Have you ever felt extremely cold when Dieting? I’ve been experiencing a bit of this myself over the past 24 hours. I decided to investigate this phenomenon and search for solutions for those of us suffering from this aggravating symptom.
Background: Over the past 30 years I’ve probably invested myself in at least a dozen or more “Diets”. These have spanned from mainstream (Diet Center, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, etc.) to fad (Grapefruit, Green-tea, Restricting Carb, Restricting Protein, Restricting sugar, You-name-it) and plain crazy (Urine Protein Injection, Prolonged Fasting). In every instance I would reach a state of feeling extremely cold. Not just “go put on a sweater” chilly – but actually feeling like I’m freezing to death from the inside out. Growing up, my Mom usually spearheaded these diet ventures, making it a ”team thing” – so when I would complain about being so cold, she would cheerily exclaim:
“GOOD! It means you’re losing weight!”
I love my Mom. She’s full of practical wisdom. However, now that I’m in my forties I’ve become brave enough to question her theories. Is being this cold really a “Good” thing? Does this 24-hour frigidity mean we should grin and bear it?
My google research was less than forthcoming shedding immediate light on thesubject. There are certainly a lot of dieting bloggers and chat-board-users complaining about the phenomenon. However, most of the comments and advice offered was less than scientific. With a longer search, here are a few medically sound points to consider, and action steps for a remedy:
The “Set point theory” states there is a certain weight and fat level your body was born to be (or, at least thinks it should be). When you start making changes away from that magic number, especially when lowering the number, our body starts doing anything possible to sabotage our effort and get back to where it believes it safely belongs. The body kicks into “survival mode”. It slows our metabolism in order to hold onto the weight for as long as possible. Slower metabolism causes intolerance to cold, among other things (see “Thyroid” below).
Action Step: EXERCISE
Researchers have different theories how to change Set Point, however the majority agree regular sustained exercise is critical. There’s no way around it. The Bottom line is that if you want to lose this weight and then prevent gaining it back, you’ve got to get your groove on and start movin’. For good.
“Some people with iron deficiency anemia always feel cold. They feel cold because iron plays a role in regulating the body’s temperature…Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment in the blood. Iron is normally obtained through the food in the diet. ” – MamasHealth.com
Action Step: Get More Iron
If the cold is due to a lack of iron, then the solution is to increase your intake through eating Iron Rich Foods [such as clams, red meat, dark green leafy veggies, nuts and dried fruit], or taking iron-fortified vitamin supplements. Make sure to take extra Vitamin C, as this helps the absorption of Iron into the blood stream.
3. Slow Thyroid:
“A classic symptom of poor thyroid function is being too cold” - Byron J. Richards, CCN Body Temperature and Thyroid Problems
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It makes hormones that control the way your body uses energy. When not enough hormone is released you get Hypo-Thyroidism - things slow down, you get tired and dizzy, you gain weight, you have intolerance to cold. If there’s way too much hormone, you get Hyper-Thyroidism - things speed up, you may lose a lot of weight, have heart palpitations or feel hot.
For people who exhibit mild symptoms, (like just being especially cold all the time) you might just have a sluggish thyroid (or if you want to get really fancy “Subclinical Hypothyroidism“) which does not have to be treated medically.
Basically, by severely restricting our calories, ramping up our fluid intake and probably suddenly exercising more than we have done in months [years...] we are throwing our body into shock. Literally. People get cold when they are in shock.
Action Step: Add Vitamins – especially Selenium & Magnesium, and Include Moderate Exercise
Ramp up your multi-vitamins and make sure you are getting enough Selenium and Magnesium [essential to thyroid hormone production]. Beware of homeopathic approaches which are often unproven and may actually be harmful. Include moderate exercise in your day. This increases your metabolism and “warms you up” from the inside out. If these things do not improve your intolerance to cold, you should go to your doctor and have your thyroid, iron and blood glucose levels tested.
NOTE: All adults over the age of 35 should have their thyroid levels checked a minimum of once each 5 years. If you haven’t had it checked lately, now is a great time.
In the end, Mom was right and wrong. Yes, feeling really cold can mean you are losing weight – but it also means your body is resisting or suffering, and you need to take some action. When a baby cries there are certain things you check off the list before determining the baby is just “cranky”: diaper, hunger, injury, thirst, fatigue
The same thing goes for us. If we are extremely cold, that is a symptom of a root cause. Instead of just enduring, you now have a check-list. If , after going through all the above, and visiting your doctor, nothing improves, then feel free to borrow Moms mantra:
“Great! I’m Losing Weight!”