• Allison Castle

Your couch may be making you fat (and not for the reason you are thinking!)

We know that sitting on the couch for hours on end binge-watching the latest Netflix series is not in the best interest of our health and weight but did you know there another way your couch may be making you fat?


If you have read my past couple posts you have seen a theme of toxic (stressor) chemicals in our homes. Unfortunately, the living room and bedroom are not immune from containing obesogens!


Let’s review, obesogens, a category of endocrine disruptors, are artificial chemicals that contribute not only to weight gain and obesity but also birth defects, premature puberty in girls, demasculinization in men, endocrine-related cancers, asthma, behavioral and learning problems. Obesogens activate estrogen receptors and disrupt the normal metabolic process. Obesogens can both increase the number of fat cells in the body and promote fat storage. Obesogens can also affect the hormones responsible for appetite and satiety. Obesogens contribute to oxidative stress in the body, interfere with the gut microbiome, contribute to leaky gut and clog the liver.


In animal studies, mice become insulin resistant with exposure to obesogens. Insulin is our fat making hormone and insulin resistance results in perpetual fat storage. Another way our body protects us is by storing toxins in our fat cells. Our body holds on to this fat to keep toxins from entering our blood stream. This function makes fat difficult to lose especially if we are continually exposed to and accumulating toxins.


Is it a coincidence that Obesity rates have tripled since the 1970’s and over the last 50 years over 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into our lives? It is estimated that 80% of those chemicals have not be adequately tested for safety or long term health effects (unless you count the human experiments that are going on now without our consent). Of these thousands of chemicals 2,0 have officially been classified as obesogens so far.


So how are obesogens showing up on your couch? In flame retardants such as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl). The family of PBDE consists of 209 possible substances that were added to consumer products to make them difficult to burn. Flame retardants can also show up in carpets, mattresses, children’s pajamas and many other consumer and commercial products. Have you ever noticed the smell of new carpet and furniture? It can be very distinctive and some people are more sensitive than others. But whether you are sensitive or not you may be breathing in flame retardant chemicals from the air and dust particles. There is additional concern being expressed with baby’s and young children as they tend to spend more time in contact with mattresses and more time on the floor where dust tends to settle. The concerns lie in neurobehavioral development and effects on the reproductive organs, thyroid, liver and pancreas.


Fortunately, there is legislation in some states limited the usage of flame retardants but I would still recommend some of these tips to reduce your exposure to flame retardants.


When replacing furniture and carpets:

TIP #1- Look for products that do not contain flame retardants. They are available but you may need to do some research and ask the right questions. Cotton and wool are good natural fiber options. The environmental working group is a great place to start: https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/20888/you-can-find-hundreds-couches-without-toxic-flame-retardants#.W3XZcuhKjIU


TIP #2- Consider buying a furniture floor model or asking the store to remove the packaging to allow the furniture or carpet to offgas some before it comes into your home.


TIP#3- Let the new carpet or furniture hang out in your garage or in an outdoor space to allow some offgassing to occur before bringing it into your home.


Home maintenance to reduce flame retardant exposure:


TIP #4- Vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum to remove dust with PBDEs


TIP #5- Improve your indoor air quality by using and regularly replacing HEPA filtration in your furnace/air conditioner and/or as a stand alone air filtration unit


Other air quality tips:


TIP #6- There are many types of air cleaning plants https://www.hgtv.com/remodel/interior-remodel/10-best-plants-for-cleaning-indoor-air-pictures


(Note: if you have pets check to make sure they are non-toxic if ingested by your curious furry friend-https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants)


TIP #7- Open windows when possible. In most cases, indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air.


Bonus tips! We looked at phthalate in the bathroom but they are also frequently found in living rooms and bedroom in the form of candles, air fresheners and scented cleaning products.


Bonus TIP #1- Make your own cleaners. There are tons of simple recipes online using things like baking soda, vinegar and lemon. This website has lots of ideas to get you started https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/non-toxic-home-cleaning/


TIP #2- To add a pleasant scent to the air use high quality essential oils instead of air fresheners. If you cannot live without candles opt for beeswax with lead-free wicks as a healthier option.


Being aware of these and other obesogens are just one part of the puzzle to losing weight and keeping it off. Everyone's puzzle is a little different so when I work with my clients we work to identify what specific stressors are impacting them and what areas of their lives need more attention and nourishment.


Would you like discover more about your personal stressors and nourishment needs so you can lose the stubborn weight and keep it off for good?


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