This shivering is bullshit.
December 8, 2014 7:04 PM   Subscribe

So, I lost a fair chunk of weight in the past year, which has had many beneficial effects, to be sure. Unexpected downside: I have turned into a complete wuss about cold. After years of considering myself innately warm-blooded, merrily running around hatless through all the winter months, I am now dreading going outdoors even to grab a quart of milk. This will not do. Fellow cold-wusses, how do I adapt? What are your best tips, tricks and products for dealing with the cold? Or alternatively, toughening myself up so it doesn't bother me so much?

Glove brands, scarf wrapping techniques, ski masks vs scarf and hats, to bobble or not to bobble? Wool v goose down? Best way to layer? Coat recommendations? I'm in New England; at worst it might get below zero, plus wind, for a few days in a row; more typically it's in the 20s and 30s for the next few months.
posted by Diablevert to Grab Bag (52 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
My best trick: bundle up 5-10 minutes before you plan to go outside. Gives the warmth a chance to build up. Also, scarves are key for plugging the gaps.
posted by the_blizz at 7:16 PM on December 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

Wool socks are key.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:21 PM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

Goose down all the way. I recommend coats from Lands End. They are not always the most flattering, but they have great coats for COLD weather for pretty reasonable prices. For wool to be very warm it has to be very heavy - the good thing about down coats is that you can actually walk around with them indoors. Real fur is VERY warm but... you know.

Get ear warmers (the kind that sit on the back of your head) since the ears are so sensitive and you may be able to avoid a hair-squashing hat.

I think every person is different as to where they get cold - I am horribly sensitive to the cold myself and I personally struggle the most with my feet, that both sweat and then freeze. I have found that it is best for me to wear thick socks with shoes that don't make my feet sweat.

Finally, it's important to leave the house warm. When it's cold, I take a long hot shower before I dress warmly, and so I manage to stay warm for a while when walking outside. If you leave your house already cold, you stand no chance.
posted by microcarpetus at 7:22 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Longjohns or, if comfortable for you, (fleece-lined) tights under pants. Big scarves that can cover your face and neck, then unfurl to wrap around your shoulders or act as a blanket. Glittens (never have to take off your gloves again!). Make sure your hair is fully dry before going outside.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:25 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I bring hot drinks with me everywhere
posted by gt2 at 7:26 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Long underwear works miracles. And, in general, dressing in multiple layers is very helpful. And drinking a hot drink just before you go out can help, as well.
posted by akk2014 at 7:29 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

The dorkier the hat is, the warmer it is. Earflaps are extra-dorky, so they make for a much warmer hat.

Also, thin glove liners (silk or something like that) add a useful extra layer inside bigger gloves, or even inside mittens, and it means you can take the big gloves off to, say, fumble with your keys, without having to fully expose your hands to the cold.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:29 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

This is about long johns and a morning pep talk about how you will not lose the day to the cold. You are tougher and stronger than a little cold. It worked for me in Chicago for 10 years.
posted by 724A at 7:31 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Get a big pashmina shawl - it will be labeled 70% cashmere, 30% silk; "pashmina" these days means any sort of shawl that looks similar and most are viscose. Get the cashmere/silk, and pay the big bucks. It is so lightweight that you can crunch it up and wear it like a scarf and it won't look any bulkier than a scarf ... But it is HUGE and WARM and makes for an excellent emergency headwrap/body layer/scarf/shawl/balaclava/baby blanket. Even works for dudes - my husband took to wearing my black one when our babies were tiny and sometimes needed extra blankets in winter. People were always like, "Whoa, I thought that was just a scarf!" when he'd whip it off to wrap a baby against the wind. And he's all smug like "No way man, I'm rocking my warm lady shawl!"

