Cold Showers and Avocados

Nicole McEvoy

On my journey to become the best version of myself, I was lured into the health and wellness trends of today. You know the drill. I saw all my male friends taking the opportunity to take photos of themselves posing shirtless in a freezing lake #notcomplaining. The only meal that was worth sharing had to include celery stalks, turmeric, or avocados. Whilst eating my non-Instagram-worthy bowl of tofu and rice, I wanted to hop on some of these trends. I did want to up my Instagram game (not going to pretend otherwise), but I was truly curious about the health benefits that come with these new habits. Was it just another Teatox scam or the best route to my #lifegoals?
I decided to become a human guinea pig and really commit to something new. It was going to be a real challenge for me because I had hardly ever stuck to a habit in the past. But I had a steady workout routine (read: I worked out twice a week), my relationship with food was healthy (I did not eat total crap), but I had two jobs and was a university student at the same time, so I was often stressed and had trouble sleeping. My skin would flare up often, and I found out that I might have a higher intolerance for alcohol than most people. I did not think that alcohol was healthy, duh, but turning into a turnip after a can of cider isn’t the usual effect it has on people, and I haven’t ever seen #lookingforturnips trending on anyone’s dating profile. I had trouble sleeping, my sleep paralysis was creeping up on me again and I would wake up more tired than the day before. Honestly, I couldn’t focus at all.

I stumbled across the Wim Hof method, and it looked like the answer to my prayers. But to be honest, I was not going to be fooled into believing everything I found on social media. I also needed a bit more to get me hooked because I hated the cold. My shower looked like I had just left the sauna. I would not have been able to share hot water with anyone else in a flat, because the person would have had to take cold showers unwillingly.
I came across a Netflix series called the Goop Lab. It is a rather controversial show hosted by Gwyneth Paltrow. Wim Hof himself shared his story and took a group to demonstrate his method. He claimed that exposure to cold can help with stress, anxiety and weight loss and that it has many other benefits. I was persuaded to start.
It was 3rd February when I first exposed myself to cold water. My friend had told me about some breathing techniques to follow during the exposure. They didn’t help. I was gasping for breath, and I couldn’t compose myself properly. My whole family heard sounds coming from my bathroom best described as the noise of an animal drowning. I managed to stand under the water for about 10 seconds. It immediately woke me up and made my eyesight multiple times better. On leaving the shower, I felt tingly all over. I knew nothing would change after the first day of exposure, so I went on with my day.

A week later I was taking cold showers daily, managing about 30 seconds in the water. I had more control over my breathing, and honestly, it did not feel that bad. I was hoping for a boost to my day, and to feel energised and able to conquer anything that might come my way. I felt quite the opposite. I had my morning run, then the cold shower, and an hour after that I just felt like crawling back into bed and not doing anything else for the rest of the day. It seemed like my challenges for the day had been used up. It might have been affected by the lockdown situation. To be honest, my motivation to do anything had dropped to near zero at that point. I needed social interaction, and all the computer work was consuming me. But I persevered.

After a month of cold showers, I had worked my way up to a minute under the water, and I was actually enjoying the cold. If I danced in the shower, the time would go by quicker. But after the shower, I saw no results. I still felt tired for much of the day, and I saw no improvement in the condition of my skin or anything else. If I am being honest, at the very least I was hoping for a placebo effect or something of the sort. But nothing.

What did I gain from this experience? I was expecting to be dazzled by my different approach to life. I thought conquering one big challenge at the start of my day would make me more resilient to other challenges throughout the rest of the day. I started walking every evening, and I saw more benefit from spending time on my feet and in the fresh air than from standing under cold water for minutes on end.

I now stand under the cold water for a minute and a half every day. Sometimes I dance, sometimes I don’t. I decided not to share this on social media platforms because, well, I do not really take videos of myself naked in the shower making weird noises. But hey, #notjudging. I will continue to do this every day. Maybe I need more than a couple of months to feel the difference. But that is a story for another day.