Eating Disorders, Malnourishment, Body Temperature, Winter & Metabolic Hibernation a.k.a. Why You Just Can’t Seem To Beat The Cold!
How do I feel about Montreal winters?
Let’s just say I’m ready to book a one-way ticket to a hot & sunny destination, preferably, with a beach & head back home when the temperatures start to hit what I would define as normal & bearable.
Seriously though, Montreal winters don’t change much from year to year. They’re always too long, too cold, inconvenient & overall annoying. But, for me, this winter is different than the last.
Last year, around this time, I was nearly the most ill I’ve ever been. I was skeletal, frail, bony & I had no meat on my body. No matter how many layers of clothes, hats, gloves & scarves I wore, I was always FROZEN. I remember leaving my house with the intention of running basic errands, but having to go right back in cause I just couldn’t handle the cold.
To be honest, I got through the winter walking around my house wrapped in blankets & transporting a mobile heater, which I perfectly positioned in front of me, while I cooked, read, folded laundry, slept & watched TV & basically, while I did anything & everything. That heater literally saved me, as crazy as it sounds.
This year, I’m still freezing but in the same way that every other Montrealer is. I’m no longer skeletal, frail or bony. I’m curvy & I have meat on my bones. I also have no idea where the heck that heater is but I also don’t really care because I don’t need or rely on it for warmth anymore. I rely on my good ‘ol winter gear, but more importantly, on whole & hearty nourishment, my body & myself.
One of the most known symptoms of eating disorders is malnourishment & low body fat. People with too little body fat have difficulty maintaining their body temperature. When we starve ourselves, the part of our brain responsible for controlling body processes & survival assumes that we are in famine. Fight or flight is turned on & the brain does everything to keep the body alive by slowing down metabolism & turning down body temperature, shutting off the flow of warm blood to our extremities.
Put it the way: In the winter, in order to save money on your electricity bill, you might think of turning down your heat or closing some of the vents in your room on a milder day. This is exactly how your brain is reacting with your body temperature. When you don’t eat enough, you lack consistent flow of warm, calorie-heated blood to your extremities. Not only does your body cool its thermostat & shut off warm blood to extremities, but it also grows extra fine hair on the face/body, called lanugo (another very common sign of eating disorders) to try to keep the body warm by holding in heat.
Chronic caloric deprivation puts the body into extreme metabolic hibernation. It’s a dangerous sign. Eating enough & resting your body within the first two or so weeks of recovery will not cause weight gain (contrary to what your ED is fuelling you with), but rather will go wards speeding up metabolism. Your heart rate will increase & your body temperature will warm up, all before any weight is actually restored.
All this to say, next time ED tells you you’re “fine”, think again. Use your body suffering as objective evidence to help you combat the lies, falsities & distortions your ED is whispering to you. Don’t fall for it & don’t deny the severity of your eating disorder. If you’re feeling how I was, that’s your body talking to you. Listen to it & nourish it.
I promise, it gets easier (& warmer).