If you are a lady it is also stylish and warm indoors but I guess that is harder for a dude.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:32 PM on December 8, 2014 [20 favorites]

Layers: layers and layers. Cuddle duds or other silk blend layers, heattech tights, fleece tights, whatever. Under everything. I double layer socks, too, though I don't have that many wool socks. I also double-layer gloves, so say a cashmere-linedleather/iphone compatible pair inside/ thicker fleece pair outside. (But that was for a walking commute, where I sometimes needed to use my phone.) I have several goofy and large fleece hats from Lands End, but also a couple of nicer wool herringbone ones which fit inside the large fleece ones for polar vortex days. I just wrapped a pashmina securely over all of that, because I could breathe through it (unlike fancier wool ones) but your mileage may vary. Waterproof shoe/boot options in different lengths. If any of your commute involves walking or biking-- something with a temperature differential-- layers are even more crucial; wicking layers even more so. I used to layer a North Face jacket that was thin but zipped all the way up to my neck and had thumb loops with a wool pea coat-- you just need to find the layers that work for you.

If you're a total lizard, like me, you can also pack extra socks/gloves where ever you go just in case they get wet. And maybe it's just a placebo, but quickly running hot air in between all the layers (like with a blow dryer) made it much easier to face the first couple of steps.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:32 PM on December 8, 2014

I am always cold and therefore an expert at how to bundle up to keep warm. My best tip is to wear long underwear or thermal leggings under your pants, tucked into your socks. I also just got this Patagonia jacket this winter to wear under my normal winter coat and it has made the cold significantly more bearable.

Layering is always warmest and has the added benefit that you can take off and add on layers throughout the day. Keep on multiple thinner layers, including ones that are easy to remove. I usually do undershirt, t-shirt, button down or long sleeved shirt, sweater or cardigan, inner jacket, outer jacket.
posted by peacebone at 7:33 PM on December 8, 2014

Oh, also, I think I wore some part of my winter running gear while going outside all the time last year. Winter running tights are the best, winter running gloves are great for layering, winter hats ditto.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:33 PM on December 8, 2014

I usually live in Maine, and I hate the cold. 1. Get your thyroid checked; feeling cold may be a symptom.

Layers. Silk or other long underwear. Smartwool socks. Turtleneck, wool sweater, fleece vest, wool pants. Boots with insulation. I once owned leather gloves with wabbit lining, oh, so warm. Wear a hat, a neck gaiter. . I packed my van in 5F weather wearing a heavy wool sweater and fleece vest, jeans, fleece hat and gloves.

Drink hot tea or other beverage. Move a lot. I have trouble with being cold in the morning because my body hasn't gotten moving. Once I get caffeinated and active, I feel better.

Pre-heat the car. Go out 5 minutes early and get it running. Bring a hot water bottle along, they really help.
posted by theora55 at 7:34 PM on December 8, 2014

Get your iron levels checked. Anemics run cold.
posted by Deodand at 7:37 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

It got down to 20 below zero in Wisconsin last winter, and the best piece of gear I had was a balaclava. You won't care that you look like a bank robber because your face will be warm. The hardest things to keep warm are your ears, nose, fingers and toes. So: earflaps, balaclava, mittens, and wool socks.
posted by desjardins at 7:41 PM on December 8, 2014

For hats, like everything else, the warmest way is to layer. Get yourself a thin fleece beanie or other simple cap that fits close to your head. Then your proper winter hat, preferably with earflaps, but no bobble. Then your scarf gets wound around and tucked in, and you flip your hood up on top of all of that. (That's why no bobble, bobbles get in the way of the hood, even though I love bobbles.) Some people like to do a thermal headband that you tuck your ears into, and then a hat.

Get a scarf that you can breathe through, one that's quite long so you can wrap it around a bunch but not too thick. Figure out how you like to wrap it best. When I'm being efficient I'll put mine on the "European" way (fold it in half, drape around neck, pull ends through loop), but then wrap one of the long ends all around my neck a bunch, and the other long end gets loosely draped so I can use it to cover my mouth and face.
posted by Mizu at 7:45 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have nothing to add to the clothing recommendations, but here's some ideas on toughening up and getting used to the cold.

