Weight Loss is Making You Feel Cold

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For most of us, we go through the biannual ritual of resolve to lose weight. This typically occurs during the spring, in preparation for the summer season, and again during the winter, before and after the holiday binge. Many will put on a good show, but only those valiant enough will prove to be successful in meeting their weight loss goal. Ten pounds here, another ten pounds there, and, eventually, congrats! You’re looking better and feeling healthier than ever, but why are you so cold now? Is it possible you’ve grown emotionally attached to those deposits of adipose tissue and are now reeling from the loss? If you said yes, I’d believe you, but it’s more likely that by ridding your body of excess fat you’ve also rid your body of the insulation it had been previously accustomed to.

white adipose tissue, white fat, body fat

Cold intolerance, which is when the body becomes more sensitive to the cold even during comfortable temperatures, has been a reoccurring issue for people who have seen a drastic reduction in their weight; more specifically, these people have lost a lot of unwanted White Adipose Tissue, also commonly known as body fat. Not all of the fat in your body is the same, but it’s the white adipose tissue that is widely undesired and serves as the body’s method of storing energy in the form of lipids. This white fat is what insulates your body and becomes a natural protection method against heat loss. The more fat a person loses also means the more body heat you’ll lose, making it more difficult to stay warm.

The Struggle to Stay Warm

Heat loss may not be such a big deal since you hopefully have a few clean coats, sweaters, blankets, or the ever-so-slightly embarrassing Snuggie–which is a blanket with front arm sleeves–that will keep you warm. You may even have a great space heater or furnace that you don’t mind cranking up and keeping on all day; it’s a perfect solution to keeping warm when your body is expelling too much body heat following weight loss. The problem with running a heater, however, comes from the added heating cost and complications you may not have accounted for. If a person rarely used their heater before because they were naturally insulated and warm most of the time, they will see a big spike in their energy bill if they’re now consistently cold and running their heater on a regular basis.

newair ah-450b, heater

It’s important to remember that if you’re operating a heater, be sure to check its specifications to determine whether it’s a product that will fit your heating needs in an energy efficient way. If not, try to find a heater with an adjustable thermostat, varying heat levels, or automated controls. These features will help you control the amount of energy being consumed while providing ways to maintain the comfort level in the room. Running a heater intermittently or turning it off when the room hits a comfortable temperature will definitely reduce your heating costs, but there are other potential issues a person may have with a sudden increase in heater usage.

Conventional heaters have been known to create dry heat, especially during winter when there isn’t much moisture in the air to begin with. Dry air combined with heat can make conditions in the room uncomfortable for people susceptible to itchy eyes, irritated throat, or dry skin. The best way to solve this problem is by investing in a humidifier to control the moisture level in the room while running your electric heater or furnace. The added moisture will keep the air from becoming too dry and relieves many of the symptoms associated with hot dry air. If a humidifier is too much of an added cost, just stay hydrated as best you can by drinking plenty of water or hot tea to stay warm. Radiators and infrared heaters are also a good alternative to electric space heaters and furnaces because they don’t contribute to the dry heat as much.

For pet owners, constant and/or high temperature heater usage can also cause complications for dogs, cats, and other animals. Dogs, for instance, have a higher core body temperature than humans and may not respond well to the increased temperature from your heater usage. Small and lean dogs might not mind and will adapt well to higher temperatures for various reasons. Smaller dogs might not have thick coats as other dogs who are better suited for outside conditions; they will benefit greatly from warmer temperatures. The same applies for leaner dogs like Greyhounds because, as we’ve mentioned earlier, lack adequate body fat for insulation. Hot, dry air conditions, however, may still be an issue for some pets.

Cold Intolerance May Be More Dangerous

So, what if after all the sweaters and proper heater usage, you’re still feeling uncommonly cold and it’s not from the weight loss? If this is happening to you, it could be a sign of a bigger health issue than the lack of body fat insulation. This type of cold intolerance can be the symptom of:

  • General poor health
  • Vascular problems like Raynauds disease, which causes blood vessels to narrow and less blood to flow through
  • Underactive thyroid gland, which slows down your metabolism and interferes with heat production
  • Anemia, which is when there’s a shortage of oxygen-carrying red blood cells
  • Anorexia, which is when a person’s weight and calorie intake is dangerously low
  • Problem with the brain’s hypothalamus, which produces hormones that control various things including body temperature

Heaters are convenient for warming people up, but using them may mask some of these symptoms before they can be properly diagnosed. If you suffer from extreme cold intolerance, it’s best to consult your doctor and get yourself checked out before your condition becomes worse.

