When it comes to body type and size, your genes, diet, and exercise are the major factors. But here at PD, we don’t believe in a simplified “calorie in, calorie out” theory–rather, how your body looks and feels is determined by your whole lifestyle. So we’re always finding ways to improve these little factors as well as the big ones: avoiding pesticides; obesogens in plastic containers and wrappers; using clean beauty products sans endocrine disruptors; sleeping 7-9 hours a day; taking supplements or something just extra nutritious, etc. These are all things I practice and have been satisfied by!
There’s just one more to add to the list of healthy fine tuning you can do to help you maintain your best shape. And it’s surprising because it’s actually fairly easy!
Not every fat cell is made the same. Humans have 2 kinds of fat: brown fat and white fat. White fat is the kind we’re familiar with–it stores calories from excessive food intake. Brown fat cells burn energy and produce heat–and it wasn’t until 2009 that adults were discovered to have brown fat. It was also discovered that people with lower BMIs tend to have more brown fat, leading to the idea that it keeps your metabolism high. Just like babies and little children!
This is why promoting brown cell growth and activity can be helpful for weight loss/maintenance. So far, the best way to do so is to spend time in the cold, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Diabetes. Yet another study found that bedroom temperature of 19°C (66° F) activates brown fat activity and helps regulate insulin levels. What’s even more fascinating, sleeping in the cold may even cause “fat browning,” meaning your white fat cells can turn into brown fat cells that are less lipid and filled with mitochondria and blood vessels. Omg.
The study authors even posit that in the past 3 decades, average bedroom temperature has risen from 66°F to 71°F (21.5°C), and that this could have contributed to the obesity epidemic.
Here are some ways you can help your brown fat cells activate:
Turn down the thermostat.
Particularly during fall and winter, take advantage of the cold and sleep in the cold, around 66°. Your body will thank you.
Take cold showers.
Acute cold temperatures (as opposed to mild cold temperature of your bedroom overnight) such as a quick, ice-cold shower are an ideal way to activate brown fat. A 2009 study found that exposure to extreme cold temps activated brown fat 15-fold. That means you can lose serious pounds just by taking cold showers throughout the year–sign me up!
Take cold-temperature fitness classes.
Obviously, when it’s winter this is as easy as going running outside. During summer time, try working out in the cold or even taking a class like Brrrn NYC, which offers 3 yoga/strength classes set at 60°F, 55°F, and 45°F. And don’t worry, I already checked the company’s sustainability statement and they use energy-efficient HVAC system for their cooling, using their own studio energy as a cooling source (i.e. geothermal). Can’t wait to use this as a treat for myself in dog days of NYC summer, seeing as I don’t own an A/C!
As a self-proclaimed polar bear, never have I felt so vindicated about my love of cold. Are you a coldaholic?!
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Photo: Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash, Jasper Graetsch on Unsplash