1) Keep your room as cool as you can tolerate when you sleep, and dress as lightly as you can tolerate. For example, use a lighter comforter and/or sleep with your window slightly open (and thermostat adjusted accordingly so your furnace doesn't frantically run to compensate) and/or stick one foot out from under the covers and/or sleep with lighter or no nightclothes. I find that the first few really cold weeks of the year are a challenge, but I adjust fairly soon. (Except if I accidentally use the extra-cool summer percale sheets in December. That mistake requires flannel PJs for sure.) I've found that sleeping cool seems to correlate with greater tolerance of downright cold weather when I go out.

2) Do something interesting when you have to go out. I keep all my best podcasts saved for when I have to walk outside. Once you get through the first few minutes of adjusting to the cold, a good podcast can keep you plunging onward.
posted by maudlin at 7:52 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a short guy and was always warm at 190 and am now always cold at 150.

My tip is to find warm outerwear that's comfortable enough to live in. Your mileage will vary but for example I have a Patagonia R1 that helps keep me warm outside, but I don't have to immediately shed it inside because it's flexible and comfortable enough to sit and type in.
posted by ftm at 7:52 PM on December 8, 2014

Taking up knitting has been great for keeping warm. You will create your own scarves, sweaters, mittens, hats and can layer and bundle with your own creations!

Scarves are key, I often incorporate them into my outfit in case i'm also chilly at work.
posted by sadtomato at 7:54 PM on December 8, 2014

long underwear!! long underwear!!!
posted by threeants at 8:07 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have to do something out in the cold for an extended period of time (hours) then I heartily recommend hand warmers and toe warmers such as type sold at ski resorts. I get so much more enjoyment out of winter sports now that I use them. I also find that mittens with fleecy insides are key, because having the fingers separated in cold weather makes them colder - inside the mitten I can ball up my hands into fists if I need to. Combine these two things and get a mitten that allows you to place the hand warmers into a special compartment or between the liner and the outer shell - it's the best. You can actually purchase socks that have battery-powered heating elements, although I can't personally vouch for those and how well they work, they seem like a consideration for 'cold wusses'.

For the head, I would agree with the suggestion for balaclava as the warmest thing, although you can do very well with a fleece lined hat with ear flaps too if you combine it with a fleece neck gaiter.

I also use the base layer trick as I wear scrubs to work and so will often wear at least the long underwear layer under them. I have layer-able jackets so that if needed, I can wear a fleece jacket or fleece hoodie or a windbreaker underneath another jacket. From LL Bean you can get flannel lined or fleece lined shirts and pants - not cheap, but the quality is fantastic and they are very warm.

Finally, consider a remote car starter if you have the means.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:07 PM on December 8, 2014

One thing I do in the cold (especially sitting in the car waiting for it to warm up) is to consciously relax my body. When you first get cold you have a tendency to tense up. If you can train yourself to relax you will still feel the cold but it will not bother you anywhere near as much.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:15 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sauna every day.

If you can't build a sauna in your basement or backyard, use the weak one at the gym.

If the sauna idea is out, then take a hot bath at least once a day.
And find heavy wool socks. If you can find wool socks made in Iceland, buy those.
posted by littlewater at 8:17 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Keep hydrated inside and out--use a humidifier, or keep a large tea kettle simmering on the stove. Get into the tea habit--drink plenty of tea, and make sure you top the tea kettle off every time. Being well hydrated makes a big difference when you go outside.

Use olive oil or Vaseline on your feet, legs, and hands. Use moisturizer on the rest of you, too. You would be amazed how much this helps keep cold feet warm in bed as well as keeping your feet warm when you're outside.

Wear turtlenecks. Seriously. It may not be your fashion statement of the year, but there's something about having your neck prewarmed that makes a difference.

I can't stand wearing long johns under my jeans, but jeans aren't enough when it's miserable cold and windy. Learn to love windproof nylon pants. Slip those babies on, and head out. They make them with fleece lining, too. You may think they're kind of dorky, but you can take them off when you get to work, and at least when you're outside, you're a warm dork!

If you really want to be warm, get a snowmobile suit or Carhart "tin pants" AKA insulated coveralls. There's a reason folks that are outside all day in extreme cold wear one piece.

