Is a Calorie a Calorie?

You’ve whipped yourself into a wholehearted weight loss frenzy – exercised an hour every day, cut calories until you were ravenous (and homicidal) and used every psych trick in your book – and you haven’t’ lost and ounce, or maybe that’s all you DID lose. You’re going to have a meltdown if someone waves another celery stick in front of you. You start thinking maybe you are sleep-eating in the middle of the night (yes – people actually do that). Next you think that maybe you have a thyroid problem, your metabolism is broken, or you are “genetically fat”. Because really, how is it possible to live on carrot sticks, run ten miles a day, and never lose weight? “Doesn’t that break some law of thermodynamics or something?” Well technically, yes, and it is happening more often to more people and there is even a real reason that it might be happening to you. There are monsters lurking in your refrigerator, you pantry, your bathroom, your water bottles, baby bottles, and even the dirt in your yard, that can switch off your fat-burning process, reprogram cells to become fat cells, ruin your pancreas so that you produce too much insulin (which makes you fat), and switch off the signal that tells you when you are full. Meet obesogens. Obesogens mimic our own hormones and the end result is the inability to lose weight no matter what you do. Obesogens are EVERYWHERE, but especially in processed food. Some of them are obvious and well known, like high fructose corn syrup, which is in nearly all packaged foods. The Health Food Patrol, of which I am a card-carrying member, has been shrieking and nagging about HFCS for a couple of years now, and the more research on it, the worse the stuff looks. Other obesogens are pesticides and chemicals in plastic, specifically, bisphenol A (BPA). I have avoided the BPA issue because it is so huge and pervasive that even I want to throw my hands up in the air in surrender, or maybe just slit my wrists and get it over with. But given that it is now an identified obesogens, it’s time to talk about it.BPA is EVERYWHERE. Plastics with the numbers 3 or 7 on the bottom will leach BPA into your food or water. It is in nearly all the linings in metal food cans. Plastic food bags and wraps leach it into your food. They put it in dental sealants. It even coats cash register receipts. “Exposure to bisphenol A is continuous,” said Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri at Columbia.No duh, Fred. It’s also in air fresheners, non-stick pans, microwave popcorn and plastic shower curtains (you know that “new shower curtain” smell? Toxic.), and probably all the plastic in your car. I even wonder about your polyester pants. Just sayin’. Retha Newbold of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in North Carolina tests obesogens on mice. “What was so odd was that the overweight mice were not eating more or moving less than the normal mice,” Newbold says. “We measured that very carefully, and there was no statistical difference.” These results contradict the first law of thermodynamics, which implies that weight gain equals calories consumed minus calories burned. This is the scariest, most interesting part of the whole issue. These chemicals are so powerful that they can negate what we thought were fundamental physical laws. When obesogens are involved, a calorie is NOT a calorie.So guess who else is getting fat on obesogens? In 2006 scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health reported that the prevalence of obesity in infants under 6 months had risen 73 percent since 1980. Newbold gave low doses (equivalent to what people are exposed to in the environment) of obesogens to newborn mice. “In six months, the mice were 20 percent heavier and had 36 percent more body fat than unexposed mice.” Exposing your pregnant, or eventually pregnant self to obesogens can program your baby to manufacture more fat cells, making him or her fat for life. Here’s the really brutal truth that people need to know about this sort of thing: SOME THINGS CAN NOT BE FIXED. This may very well be one of them. Laugh at the health food freaks all you want. Go ahead - say, “You worry too much,” or “You’re so paranoid,” or, “Oh, it’s just a little soda pop.” It’s not such a hoot when you are so fat you can’t walk any more, your heart is giving out, you are diabetic and your feet are rotting off, BUT YOU CAN’T GET THE WEIGHT OFF! I talk to these people. It’s a nightmare. It’s like being a prisoner in your own body. I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just trying to do my job. If you hesitate for a second and think, “Hmmmmm. Is this Twinkie worth a living hell on earth?” before you shove it in your mouth, or even worse, in your kid’s mouth, then I did what I could. If you can’t fix it, the only thing left is to prevent it. How do you do that? Don’t heat anything up in plastic and put it in your mouth. Avoid number 3 and 7 plastics. Buy canned food only from companies that don’t use BPA in the can liner, like Eden Foods. Better yet, can your own food in glass. Get your food fresh and local. Use the local butcher and have him wrap your GRASS-FED meat in paper, not plastic. Use glass instead of plastic whenever you can. Don’t lick your fingers after you handle a shopping receipt and don’t let your kids eat them. As always, your best offense is a good defense. Always look for more ways to be healthy and build your immune system before you have a health disaster. Julie Crist L. Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist at Acuplanet Acupuncture in the Town Center Building in downtown Colville.