Willett WC, Colditz GA.
- Low-fat and reduce-fat milk is associated with infertility in women
Hum Reprod. 2007 May;22(5):1340-7. Epub 2007 Feb 28.
A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility.
Chavarro JE1, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner B, Willett WC.
- Artificial growth hormones found in meat might be contributing to obesity epedemic. Rats get fat after long-term exposure to common agricultural pesticide
- Rats exposed to environmental chemicals (plasticizers such as BPA and phthalates, jet fuels, and pesticides) have more obese offspring and it gets worse over the generations.
- Researchers have noted a link between organochlorine pesticides and impaired thyroid function, a symptom of which can be weight gain. Study showed that organophosphates and carbamates, two common classes of pesticides, cause obesity in animals.
DDT, the fungicide TBT, the plasticizers BPA and dicyclohexyl phthalate; and two pesticides: endrin and tolylfluanid exposure linked to obesity. Similar results have been found in flame retardants, other fungicides and phthalates. “Getting good, long-term data on the relationships between chemicals and obesity in humans is expensive and time-consuming. As a result, the obesogen field remains on the periphery of clinical practice and environmental policy. “I doubt the clinical obesity medicine community has much, if any, knowledge on this,” Scott Kahan, a weight-management physician at the National Center for Weight and Wellness.
Cited from: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/44278/title/Obesogens/
- Further studies:
M.D. Anway et al., “Epigenetic transgenerational actions of endocrine disruptors and male fertility,” Science, 308:1466-69, 2005.
M. Manikkam et al., “Plastics derived endocrine disruptors (BPA, DEHP and DBP) induce epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity, reproductive disease and sperm epimutations,” PLOS ONE, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055387, 2013.
M.K. Skinner et al., “Ancestral dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) exposure promotes epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity,” BMC Medicine, 11:228, 2013.
F. Grün et al., “Endocrine-disrupting organotin compounds are potent inducers of adipogenesis in vertebrates,” Mol Endocrinol, 20:2141-55, 2006.
F. Grün, B. Blumberg, “Environmental obesogens: Organotins and endocrine disruption via nuclear receptor signaling,” Endocrinology, 147:S50-S55, 2006.
R.M. Sargis et al., “Environmental endocrine disruptors promote adipogenesis in the 3T3-L1 cell line through glucocorticoid receptor activation,” Obesity, 18:1283-88, 2010.
R.M. Sargis et al., “The novel endocrine disruptor tolyfluanid impairs insulin signaling in primary rodent and human adipocytes through a reduction in insulin receptor substrate-1 levels,” Biochim Biophys Acta, 1822:952-60, 2012.
S.M. Regnier et al., “Dietary exposure to the endocrine disruptor tolyfluanid promotes global metabolic dysfunction in male mice,” Endocrinology, 156:896-910, 2015.
L. Trasande et al., “Association between urinary bisphenol A concentration and obesity prevalence in children and adolescents,” JAMA, 308:1113-21, 2012.
D.-K. Li et al., “Urine bisphenol-A level in relation to obesity and overweight in school-age children,” PLOS ONE, 8:e65399, 2013.
M. Goodman et al., “Do phthalates act as obesogens in humans? A systematic review of the epidemiological literature,” Crit Rev Toxicol, 44:151-75, 2014.
- Further studies:
As always, articles and advice on thegreenmama.com aren’t meant to replace the advice of your trusted healthcare professional, but rather help you ask better questions and become a partner in achieving the healthiest life for you and your family. Get inspiration and tips delivered to your inbox by signing up for the green mama’s weekly newsletter.