Go outside EVERY DAY! Do something physical. Even if it's only for 15 minutes to walk up and down the sidewalk. It's amazing how much better you'll do in the winter if you just spend time outside. Being outside daily makes all the difference in how I acclimate to both the winter's cold and the summer's heat.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:30 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you also can't stand being warm, and you live in a building where you control your heat, just make it ickily hot inside in the morning while you get ready. It will be a relief to go out in the cold.

I also like to wear some kind of dorky wind pants over my pants, but it's easy for me because I mostly wear fleece-lined leggings under skirts in the winter. Easy to pull on/off.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:56 PM on December 8, 2014

For me, keeping my feet warm is key. The trick, after years of experimenting, is house slippers - currently fake ugg boots. Socks are not enough. Also, heat your feet up (bath/shower/foot soak) first, before you put slippers on.

Nth making sure you're not anaemic (I tend to be).

Lots of hot baths.
posted by jrobin276 at 8:58 PM on December 8, 2014

Where in New England? If you can get somewhere like SpaCastle - even once - it's heaven.
posted by jrobin276 at 9:00 PM on December 8, 2014

Others have said it, and - as a scrawny, chill-prone guy, I'm nthing - LONG UNDERWEAR. Patagonia's is pricey, but thin, effective, and durable. I live in a drafty house and weeks go by where I'm wearing it all the time.

It plus layering and hot coffee make life tenable for me when winter rolls around.

I also recommend these for around the house. What jrobin276 said about socks is the stone cold truth.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:03 PM on December 8, 2014

Wool. Definitely wool socks, heavy ones, but wool everything if you can manage it. Keep your head covered and your neck and cover them both before you go out in the cold. Hand warmers inside your gloves, long johns, long-sleeved undershirt - silk is nice - and it's warm, also. And before you leave the house, toss a sweater and some sweat pants or a lightweight blanket or something into the dryer. When you get home, turn the dryer on for a few minutes while you shed your coat and boots and then bundle up in the cozy world of a heated blanket.

I was skinny for about 40 years and always cold; I hated the winter because I was never warm. The years went by, I got old and developed Parkinson's, and I was still skinny and cold, but then my lungs went to hell and I lost the ability to walk 20' without my oxygen saturations dropping like a rock, so I landed on my arse, which is where I spend most of my time. And skinny is gone forever. Now I'm fat - and I'm never cold. All the other old people where I live are horrified to see me out scooterin' around in the cold without 30 lbs of extra clothing, but I feel good in the cold.

(Nothing's colder, though, than the glares from the pretty people wearing the skinny jeans when they see me in my wheelchair and immediately assume that I'm unable to walk because I'm fat; that's the coldest that cold can get) FTR, I weigh 180 lbs - not 400 lbs - but it's 180 lbs on a small frame (getting smaller) and yes, it's fat.

Maybe the only good thing about fat is it's warm.
posted by aryma at 9:33 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Neck Gaiter. (Think a tube of fleece that goes around your neck instead of a scarf.) Far superior to a scarf.

If you're the type to wear skirts, snow skirts are awesome. Available all over the place. Easy to get into and out of and keeps your upper legs toasty.

Oh, and: the world's best cold-weather boots. These are the best. I wear these every day. They keep my feet warm, but I don't sweat (much) when I'm wearing them inside. Spendy, but so worth it. (I think mine are rated to -20F. My husband's got some that are rated to -40F and doesn't find them quite as versatile because his feet get too hot. I don't have a problem with my feet getting crazy cold at -40F as long as I'm moving.)
posted by leahwrenn at 9:37 PM on December 8, 2014

As noted above, some sort of scarf or neckwarmer will make you much, much warmer outdoors. You'd be surprised how much heat you lose through your neck. I have two of these, in different styles. I use one when it's warmer, and then I nest them when it gets well below freezing.

Also, as mentioned above, get some nice long underwear and thick socks. Again, my personal preference is wool since it breathes better and retains heat even when wet. The additional cost is worth it.

