Friday, June 18, 2010

..::can stress cause weight gain?beware!! ::..

By Anisa Abeytia

Integrative Health Specialist- Dubai

You hear it all the time, "don't eat that or you'll get fat" or "if you don't exercise, you're going to gain weight." The foods we eat or lack of exercise are most commonly associated with gaining weight. You would be hard pressed to find someone saying, "You better calm down or you're never going to lose all that weight." But the truth is that stress can and does make you fat.

The model of weight gain that most people are familiar with has to do with consuming too many calories. This model is still relevant for us when we talk about stress, but stress adds a twist to this. When we are under stress, especially prolonged stress (physical, emotional or environmental) our body's chemistry is changed. This change leads to unhealthy cravings for sweet and salty foods.

Why Salty and Sweet?

Modern humans have come up with new and unique ways of stressing themselves out. In the past, major stressors consisted of events such as food shortage, illness, pregnancy/child rearing, physical work, exposure to the elements and war. These events typically were not everyday experiences and our response was straightforward. Also, these events ended and we had time to recover. This is in addition to the fact that people in the past were very physically active.

Today we have traffic, cell phones, deadlines, noise pollution, picking the children up from school, degenerative diseases, loneliness, depression, war without end and each other to stress over. Physically we are not adapted to deal with all of this daily stress. Add to that, the fact that many people today are physically inactive and have poor diets and this is nothing less than a recipe for an expanding waistline.

Instead of reducing stressors, using stress reducing techniques or changing our response to stress (reframing), the tendency is to keep going and to self medicate using food. But why food?

The adrenal glands are responsible for our ability to adapt and cope with stress, but when we over burden them, they want a pick me up. Salt feeds the adrenal glands and sugar whips them (as does caffeine). These foods are the whip and the adrenal glands are the horse. This will keep a person going for a while, but these food cravings and the body's own chemistry will not only cause weight gain, but it can also cause all types of health issues as well.

Adrenaline, Cortisol and Serotonin

Adrenaline does not last long in the body and we quickly feel the "crash" after a "rush". This is when the food cravings set in.
Many times most of the stress we are experiencing is self-inflicted. Either we are doing too much or our response to stress is unhealthy. There is only so much one can do in one day, but many people have become addicted to that "rush" they feel when they are very busy. This "rush" is caused by adrenaline or epinephrine produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress and is intended to give us the energy to fight or run away (fight or flight).

Along with the production of adrenaline, the body will also produce cortisol. Slow acting cortisol can cause the most trouble. Adrenaline does not last long in the body and we quickly feel the "crash" after a "rush". This is when the food cravings set in.

The over abundance of cortisol can cause havoc on our blood sugar levels and can even contribute to causing diabetes. Also, the longer this process goes on, the harder it will be for the body to recover from this "rush" and "crash" cycle.

The other player in this scenario is serotonin. This neuro-transmitter works in the brain to keep our mood elevated. A common side effect of low serotonin is depression. Serotonin also helps us cope with stress, but can easily become depleted when we are under prolonged stress.

We need to replenish our supplies of serotonin from our diet, so if our diet is low in serotonin abundant foods and high in stress, sugar is a substitute, although a poor and short lived one. A lack of serotonin can cause food cravings. There are also people that do not produce enough serotonin.

What Can You Do?Stress Obesity

- Eat before you are hungry

You can accomplish this by snacking on healthy foods. It is difficult to curb cravings when you are hungry. Once you reach the level of hunger, you are more likely to grab the easiest thing than the right type of food.

- Snack on healthy foods

A good snack contains a protein, a fat and a complex carbohydrate (whole grain). It can be cheese and crackers, celery and nut butter (almond, peanut, or cashew), or a bowl of yogurt with fruit and nuts. Have an afternoon and a morning snack.

- Eat foods rich in tryptophan (converts to serotonin)

Tryptophan is an amino acid (found in protein foods). To boost your levels, eat protein rich foods like chicken, turkey, nuts, cheeses and beans.

- Eat at regular times

Just like us, our bodies do better on a regular schedule. Have your breakfast within an hour of waking up. Have your lunch between 12-1 p.m. and dinner before 6 p.m.

