Chill out to lose weight or bundle up, keep healthy?

We drove north for more than three hours to spend a Saturday with the grandkids at Pokagon State Park.

The family lugged our toboggans to the top of the run, shivering in line for 20 to 25 minutes all for the privilege of spending 45 seconds speeding down the icy track.

The air was frigid. The sky was gray. Cars were driving across the thick ice of the frozen lake, and the wind was strong enough to make the fire ring near the wooden stairs of the run a welcome respite.

It was a beautiful day. Cold, but beautiful.

I must admit, though, I was ready to turn on the heat in the car for the long drive home. However, as I learned later in the week, perhaps I was in too big a hurry to get warm — especially if I was trying to lose weight. As a matter of fact, to really drop the pounds, I probably should have been wearing an ice vest.

James Hamblin, a writer for The Atlantic, recently wrote about researchers who have been studying cold exposure and how it can be of great benefit to Americans in their never-ending quest to find a way to lose weight that doesn’t involve the twin hassles of exercise and eating less. One of those investigators, Ray Cronise, has turned himself into the experimental subject of his research.

Cronise was a materials scientist at NASA who worked on problems related to heat transfer in humans as it relates to the temperatures of outer space.

He had a sort of epiphany when he wondered if the reported 12,000 calories that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps consumed every day — without gaining weight — could be explained by the fact that Phelps spent so much time in cool water. Cronise decided to try out his hypothesis on himself.

He showered with cold water and took shirtless walks in winter and within six weeks had lost almost 28 pounds. Measuring his metabolism, he found his body was using any extra energy to sustain his core temperature.

Now, except for the very coldest days in winter, he does not turn the heat on in his Alabama house, and he does not use blankets when he sleeps. He explains that our ancestors experienced temperature changes in ways we moderns don’t. We go from winter heaters to air conditioned summers.

He and his colleagues suspect there may be a link between “over-warmth” and obesity. One solution would be to change downward the “socially accepted range” of temperatures in which we spend our lives. That might be a little too much to ask comfort-loving Americans, but who knows?

Which brings me to the ice vest. Wayne B. Hayes, an entrepreneur out of California, has developed an ice vest based on the theory that “environmental thermodynamics” can be utilized as a way to lose weight.

Hayes calls his creation The Cold Shoulder, and it is basically a vest loaded with ice-packs. He claims the Cold Shoulder will burn 250 calories if worn for one hour.

The apparel is somewhat clunky, say those who have tried it, and will certainly cause stares, but users have reported promising weight loss. I suppose for some people, anything is better than exercise and food portion control.

Was it synchronicity that just as I was reading about the benefits of cold temperatures, I happened upon an article claiming Mom was right when she insisted, “Bundle up! Do you want to catch your death of cold?”

Yale researchers have found that when the temperature of the nasal cavity falls even five degrees our immune system is less effective in fighting the rhinovirus, the cause of the common cold. The solution? Keep warm and cover your nose.

Now here is a dilemma: Do I listen to the cold-is-good scientists or the keep-warm researchers? Or, should I just listen to Mom?