Finally, really do try to get outdoors. I have the opportunity to bike and travel by foot during the winter months and I find that by the end of the winter when it starts getting back to the high thirties (F) I almost start to miss the bitter cold. I recall reading somewhere that the adjustment period is about two weeks; perhaps try stepping down the temperature in your home a little each week?
posted by johnnydummkopf at 9:42 PM on December 8, 2014

I find the trick is to seal all the gaps:
- at the neck, a sack-cloth kitchen towel folded like a cravat bandage and wound twice around my neck, then the high collar of a quarter-zip jumper, then the high collar of my jacket.
- at the wrists, either those extra-long sleeves with the thumb loops, or a pair of long-cuff wool glove liners, then the sleeves of my windbreaker pulled up over the cuffs of my mittens
- at the waist, my merino base layer tucked in between my long underwear and my pants, then the hem of my quarter-zip jumper falling outside the waist of my pants, to make a kind of crude labyrinth seal.
- at the ankles, over-the-calf socks and a full break on my trousers. On really cold days I blouse my long underwear into my socks.

I also walk briskly, which generates a surprising amount of warmth. Skeletal muscle dumps waste heat like nobody's business.

On really, really cold days I wear a balaclava and goggles under the balaclava that fill the entire eye-hole, so that really no skin is exposed directly to air. Thank goodness New York doesn't get that cold.

Some Canadian told me once that where he comes from, people smear vaseline on their faces as an insulator. Never figured out whether he was pulling my leg.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:59 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm always cold. My top picks:
An electric blanket will make your life so good. Best $50 you'll ever spend.
Sheep insoles for boots.
You need a down-stuffed coat. Thick puffy bird down. Like it should be 2-3 inches thick of just poofy down stuffing, with a canvas-like fabric on the outside. Down is SO much warmer than batting, you won't believe it.
Put Hot Hands in your mitts and boots if you have to be out for a few hours.
If you're forced to be outdoors for a long time, an electric coat is not messin' around.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:29 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Down sweaters are amazing. Light, breathable and comfortable. You can get them for $100 at places like Eddie Bauer, (house brand) and llbean. I think the backcountry ones fit skinny people best but shop around.

Similar but more expensive are the arcteryx atom jackets. So light and warm. But more spendy, at $160 or so.

And insulated skirts are the best. Softshell or primaloft, down is too hard to keep clean.
posted by fshgrl at 10:42 PM on December 8, 2014

Merino base layers and mid layers are the bomb. I have a lot of Icebreaker ones, the thin ones for underneath and the more heavyweight ones for over the top. Because they are so thin, you could easily fit a jumper and coat over the top of that. If you hunt around you can sometimes find ones that are plain and not covered in patterns and piping and stuff, so they can pass for smart casual wear in the office when you remove all the outerwear.

If you look in the ski shop, the more expensive and trendy brands sometimes bring out ski pants that are designed to look like a smart pair of trousers - either black or tweedy looking. The ski pants will be windproof, some of them are highly insulated, and most of them are waterproof. I have worn these to work before. Warning: They can be very expensive. The best time to pick them up is in sales at the end of the ski season, although that doesn't help you now! Ski pants will also have snow skirts inside at the bottom that you can fit over your boots, to prevent the gales getting in (or the snow).

Thirdly, you need a BUFF or whatever is the local equivalent. I have a thin merino one and a windproof fleecy one. Wearing two at a time means that you can have them over your mouth and you don't get frozen breath all over it. So I put the thin one on the inside (if it's really cold I pull it right up at the back so it goes over my ears) and the thick one on the outside.
posted by emilyw at 2:01 AM on December 9, 2014

Umm, go out in the cold more often? There's a known physiological adaptation to the cold that is known to occur called non shivering thermogenesis.

Expose yourself to cold that would normally make you shiver** for 10 consecutive days: 2 hours on the first day, 4 hours on the second day, and 6 hours per day for the remaining days. After that, your shivering response should be markedly reduced.

On the plus side, the subsequent increase in brown fat will help you keep the weight off.

