Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Regular ice baths helped me lose weight, quit my medications, and improve my well-being
It all started with heartburn that could not be explained. At my worst, I couldn't even drink water because my esophagus was so inflamed that swallowing anything felt like setting my gullet on fire.
It took almost two years for my formal diagnosis, Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EOE).
From there the diagnosis came rolling in:
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
- Extensive allergies.
Apparently once you receive one Autoimmune diagnosis, you get two more for free.
Yet, despite the problems swallowing, I gained 40 lbs in one year. How is it possible?
I felt defeated.
I know I haven't always treated my body well. As a teenager years I smoked two packs of cigarettes and drank at least a two liter bottle of Coca-Cola a day. Because I was certain my sicknesses were all the result of poor habits I formed when I was young, I proceeded to punish myself accordingly.
I was repeating a cycle of negative thoughts that resulted in negative feelings that resulted in poor health that resulted in more negative thoughts. I was depressed, anxious, and miserable, and there didn't seem to be anything that my doctors or I could do about it..
I thought for sure this was how my life was going to be from now on, and I focused my energy on learning to accept it.
Then I reached my breaking point.
I was out to lunch with my brother. I have no idea what I ate, but it caused a bout of heartburn like I had never experienced before.
I was either going to go to the ER or I was going to go home and make some big changes in my life.
I told my husband I was done with being sick. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had finally decided I was through with being the victim of my own circumstance
My first experiment in self healing was to change my diet. I went on a complete overhaul of everything I ate. I followed Dr. Terry Wahls' protocol for an anti-inflammatory food plan that focuses on fruits and vegetables targeting inflammation.
I noticed improvement in less than one week, and so I told myself I would follow this eating plan strictly for 30 days, no straying or cheating.
And I did.
That started a two year journey of making changes to increase my energy, reduce my symptoms, and get my mental health back on track -- even though I thought I my thyroid and other conditions meant that I would never be able to lose the extra weight.
About a year into this journey, my husband Jason introduced my to cold water immersion therapy.
I began my practice sitting in ice water for 2 minute intervals., about once a week. It made sense to me that many of my symptoms were related to inflammation, and that cold therapy might reduce my inflammation.
I had to learn to stop fighting the cold, and instead relax into it. I moved my practice up to 4 or 5 times a week.
I noticed improvements. The constant pain I felt in my legs was gone. I had more energy, more stamina, and if I started to get sluggish, I would get right back in to the ice.
It worked like magic. I felt good for the first time in years.
My weight stabilized, although I wasn’t losing much, but I wasn’t focused on it, either. I was mostly grateful I found something to help me power through my days and mitigate my symptoms.
Then I got invisible braces -- the kind that look like a biteplate that go over your teeth.
They really hurt!
I had to think long and hard before snapping them out of my mouth to take a bite of anything, and that was when I became mindful of what I was eating. I could no longer snack while cooking, or take little bites of what the kids were eating. I began to eat with purpose and intention, which was a first for me.
The weight started falling off. I didn’t even realize it at first, but after about 3 weeks, I lost 10 lbs.
This was the first time I lost weight in five years!
I was so excited I told anyone who would listen, even strangers. I was also so excited I started exercising. For the first time in a long time my body wasn’t revolting against movement and the exertion of energy.
I felt great.
Over 4 months, I lost 28 lbs. I felt so good, we booked a tropical vacation. I was so ecstatic to go to a beach and be in a swim suit.
And then it hit me -- I didn’t even fit in the saggy swim suits I had been using for my cold water immersion therapy. This was OK for cold water immersion in my backyard, but not for a vacation resort in Costa Rica.
I needed to go shopping!
At first I was really excited, I could fit in to the sizes I was so accustomed to before I got sick and gained all the weight.
And then I panicked. What if I spent a bunch of money on a pile of new clothes and the weight came back? IAs I stood in the store, staring in the dressing room mirror, in a bathing suit two sizes smaller than anything I owned, I still saw that extra 40 lbs in my imagination.
It didn’t make sense. I saw the scale, I knew what the numbers were. I even checked the size of the suit, twice.
My old, larger sizes didn’t fit anymore because they were to big. All of this made sense on paper, and in the store dressing room, but in my head I couldn’t accept it.
In my head I was still sick and overweight. I just wasn’t seeing the changes I was making.
I picked a fight with my husband about how we could not possibly afford my new wardrobe. I insisted it was going to cost too much, and of course what would be the point of buying all these clothes if I could slip right back in to the weight gain?
It was easier for me, at the time, to blame anxieties about my body on money, but of course we could afford it, or we never would have booked the vacation in the first place. And I was so proud of myself for losing the weight. I was happy, and I felt better than I had in years. Even though I still have an Autoimmune disease, I feel amazing.
So why couldn’t I accept some new, smaller clothes?
It was fear.
I was afraid as soon as I spent money on new clothes, I had some real skin in the game, as if the spending in some way now obligated to remain this new, smaller size, so I could justify the financial expense. It was somehow easier for me to accept gaining the weight back than it was to accept I may have lost it for good.
And it was easier to pick a fight with my husband about the money than it was to face my fear of lasting change.
My journey through the ice bath has been about conquering that fear.
Now, I accept myself as I am today, here and now.
Tomorrow is only a concept--an abstract idea that is never fully realized.
Today, I have lost 28 lbs and I am buying clothes that fit me. Today, I am balanced: physically and emotionally. Today is my focus and right now I can take all the actions I need to ensure that tomorrow is better.
I can prove to myself that all of my tomorrows will be better, because I am managing my fear of uncertainty and they unknown and relaxing into today.