British television presenter and lifestyle coach Amanda Hamilton shares her expertise on lifestyle, health, nutrition and detox. The middle-age spread is going downwards. Down in years that is. No longer the domain of the mid-40 to 50-year-olds, the expanding waistline and bulging belly has become so normal among our society's teenagers that they coined their own phrase to describe the dreaded trouser overhang. People, look down and prepare to meet your "muffin top".
The fact is we don't gain weight like we used to. A healthy weight gain is all over the body, a women's voluptuous pear-shape a good example of this. Curvaceous TV stars such as Nigella Lawson often eat healthily and look healthy, even with "extra" pounds. This used to be the norm in the days of Rita Hayworth. These days, you can count calories and still gain weight. Sure, gluttony will always have an impact, but what about the majority of people, women especially, on a permanent diet with no real effect?
The truth behind this growing problem is caused, at least in part, by something so small it cannot be detected by the naked eye. Chemical calories - ever heard of them? If you haven't yet, chances are you will soon. It is the so-called "cocktail" effect of these chemicals that is behind the changing pattern of our bodies. The reason these chemicals hit below the belt is that a hefty percentage of these chemicals are actually designed to promote weight gain and rapid growth.
Farmers feed their livestock growth-promoting additives that force animals to gain weight fast. These chemicals improve the efficiency of food by changing the animal's metabolism in such a way that less food goes further; bigger livestock equals bigger profits. However, when the chemicals make it down the food chain, not surprisingly, they have the same effect. You don't need to be standing open mouthed at the edge of a field to be affected. A minute dose of a chemical does not create any significant problem. They would never be deemed safe enough to leave the lab otherwise.
However, when you consider that 20,000 new chemicals are added into our environment each year, it becomes more worrying. Multiply many minute doses and voila - your own chemical cocktail. These chemicals work in several ways. They damage the natural appetite 'switch', which tells us when to stop eating, and they make us store fat more effectively - after all, that is exactly what the farmer wants from his prize bovine.
Veggies don't receive a get out of jail free card either. It's not just meat that's contaminated. The same chemicals that promote weight gain in animals and humans are sprayed on vegetables and used in medicines, cosmetics, toiletries, metals, plastics and household products. The net result is that far from the "fat epidemic" being explained away by tales of excessive eating and laziness, the increasing use of chemicals in food production can be measured with shocking accuracy with the rise in levels of obesity across westernised societies.
You might be wondering why everyone isn't fat. It is actually pretty simple. There have always been people who are more chemically sensitive. Those with allergies, asthma, hay fever or digestive problems often struggle where others prevail. Moreover, if your detox systems are working well your body will remove most of the offending chemicals. However, if you are one of the many whose diet is low in the nutrients needed to keep your detox organs working optimally and is rich in chemical calories, then you have a double-whammy. Chuck in a resistance to exercise (which boosts detoxification) and you have a pretty clear picture.
So, what's the answer from über-healthy and wealthy folk who have been in on the game for several years? Take a leaf out of the delectable Gwyneth's Paltrow's book and learn that it is all about getting a "clean" diet. It forces the old diet world order to do an about-turn. Rather than looking at food in terms of fat or calories, think in terms of its organic status and nutrient value. The humble avocado, denied by dieters the world over, becomes a fat-fighting food par excellence due to its protective oils and durability over more fragile foods. Diet drinks and low-calorie processed foods become resigned to the sin-bin.
Every chemical source in your life from skincare to shower cleaner gets a detox. Luckily for us, celebrity endorsed lines of natural, organic and free-range are everywhere now. Like I said, they have been in on this game for years. Before you panic, let me tell you what I tell my clients to help keep things simple. If you can't pronounce what is says on the label you probably shouldn't be eating it, at least not all the time.
Go organic with animal products that have not been subject to the growth-inducing chemicals. And next time you need a refill or a new shampoo, try out the organic one.