**But not, you know, so cold as to put you into a coma. In the above study, the subjects wore shorts and a T-shirt in a 15–16°C cold room.
posted by kisch mokusch at 2:08 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

As amply pointed out above -- layers. Layers layers layers layers. If you layer, you will *not* be cold. Your outer layer should be a windbreak, even the thinnest nylon windbreaker jacket and pants, over the rest of it. Because wind is The Enemy. It is, if I may borrow from our beloved ex-pres -- the wind is The Evil-doer.

Feet. Do *not* do what I did, young -- put on extra socks, without having ample room in the boots I wore on construction sites. Wrong! It was the worst, esp if/when they got wet. A horror show. You're better off having less socks and more movement, more circulation.

Better, you can learn what I learned at like 29 years old, while working on a scaffold 20 foot in the air on biting cold January days in suburban Chicago -- galoshes. Plain old dorky galoshes, the kind with the buckles on them -- I hadn't had a pair since I was in grade school, they were definitely Not Cool even then, they were in fact over the line and into Very, Very Dorky. Somehow I ended up with a pair, and put them on my feet, over a pair of flipping tennis shoes no less, and one pair of socks, I'm up on that scaffold and my feet were toasty warm. It was great! I could have danced A Festive Warm Foot Dance up on that scaffold, and I ought to have. It was as if the skies had parted, that Capital G God had bestowed these wonder boots upon my lame ass. Or upon my lame feet, rather, would I suppose be more accurate; I'd look even sillier with those things on my ass than on my feet.

If you layer, including wind protection, and take care of your feet, and wear a gaiter around your throat and a hat on your head, you will be warm.

And hey, congrats on losing the weight, if it was an intentional thing. Don't let this little chill bump in the road deter you. Remember: You get to spend money on fun clothing! Hurray! Plus you get to go out and flip off the cold, and sneer at it contemptuously, be all like "Hardy har, Mr. Windy-Cold -- fuck you very much! You can't reach the likes of me."

Have fun!
posted by dancestoblue at 2:09 AM on December 9, 2014

Oh, and REI -- and I'm assuming every other vendor also -- has more than one weight of long johns. I have an REI shirt and Eddie Bauer long johns, they're made out of some clingy poly material, they are warm bordering on hot. They totally rock. If I put those things on, then a regular pair of thermal pants and shirt, and then a pair of jeans and a jacket, I'm set.

I don't live up in yankee-land but I sure have lived there, the only difference would be on a really chill day I'd put on a vest and a hooded parka, maybe some fleece jive over my jeans, definitely a wind break of some sort. A gaiter, good gloves, the foot deal, and I'm ready to roll, and not just roll to the store for a gallon of milk, roll out into the day with my insane brother, messing around with his horses and god only knows whatever else we'll get up to on any given day -- he's a madman, he's 73, he doesn't even consider the weather, just another fact, let's get going, we take our cups of coffee with us and get into the truck and we're off.

And you don't need to spend a zillion, billion dollars on some horses-ass north face parka, either -- Free Country makes perfectly fine outdoor wear, and it's inexpensive even new, on flea-bay they're almost giving the stuff away. They tend to run a bit longer than most, plus then I found out on Amazon that they even sell tall sizes. Cool.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:56 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I went through the same thing. I lived in tropical climates most of my life, but was always comfortable when it was cold. Then I lost 50 pounds and moved to Iceland. People have mentioned wool socks. I basically only wear wool socks now. A simple knit cap, but a really warm one. Wool scarf. Gloves. That's basically it.
posted by Nothing at 4:26 AM on December 9, 2014

I am a small person who is a wuss about the cold (despite growing up in Ottawa where they have Real Winter.) My two weapons against the cold are a comically giant scarf that I can wrap twice around my face, and long underwear under my pants for when it gets really cold. I usually take them off once I get to work, but sometimes not and then I am super cozy :)
posted by quaking fajita at 5:21 AM on December 9, 2014

If it's feasible, try a weight-training program. I'm always warmer for at least a day or so after I've hit the gym to do some weight training & 20 minutes or so on the bike or treadmill.

