Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Learning to Be Cool

Well, autumn temperatures have finally arrived in the Mile High City, and I'm on a new mission. This year I'm gonna be cool!

Seriously, I'm actually trying to see how long I can go without turning on the heat this year. While this may look like one of those environmental challenges you often hear about, or perhaps an attempt at even further frugality, honestly, my motivation is a bit more down to earth.

The thing is, I am ALWAYS cold. As a child, my best friend called me "frozen nose" and with good reason. I've always sorta blamed this on being born in the tropics (I was born in Hawaii). Like my internal thermostat got set at birth to think that 80 degrees is "average." Generally speaking, once the temperature falls below about 75 I'm reaching for extra layers.

But, about a month ago I read some very interesting new research about human fat cells and their role in keeping us warm. Apparently humans have 2 distinct kinds of fat... well, we may have more than that, but the stuff I was reading focused on the difference between brown fat (so-called "good" fat) and the more common white or yellow fat.

As it turns out, brown fat plays a different role in human metabolism than does white fat. While white fat can be burned to fuel muscles, it is brown fat, and brown fat alone that can be burned to keep us warm. It's sort of like the fuel for our internal furnaces.

Anyhow... babies generally have mostly brown fat, while adults have primarily the white variety. But the study I read suggested that this might not have always been the case throughout human history - like before we all lived in climate controlled environments.

The study basically had people volunteer to expose themselves to colder temperatures than they normally would - some by wearing light clothing in temperatures around 62 degrees for about 2 hours per day, and some by putting ice packs on fatty areas of the body for about 30 minutes a day.

The results were that routine exposure to chilly temperatures (by either method) converted some of the subjects' white fat to brown. Now, most of the articles I read were interested in this study for its weight loss implications, but my interest is more along the lines of trying to find a way to ignite my internal furnace so I'm not cold all the time!

You see, I'm always the coldest in the fall and spring... but when winter rolls around and the temperatures really dip low, somehow my internal thermostat kicks in and I stay reasonably warm.

Sooo... ironic though this might seem, it got me to thinking that perhaps the key to staying warmer and kick starting my internal furnace is to actually let myself be cooler!

At any rate, that's my long-winded explanation for what I'm trying to accomplish by keeping the furnace off. So far I have to say that the results have been nothing short of remarkable!

Being cooler takes some getting used to, but overall I'm finding that I'm able to tolerate temperatures in the mid-60's without extra layers of clothing... even with bare feet sometimes, and for me, this is absolutely remarkable. I've even found that I do better on bike rides in the 60's without any extra layers!

Now, CatMan has a completely different theory in regards to my new-found cool temperature tolerance.

I'm not sure if this has come through in my writing or not, but the past year has been a time of intense emotional upheaval for me, precipitated by my mother's death. It's not so much about grieving her loss, though there has certainly been some of that, it's more that her being gone has somehow allowed me to open up some long-shuttered emotional doors and start dealing with some of the crazy stuff from my childhood.

I don't know if anybody out there has ever done much emotional work, but the experience has been rather intense. I have spent hour upon hour sobbing, and hitting pillows, and confronting a whole host of seriously uncomfortable feelings that were lurking inside. And remarkable things have started to happen in my body.

Areas where I've perpetually held tension are starting to loosen up, and I can definitely tell that blood is flowing more freely. There are even times when I'll catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror and not recognize myself because the deep furrows across my forehead seem to be vanishing.

Don't know if any of you pay attention to this sort of thing, but recently Hollywood was in an uproar over the changed appearance of Renee Zellweger.

The general condenses is that she's had plastic surgery, but her response has been a bit mysterious.
I’m glad folks think I look different! I’m living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows. My friends say that I look peaceful. I am healthy. For a long time I wasn’t doing such a good job with that. I took on a schedule that is not realistically sustainable and didn’t allow for taking care of myself. Rather than stopping to recalibrate, I kept running until I was depleted and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion. I was aware of the chaos and finally chose different things. People don’t know me in my 40s, perhaps I look different. Who doesn’t as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I’m happy.
I dunno... perhaps it's too much to hope that such a transformation could come about through emotional honesty... especially in Hollywood, but you never know. Her face certainly does look like she's holding less tension than before.

At any rate, whether it's igniting brown fat or increased blood flow due to emotional work, so far I'm feeling warmer and I've only turned the heat on twice... both times when CatMan was here. Now, it's not like it's been terribly cold here yet... though it does get down into the 30's at night so the house is generally around 60 degrees in here when I get up... so we'll have to see how this goes as the mercury gets lower. But so far I am encouraged!

So tell me, have you turned your heat on yet this year? Are you a "frozen nose" or do you tolerate cooler weather well. And waddya think about my crazy idea?