You Can’t Beat the Cold. Embrace It!

Since we’ve explored the effects of weight loss on a person’s body temperature, what effect does body temperature have on weight loss? Early on in this article, there was brief mention of the fact that many people have a difficult time losing weight and has since largely ignored the possibility of cold temperatures being beneficial to weight loss. Yes, you read that correctly; being cold may actually help you lose more weight so you can shed that adipose layer of insulation and feel even colder. It seems like a vicious cycle, but one that your health can benefit from the latest research and fitness trends.

Ray Cronise, a former NASA scientist, has been researching this idea for years now after his own successful experiences losing weight. Cronise was 5 feet 9 inches tall and was struggling to drop from his 209 pound weight to 180 pounds until Michael Phelps came to the rescue. Not literally, of course, but Cronise did begin asking the right questions that would lead him down the path of a possible dieting breakthrough. How does the Olympic medal winner swimmer consume 12,000 calories a day and not become a walrus even after swimming three hours a day?

snowman, working out, buff snowman, weight loss
So cold, yet so buff

Cronise hypothesized that Phelps’ frequent exposure to the water and colder temperatures forced his body to burn more calories in order to maintain his core body temperature. One might say this was a chilling thought that inspired Cronise to take colder showers, wear light clothing, sleep without being covered by sheets or blankets, and exercise in cold weather. All of his worked paid off well by dropping 27 pounds in six weeks without drastic cutbacks in his daily calorie intake. He was amazed by the results, but the scientist in him wasn’t entirely convinced. Since then, Cronise has been conducting his research out of his own home and crowd sourcing for funds on the Internet to further his studies on how environmental temperature affects a person’s metabolism.

More recent studies into brown adipose tissue production from other researchers, which were published in the journal Cell Metabolism, seem to back Cronise’s claims to some extent. Brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, is better than white fat because it’s more active with your metabolism and burns more readily to produce heat. Researchers of the Cell Metabolism study found that subjects who exercised in a 65 degree temperature or laid shivering in a 53 degree bed both produced a hormone called “Irisin” that converts white fat into the more actively burning brown fat. Additionally, those with shivering cold muscles produced another hormone called “FGF21,” which further boosted the subjects’ calorie burn.

65 Degree F Exercising 53 Degree F Bed
Shivering Factor No Yes
Irisin Production Yes Yes
FGF21 Production No Yes
Would I Do It? No No

All of this research dating back to Ray Cronise has kicked off a craze for cold related diets and exercise plans that even Cronise is a little surprised about. KryoLife, for instance, is a cryrotherapy center that uses an open topped cryosauna to engulf its clients in air ranging from -184 degrees to -292 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three minutes. KryoLife says their cryrotheraphy treatments are safe, harmless, and effective at promoting a variety of health benefits such as:

  • Boosted metabolism for weight loss
  • Better skin and reduced cellulite
  • Relief from pain, soreness, and inflammation
  • Release of stress, depression, and migraines.
kryolife, cryosauna, cold therapy, cryotherapy, weight loss

Other ideas and products range from the Cold Shoulder Vest, which is a vest with cold inserts to help you lose weight by forcing your body to burn calories in order to warm up, and daily ice baths. Does this mean we should all junk our heaters and wear summer clothes all year in order to burn off the calorie count from our lunches? No, that would be silly because, as research into the subject continues, some expect that we will one day have a pill that will simulate the effects of the cold on the human body to produce more brown fat without having to put ourselves through harsh conditions. Plus, data from limited studies into this area of research have varied, but the big take away so far is that being cold during dieting and exercising gives you a little to modest boost in the battle against the belt. That would mean torturing yourself by being cold is adding to the torture a person already goes through to lose weight for little gain.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

To sum it all up: White fat, bad. Brown fat, good. If you lose a lot of fat, prepare to be cold. Being colder, however, may help you lose more weight, which means you’ll just be colder. Now, once you’ve met your weight loss goal, sweater up and keep your heater on a comfortable setting; you deserve to feel warm after everything you put yourself through.

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