One of the side effects of bariatric surgery that wasn’t really discussed with me is cold intolerance. I’m constantly cold, even when others are warm. There are several reasons for my chills, including fat acts as an insulator. When you lose weight, you’re losing insulation. Your body will learn to regulate itself once your weight stabilizes, but it can take a few years. Your best defense is to arm yourself with a few tips to stay warm. Staying warm after losing weight can be difficult but not impossible.
Cold intolerance is where you get sensitive to cooler temperatures. According to an article on Livestrong.com, fat cells act as insulation for your body. They release energy to keep you warm when they sense cold temperatures. So when you lose weight and fat, you are literally losing your insulation.
Another reason you have difficulty staying warm after losing weight is that you’re eating fewer calories. The Livestrong article states that eating too few calories slows your metabolism to save energy. Your body senses that it’s not getting as much fuel to run efficiently. So, it conserves energy by operating at the bare minimum, which means slowing down your metabolism.
Additionally, eating fewer carbs may lower your insulin temperature, which also lowers body temperature. A drastic calorie reduction can reduce certain thyroid hormones which also make you colder.
So when you think about, bariatric patients are hit with all four of these reasons for cold intolerance. You’re losing weight and fat, which acts as your natural insulation. You’re eating far fewer calories than you’re used to having, so your metabolism may be slowing (which could also correspond with stalls on the scale). Since we also focus on protein first and carbs last, as well as have a drastic calorie reduction, especially right after surgery, the hormones in our bodies get a little out of whack. All of these reasons contribute to our cold intolerance.
Hope for Staying Warm
Luckily, there is hope for staying warm after losing weight. Remember that when we had our bariatric surgery or if you’re pre-op and are losing weight, we made some pretty drastic changes to our lives. We are eating more healthy, wholesome foods and less processed, crappy foods. We are drinking more water and less soda. Exercise is happening more often in our lives than before. Stress is no longer managed with emotional eating, and sleep is happening more often.
You’re changing your lifestyle, and it takes some time for the body to adjust. It basically goes into shock for a while, until it gets used to your new lifestyle and adjusts to your smaller size. Give your body some grace during this changing period.
However, there is some good news. Eventually, your weight stabilizes, which means your body gets back into a normal rhythm. There’s an interesting article on BoxingScene.com that explains a little bit more about reaching this stabilization point. Kaye Bailey explains that when you are cold, the blood vessels contract, reducing blood flow to the skin. In response, the body shivers to generate heat.
She continues to illustrate that the body’s internal thermostat needs time to regulate, just like the rest of the system. After your weight stabilizes, about 18 to 24 months after surgery, your body temperature regulates more efficiently.
Tips for Staying Warm after Losing Weight
I’m so excited to be at the part of my journey where my weight should be stabilizing, and my body temperature learns to regulate. I hope it happens sooner rather than later, but I’ve learned a few tips in the last 18 months or so that I’m super excited to share with you today.
My first tip for staying warm after losing weight is to wear layers. I work full-time at a hospital registration desk. If you’ve ever been to the emergency room or visited someone in the hospital, you know how cold they are! I’ve spent the entire summer wearing layers because I just get so cold!
I wear a long-sleeve shirt under my mandatory work polo. I also have a work-issued track jacket that I keep at my desk. Being able to take my jacket on and off as I please has really helped me stay warm. Wearing layers provides additional warmth that you can remove or add as needed.
Also, I love wearing layers in my weekend wardrobe. It allows me the same versatility, but I can also style outfits differently each time I layer. It’s a good idea to invest in some layering clothes, like tank tops, cardigans, zippered jackets, long-sleeved shirts and anything else that can be quickly put on or taken off.
My second tip for staying warm after losing weight is using portable hand warmers. Many times hunters and outdoor workers will buy these little packs that you break up the insides to release heat. They’ll place them in their shoes, work boots, gloves and hats. There is no reason we can’t do the same thing!
I actually used to use these all the time in the winter when I worked at a grocery store during my teenage years. It would get so cold standing by the door, handling all sorts of cold and frozen foods. I kept these pocket warmers in my apron pocket and squeezed them anytime I didn’t have a customer.
They can be found at sporting good stores or stores like Walmart. They’re fairly inexpensive and can be a real lifesaver when you’re having trouble warming up.
Bring Extra Clothing and Blankets
My third tip is to overestimate how cold you are going to be at a certain place. Restaurants, movie theaters and any other public places do not allow you to control the temperature. Instead, we have to control how we respond to these fluctuating temperatures. By keeping extra clothing and blankets with us, we will never have to be faced with shivering out in public.
