How Ice Baths Can Help Control Overeating
Really cold showers will work too!
4 June 2017
So, you’ve finally managed to get your diet on track. You’ve invested hours into research, spent a small fortune on trial and error and put your body through torture to find the magic food solution that will keep your weight on target. Not to mention that you’ve risked your relationships by your moodiness during the process. Now you’ve finally figured out the diet that works for you, so all should be good - right?
If that is the case, I congratulate you. And I’m jealous, because knowing what is “healthy food" has never been enough for me to eat healthily. After years of experimenting, I still need daily vigilance to choose food that's right for me instead of having a chocolate bonanza.
But I’m lucky to have found a method that makes being disciplined easier - and can be key also to your diet success. You might be surprised to know, that my little secret is to have ice baths.
But let’s start with some background: my life used to revolve around food. The more sugar, the better. I’d gladly miss out on a night out for a night in with tubs of ice cream. Or I’d go out but refuse to socialise because I’d be too busy to demolish the buffet.
A couple of years ago, I found the Bulletproof Diet.. It opened a whole new world of eating for me. Whereas previously I’d been ruled by food cravings, I now felt satiated for the first time. And the food was not only good for me, but it was also delicious! I was relieved - this was all I needed to end my food abuse.
Or so I thought. Unfortunately, it turned out that I wasn’t feasting on sugar only because of cravings or delicious taste. My overeating was not just caused by lack of nutritional knowledge: it was a coping mechanism. Since my teenage years, I had used junk food to console myself when things didn’t go my way. (Actually, I liked to use food for celebration too: there were so many occasions in life which called for chocolate…)
Hence, it didn’t matter that I was now free from physical food cravings thanks to my new diet. When I felt emotional, I still reached for food. It was heartbreaking that knowledge was not enough. I felt like such a failure: was I doomed to a homebound life with ice cream as the main company?
The turning point came when I came across the concept of cold exposure. I’m Swedish but left my freezing home country at first opportunity at the age of eighteen. For more than a decade now, I’ve preferred staying in warm countries.
The idea of willingly exposing myself to the cold freaked me out. But I was told that it was an incredible health hack, so I decided to give it a try.
Over a period of a couple of weeks, I gradually went from short cold showers to having ice baths in my bathtub at home. It was excruciating at first, but that feeling soon gave way for exhilaration. I, who had fled my home country because of the cold, could submerge in ice! I felt so strong.
I was surprised to soon discover the transformative powers of the ice. My regular exposure to the cold, despite its discomfort, trained my resilience. I was then able to use this in my everyday life, in the area where I needed it the most: my eating. Just as before, daily stress and challenges came my way. But now, all of a sudden I did not feel the need to reach for junk food for consolation.
I have since trained with Wim Hof, “the Iceman”, famous for submerging in ice for nearly two hours. Wim has developed a method, the Wim Hof Method, which is part cold exposure, part breathing and part focus. After climbing snowy mountains in shorts and jumping into freezing lakes, I'm now a Wim Hof Method instructor.
I wouldn't recommend starting with stripping off on a snowy mountain, but there are simple ways that you can make cold exposure a part of your daily routine. And discover how your relationship with food will heal as a result!
How to Use Cold Exposure for Diet Success:
1. Start and finish off your daily showers with 30-second cold water, for one week.
2. The following week, increase to one minute of cold water at the beginning and end of your showers.
3. If you’re up for a challenge, try an ice bath. (If you have health concerns, consult your doctor first.) Buy some ice bags from your grocery store. 8 degrees or below is a good temperature to aim for. If you don’t have a bathtub, you can buy an inflatable one online. Start with a dip of only a few seconds and gradually increase the time from there. I don’t see much point in staying in longer than a few minutes at the most, also for safety reasons. Safety always comes first: listen to your body and don’t push yourself.
Even if you doubt the link between ice baths and healthy eating, there is scientific evidence that cold exposure accelerates weight loss through brown fat activation.
Are ice baths freaky and uncomfortable? I think most would agree. Worth it for diet success? Definitely.