I think you'll notice results almost immediately. If not, or if that's not your thing, the suggestions above about layering are good ones. I wear silk long-underwear turtlenecks and nylon tights under pants. The synthetic long underwear doesn't cut it, I've found.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:02 AM on December 9, 2014

This exact thing happened to me. I moved away to someplace warmer, gained some weight, came back, lost the weight and suddenly was like WTF SHIT HUMANS SHOULDN'T LIVE HERE.

So what was helpful for me was a lot of the stuff people have explained above, but specifically

- keeping feet not just warm but DRY. This means if you are inside, make sure you have dry socks on at all times. Wool is good, cotton can be fine indoors if you swap it out if your feet are sweaty
- cover exposed skin everywhere. Hats, scarves, wristies, good socks, multiple layers. I often make a joke about counting the layers that are burying my belly button and sometimes it's four or five or six (underwear, leggings, pants, pullover, sweater, jacket).
- have a way to get warm indoors so you know you will come in and be ok. For me this is having a heated mattress pad warmer so when it's night time I can go there and I know I will get myself back to a normal temperature. Hot showers can be good for this too.

Find outdoor clothes that you can move in so that you can wear them through transitioning from outdoors to indoors (or in your car) so you don't feel like a ridiculous marshmallow all the time. For me sometimes this is a lighter jacket and a down vest over the top of everything. And be nice to your skin so that it can endure more. Moisturize when you're heading out, use lip balm (or lipstick) and slather it back on when you get inside. Use hand and foot cream so your hands and feet are still happy and functional when you are inside. Stay hydrated. Consider a humidifier which will make indoor air feel warmer. You'll definitely adjust, it just takes a while to get used to the new normal.
posted by jessamyn at 8:33 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to wear sweaters and sweatshirts and jeans with no underlayer besides underwear.

The following changes made me feel much warmer:

- Fleece jackets (I have four of these) and T-shirts instead of sweaters under a peacoat.
- Longjohns (Marmot polyester) under jeans.

I could probably do better by always having gloves on me, etc. but the above two configuration changes make the most difference.
posted by ignignokt at 9:36 AM on December 9, 2014

Herbal berberine might help you activate the brown fat kisch mokusch is talking about:
The naturally occurring plant alkaloid berberine, used in many Chinese herbal medicines, was found to increase energy expenditures in rodents by increasing brown fat activity.

BBR Helps Body Adapt to Cold

Another set of experiments conducted by the investigators demonstrated that BBR increased energy expenditure and adaptive thermogenesis in both db/db mice and normal, wild-type mice fed high-fat diets.

The researchers analyzed the actions of berberine using a comprehensive lab animal monitoring system (CLAMS). When normalized to their lean mass, berberine-treated mice showed higher oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production rates through a 12-hour light/dark cycle compared with control (wild type) animals. db/db mice treated with berberine showed significant increases in the whole-body energy expenditure. ...
posted by jamjam at 9:41 AM on December 9, 2014

Focus on your top layers. Here's what I do when heading to the office or somewhere inside where I don't want to be overheated later-- longjohns don't work for me for this reason (plus I'd have to buy my pants a few sizes bigger).

Note: southerner in Chicago & I walk, bus, El everywhere; I make no apologies for being anti-cold.

Top half : long down coat with hood, scarf around neck tucked into coat (wrap over your mouth if needed). Knit cap on (sadly, no bobble. They don't fit well under the hood), hood up, another scarf that will then prevent the wind from blowing your hood off your head.

Bottom half : boots as high as you can get 'em. Legwarmers over your pants to fill in any gap between your boots and the bottom of your coat. I use arms off old cashmere sweaters for this.
posted by travertina at 10:02 AM on December 9, 2014

I'm in a similar boat. I don't miss all the downsides to being overweight, but that subcutaneous fat really does keep you warm!