- Drink Water

Stress is a dehydrating experience. Most people under stress also drink large amounts of coffee, tea and soda, all of which are diuretics and add to the body’s need for more water.

- Choose whole grains

Whole Grains help regulate the blood sugar, keep us full longer and provide us with long lasting fuel for our brain and body. They also contain high amounts of the B vitamins that are quickly depleted in times of stress. The B vitamins help us cope with stress better.

- Do not bring sweets into the house

If you don’t have them, you can’t eat them-problem solved. If you find yourself making special trips to the store to satisfy your sweet tooth, then you know you have a problem with sugar.

- Sleep and rest

During times of stress, your body needs time to rest and recover. Stress can drain you physically, mentally and emotionally. Depending on the individual, the amount of sleep and rest required will vary.

- Exercise

Exercise does not necessarily mean a physically strenuous activity. Over doing exercise is also a stressor. You be the judge on what type of exercise you find enjoyable and you can also consult with a physical trainer.

Read more:

Anisa Abeytia, B.A. USC , M.A., Stanford is an integrative health specialist currently pursuing a M.S. in Holistic Nutrition. Over the past ten years Anisa has pursued various fields of holistic and traditional medicine

Want to be Closer to Allah, But ...

Want to be Closer to Allah, But Don't Know How!

By Raya Shokatfard

Editor in Chief—

In many Islamic circles or presentations, I am asked a similar question from my brothers and sisters: "I want to get closer to Allah, but don't know how; or I don't have the power to do it. Sometimes I can succeed in getting close to Him when I spend time with pious friends who are affecting me, but when they are no longer around, I lose that closeness. I become powerless."

Allah, the Exalted is the Best to respond to this concern:

(When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me: let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way.) (Al-Baqarah 2:186)

As Muslims, we believe in the Word of Allah, then should we not believe in the above verse? Of course we want to believe, but what truly keeps us from believing it in our hearts and feeling it when we make supplications?

If we can imagine there is a beautiful scenery in front of us, but there is also a curtain or veil between us and the scene. We can have a glimpse of the beauty on the other side, but not all. We want to see it all, but we keep sitting in our place and do not get up to move the curtain aside so we can have a full view.

Removing the veil or curtain takes the following efforts:

First, there must be a desire;

Second, the knowhow;

Third, keeping it open for full view at all times.

Sometimes people think of wanting to be close to Allah, but the desire is not strong enough. Faith is like a seed. It must be planted in fertile soil and watered. It is a process that would take time and determination.

To begin with, we must observe the most important duty Allah has prescribed to us,

Actions must lead to the cleansing of the heart of all that is displeasing to Allah. This might not be easy, especially for the younger generation.
which is devotion and worship. This is the first step for achieving closeness to Allah.

In a Qudsi hadith the Prophet reported that Allah says,

" servant does not come closer to Me with anything more dear to Me than that which I made obligatory upon him. My servant keeps coming closer to Me with more volunteer deeds, until I love him. When I love him, I become His ear by which he hears, his eyes by which he sees, his hand by which he holds and his foot by which he walks. If he asks Me anything I shall give him. If he seeks My protection I shall grant him My protection… "(Al-Bukhari 6021)

While performing correct worship, one must choose the way to piety and righteousness mentioned in the hadith; a major step of getting closer to Him the Almighty. The person who has taqwa or piety, is the one who is foremost in doing good and wants to be ahead of others in goodness.

(And the foremost are the foremost. These are they who are drawn nigh (to Allah). In the gardens of bliss.)(Al-Waqi`ah 56:10-12)

He remembers his humility in front of Allah, and knows he can call on Him with hope and fear. He desires much closeness to Him.

(Call on your Lord with humility and in private: for Allah loves not those who trespass beyond bounds. Do no mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order, but call on Him with fear and longing (in your hearts): for the Mercy of Allah is (always) near to those who do good.) (Al-A`raf 7:55, 56)

Read more:

Raya Shokatfardis the Editor in Chief of Reading Islam website ( She has been an activist in promoting a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the US for more than 20 years, and in Egypt for several years.She holds an M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication as well as an M.A.D . in TV Journalism from the American University in Cairo.