You can place some items in a bag and keep them in your car along with a blanket. This tip actually isn’t a bad idea for anyone. What would happen if you got stranded on a road in the middle of winter, and your car runs out of gas? You would need something to help keep you warm, so keeping extra clothing and blankets in your car could literally save your life.
By bringing these extras with you, you’ll be able to stay warm and cozy, no matter where you are going this year.
Double Up Your Socks
My feet are always freezing. Who doesn’t love putting their cold feet against their warm partner to warm up? When this isn’t possible, my fourth tip for you is to double up on your socks. Sure, you may feel like you did when you were a kid, and your mom was getting you ready to play in the snow. However, I’d rather feel a little ridiculous and be warm than shiver all day long.
We know heat escapes our bodies wherever there is exposed skin. By doubling up on your socks, you’re denying the precious heat from escaping your body. You can do this at home or when you’re out of the home. No one is really going to know, and you’ll learn to stay warm.
Thermal long-sleeve shirts and pants were a big thing in the ’90s. I’m not too hip on current style trends, but I’m assuming people aren’t just wearing thermals by themselves anymore. Luckily, these pair great with my first tip. Your fifth tip for staying warm after losing weight is to wear thermals underneath your clothes.
Thermals work by absorbing any sweat from your skin and drawing it away. Sweat is the opposite of shivering as explained earlier. Sweat is your body trying to cool itself down. So if you’re sweating while wearing a thermal, the thermal is going to draw the sweat away from your body to keep you warm. Therefore, thermals use trapped body heat to keep you warm.
So if you’re struggling to stay warm at the office, purchasing a pair of high-quality long johns to wear under your clothes could do the trick. I’ve also used fleece-lined leggings under my pants to keep me warm, and it works really well!
As if you needed another reason to exercise, your sixth tip for staying warm after losing weight is to exercise. As you know, exercise warms up your body because you’re moving. The more you move, and the more active you are, the warmer you will get.
While a full-blown workout may not always be possible every time you’re cold, you could generate extra body heat by just moving a little more. Get up and stretch, walk in place for a few minutes. Wave your arms around or do some quick squats. Anything to get the major muscles of your body moving to generate more heat.
Drink Hot Liquids
Finally, your seventh tip for staying warm after losing weight is to drink hot liquids. I love a good cup of hot chocolate, and now I drink the sugar-free packets you can find at the store. Drinking sugar-free hot chocolate, hot tea or coffee can warm you up from the inside out. You could even sip some warm soup broth for added protein! It feels so cozy to drink something hot on a cold day. It feels like getting a hug from the inside!
Just make sure you aren’t adding extra sugar or only using sugar substitutes to sweeten it up to reduce the risk of dumping. You also want to be sure you’re not adding too many additions that add tons of calories. We’re still trying to keep with our lifestyle here, but we want to stay warm. Keep with the tips that you know work, and snuggle up to a good cup of hot liquids. Plus, these all count towards your fluid goals for the day, so it’s a great win-win solution.
For additional tips, check out this informative article from Mental Floss!
Staying Warm After Losing Weight
While staying warm after losing weight can be difficult, it’s not impossible. You can drink sugar-free warm liquids, like hot chocolate, tea or coffee to warm yourself from the inside out. Wearing layers of clothing and having back-up clothing and blankets can help you stay warm. As if you need another reason to exercise, the motion will warm you up and rev your metabolism. While I’ll never miss my fat, I do miss being warm and not getting cold as easily. Luckily, our bodies will re-calibrate, but until then, you can find me cuddled in my Snuggie, sipping coffee, wearing three layers of clothing!
If this article gave you some great ideas to incorporate into your life, just imagine what other amazing strategies I have for you! Share this post on social media by clicking one of the sharing buttons, and don’t forget to join my email list! You’ll be the first to get updates, access to my new products and lots of tips, inspiration and motivation to help in your bariatric surgery journey. Just for joining, I’ll send you a free eBook with the 10 Habits to Change Before Bariatric Surgery, as well as some other pretty awesome goodies to keep you motivated. Join today!
Yes, there are several reasons for feeling colder more easily after losing weight. Fat acts as a natural insulator, so when you lose weight and fat, you’re essentially losing your insulation. Also, when you’re eating too few calories, your metabolism slows down as a means to conserve energy. A slower metabolism means you get colder easier. Additionally, eating fewer carbs may lower your insulin levels, which lowers your body temperature. Finally, a drastic calorie reduction reduces thyroid hormones, making you colder.