I second all the recommendations for long underwear. In particular, I am devoted to Wintersilks. I have several tops that I have worn every winter for 25 years (!). They look their age, but they are still warm and light. Their website has clearance items that are very reasonably priced and they don't look casual or lumberjacky if they peak out from under a sweater or blazer.

I also have become increasingly conscious of how food and drink make me warm/cold. Drinking a hot drink (even if it's just half a cup of hot tea or water with lemon) sets me up for more warmth when I'm heading out the door. I also have noticed that I tend to feel cold after a meal. If I go out directly after eating, I find I feel cold and need to walk vigorously before I start to warm up again.
posted by annaramma at 10:57 AM on December 9, 2014

I'm a fellow cold wuss and here is the number one BEST THING to help. They are called ear bags. They stay on magically, but are not bulky and do not mess up your hair. Once you keep your extremities warm (your ears and hands and neck are the ones that I need covered but it may be different for you) you are already about five times warmer. The ear bags are great because you can wear them anywhere, even indoors and it doesn't interfere with your hearing. Added bonus, they look good on.

The only other thing I can say is buy one or two really good vests and keep them constantly handy. Vest keeps your core warm and doesn't interfere with your movement.

Good luck!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:21 PM on December 9, 2014

Oof. I've lived on the West Coast, the East Coast, and in the Midwest. For the cold, dry winters on the East Coast, wool always seemed to work best. Down is helpful if it's very cold and windy. Fleece and a rain shell are good for a wet-but-not-too-cold winter. But if the wind and rain aren't too bad, wool is very warm, and a little more flexible (in terms of style).
posted by MrBobinski at 6:19 PM on December 9, 2014

Nthing a merino buff, as recommended above.

And haramaki are amazing. So good.
posted by Lexica at 7:25 PM on December 9, 2014

I used to be a lot larger and it never helped me with the warmth. I'm nthing wool socks, though - grew up in Michigan and froze constantly and still freezing down in Texas, and just got my first pair this week. Then I bought 5 more.

I have a heated foot rest that I keep my feet on at the office. I have 3 pairs of arm warmers stashed in various spots at home and at work. I wear a scarf most of the winter - indoors and out.
posted by getawaysticks at 9:18 AM on December 10, 2014

Hello from Toronto! We have similarly mild winters to you (just ask the Saskatooners with their -35°C nonsense, brrr).

Agreed on the above about layering leggings under pants, good socks, European tied thick scarf.


Get a long coat (aim to cover your thighs) with a hood with a big fringe. Whether it's fur or fake, the fringe creates a little warm pocket of air around your face and keeps the snow off your face too. It's not just decorative.

Look for a coat with flaps that cover the zipper. That keeps the nasty cold wind out.

Tall warm boots. Between your coat and your boots, you can doubly protect most of your legs.

Smile! Decide you are strong and do not mind the cold! Giggle about Calvin's boogers! Enjoy the crisp nip in the air, feel alive! Un-hunch those shoulders, lengthen your stride. This does actually help.

When you come in, wash your hands and wrists in warm water.

Hot bath just before bed.
posted by heatherann at 3:07 PM on December 11, 2014

Looks like everyone else has covered the what-to-wear thing, so let me talk about how to deal with being cold when you can't turn up the heat or put on more layers.

I grew up in the mountains near San Diego, and thought I knew about winter (hey, it snows a couple times a year and occasionally drops below freezing!) until I went to college near Cleveland, OH. My first winter there it got down to -25, with a wind chill of -60. That was a whole other thing.

I did get some warm coats and whatnot, but it's so annoying to haul around all those piles of wool that most of the time I'd just wear a warm sweater with a big scarf and gloves. How is this possible? Through the power of your MIND.

What you do is this:
First, relax. Don't tense yourself all up like you're trying to shut out the cold. Try not to shiver. Don't clench your teeth. Take a slow breath.
Then, notice how the cold feels. Acknowledge that you are cold, but you aren't going to die.
Say to yourself, "I'm cold, and that's okay."
Check again, are you relaxed? Great! Still cold, but you'll survive till you get where you're going.
posted by exceptinsects at 2:47 PM on December 14, 2014

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