Guest Post: What are You Putting into Your Body? (and flushing down the toilet?)

by Lorrie

I dumped my McDonald’s cheeseburger into the garbage with disgust. Feeling very hungry, I had ordered two cheeseburgers during a quick stop on our road trip to the cottage, hoping that they would provide me with a bit of protein. All the same, I simply could not consume the second cheeseburger, which tasted like cardboard and contained a small hard white lump (of something?) in its first bite. As a parent of young children, I am aware that McDonald’s hamburgers are not processed in a safe manner. According to a Facebook post by Jillian Michaels, they actually contain ammonia. I am ashamed to admit that my family and I still occasionally (although rarely) go to this fast food chain. Why you may ask? Probably for the same reason that other parents go. It’s easy. It’s convenient. The kids will eat most if not all of their entire “meal” and, well, McDonald’s restaurants are everywhere.

Reading FFG’s post last week along with the link from Chef Jamie Oliver ( caused me to ponder this issue again. It seems that McDonald’s corporation has altered its recipe and no longer uses the “pink slime” process, but I am not sure if or when this change actually happened. In any case, my children deserve better nutrition than what is offered there.

No more I say! We cannot continue with such mindless zombie habits.

My family and I had in fact stopped going to McDonald’s for a few years because of our experiences in the play area. My husband and I noticed a distinctive pattern: almost every time our children played in the ball pit or climbed up and down the visibly dirty slides, they would begin vomiting one to two days later. I am guessing that their reaction was due to a lack of cleanliness in the play zone. Now that is not convenient. Nor are 2 am barf-cleaning exercises.

Wait, I have a cost saving idea for McDonald’s. Perhaps any unused ammonia burgers could be used to wipe down the play area. Or better yet, why not give toys out to the grown ups as well? I suggest a commemorative “The Ammonia Days” hamburger shaped pot scrubber.

I have been thinking that a lot of we do is based on following familiar habits in our rushed lives. These habits introduce chemicals into our bodies, whether that absorption occurs through eating, skin contact, or inhalation. In the latter cases, I am referring primarily to the chemicals in personal care or house cleaning products. Just minutes before sitting down to write this blog post, I quickly and generously smeared Oil of Olay all over my face and neck. One of its ingredients is methylparaben. According to this link on David Suzuki’s website, parabens have been detected in human breast cancer tissue:—parabens/. I am so vain that I have known about this danger and yet continue using this product. I have tried natural alternatives to Oil of Olay, but my skin just doesn’t seem to look as good. I will definitely revisit this decision! How can it be that my fear of looking older is apparently greater than my fear of putting toxins on my own face?

Some of the Rocky Mountain Soap Company products that I like.

Some of the Rocky Mountain Soap Company products that I like.

We order a lot of our personal care products from the Rocky Mountain Soap Company here in Canada, which I highly recommend. There is no guess work when using these safe, all natural, great-smelling products. Recently, I purchased Tom’s natural deodorant for myself at Shopper’s Drug Mart. I was assembling a care package for a friend of mine who is getting chemotherapy for an aggressive form of breast cancer. She is now choosing only natural paraben-free products. This deodorant works well for me except after workouts, so I use it part time. This small improvement encourages me to make other gradual changes to my consumption patterns.

shampooI am especially careful about the products that I use on my children. I found a 99% plant based shampoo and soap for babies at Shopper’s Drug Mart a few years ago. I had been warned by another mom about the potential danger of using Johnson and Johnson’s No More Tears shampoo since it contains the carcinogen formaldehyde. As if there isn’t already enough anxiety in being a parent! Johnson and Johnson is currently in the process of reformulating its products due to public pressure.

I enjoy finding natural alternative house cleaning products as well. We have replaced our Swiffer Wet Jet with a steam mop. Now I look forward to mopping the floors and no longer have to run around opening all of the windows to avoid coughing and gagging. Of course we need to clean our homes and toilets but there needs to be a balance in everything. Which is worse? The germs from not cleaning properly, or the potential side effects and health hazards of certain cleaning agents? I am sure that you are as excited as I am to learn that yesterday I cleaned my toilet with an all natural peppermint scented toilet bowl cleaner. It is even safe for septic systems. I question the safety of non-chalantly swishing around regular cleaner with our heads right over the toilet bowl if the product in use is not safe for septic systems.

My dishwashing liquids.

My dishwashing liquids.

Natural cleaning products have improved in recent years. The containers resemble those of the original products making them more familiar and therefore less of a change. Then there are other options such as using Enjo or Norwex cloths. I have some Enjo cloths and I really like them. All I have to do is add water and wipe the surface and there are no chemicals involved at all.

I have many bad habits to break. With all of the healthy products I have converted to there still are many more. I often use disinfectant wipes in the bathrooms, sliding back to the familiar “old” way of doing things. A mammoth sized blob of fat and baby wipes (a.k.a fatberg) formed inside one of London’s sewer systems due to people flushing fat like bacon grease or baby wipes down the toilet. Flushing one baby wipe doesn’t seem like a big deal but it matters. It all adds up. Even small positive changes can accumulate into larger ones, just as seemingly small bad habits can become bigger problems.

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 51-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. About eight years ago, I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

3 thoughts on “Guest Post: What are You Putting into Your Body? (and flushing down the toilet?)

  1. Respectfully, the notion that certain “chemical” cosmetic ingredients are more harmful than others is worth further investigation and research. On parabens specifically:
    Water is a chemical: it’s a mild solvent, which makes it ideal for cleaning surfaces with those cool microfiber towels. Plant-derived essential oils are often used in products marketed as Natural, even though they are made via a distillation process that converts massive amounts of plant matter into a small quantity of concentrated phytochemical essential oil. Most essential oils are harmful or fatal if swallowed because of the high concentration of plant-based poisons that end up in the oil, and some (such as peppermint, lemon and bergamot) are also potent skin irritants.

    Regarding food, there’s an “8 Toxic Foods” meme that has been going around the internet this summer, and Derek Lowe (a professional chemist) shows how current scientific knowledge does not support chemical-toxin panic:

    As feminists, I also think there’s an idea worth exploring that women are disproportionately affected by anxiety, guilt and negativity about food, personal-care and cleaning products, since these occur within the sphere of home where we’re more likely to have primary care responsibilities. But that’s a subject for another day.

    • Thanks for your helpful comments and links Marissa. Please let me know if you would like to write a guest post about the consumer and gender politics of food and chemical anxieties. I think that would be a great topic.

  2. Thanks for finding me and my blog today! You’ve touched on so many interesting issues in one post and I’m impressed. The tough part is figuring out what changes to make and which ones really matter. We can’t live as though we’re scared of everything (to Marissa’s point above), but there are a lot of things out there that would make a big difference in our lives and health over time if we created better habits. I’m excited to see what you’ll post next and I hope we can collaborate in some way!
    Cheryl at

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