Losing weight is not easy. For people with a tendency to put on weight, keeping it off can be a lifelong challenge. This may not be the quick-fix message that you want to hear. It is tempting to believe that there is a magic food, pill, or potion that will turn us from pleasantly plump to super svelte overnight. But as a registered dietitian, it’s my responsibility to be honest and give you the latest evidence-based science. When it comes to weight loss, we have yet to find a speedy magic bullet.
The new year often starts with a resolution to lose weight and get fit. Some of us stick to the plan. But others, well, right around now, begin to fall back into old patterns. The demands of work and family make it hard to keep to a fitness routine. Planning, shopping for, and cooking a healthy meal takes time. A trip to the local pizza place or fast food restaurant can seem a lot quicker and easier. It is work to break old patterns and establish new ones.
At the moment, I am a healthy weight. However, I am going through a weight loss experience vicariously through my dog. I know — that sounds ridiculous. But helping someone lose weight (be they man or beast — or both!) brings with it challenges and responsibilities. I’m not saying it’s as hard as loosing weight oneself… it isn’t. But in helping him lose weight, I can fully appreciate the commitment that is necessary.
If you’re wondering how Ollie got too big in the first place, please see my previous post, Oh Sh*T My Dog Got Fat!! Since that fateful day when we went to the vet and discovered he’d gained more than 10 lbs in a year (that is A LOT for a dog!), we (I) resolved to get him fit and healthy again. And just as with their human counterparts, canine weight loss is no easy journey. Ollie is plagued with two of the same issues that often cause weight gain in people. 1) He doesn’t like to exercise. That may seem strange for a dog. But he really loves just to sit around. Better yet, he loves to lay around while you rub his belly. Bird chasing, ball chasing, squirrel chasing? Forget about it. Ollie is a new breed of dog. Instead of the Golden Retriever that I though I was getting, I got a Golden Couch Potato. 2) The other issue: Ollie LOVES food. All food. Any kind of food. And I mean any kind… even things that aren’t technically food. (I will spare you of the details on that one… it’s kind of gross.)
So, I’m basically dealing with an inherently lazy dog who lives to eat. Sound familiar?
It’s been about 3 months now since Ollie started his weight loss regimen. And it hasn’t been easy. He is losing weight… 5 lbs so far… but it has been a real commitment for both of us. Because Ollie would rather sit than walk, I need to walk with him to get him moving. This means a minimum of 2 hours per day, every day of brisk walking. We get up earlier and stay out longer than we used to. I’ve also cut back on his food a bit. And snacks are now only carrots, apples, or a couple of small dog treats. It’s the same formula that works in people. Less food + more exercise = weight loss. Seems so simple, but it’s hard to do when less food means missing out on some of your favorite treats sometimes and more exercise means getting up at 6am to walk in 20 degree weather.
One of the things that has been a huge help in sticking to the plan: a good support system. Walking a dog at 6am in the freezing wind and snow is not fun… at least not for me. It’s better for both of us when we have company. I make plans to meet with other dog people (and their dogs, of course), to help make the journey more pleasant. So if you are struggling to stick to your new year’s slim down resolution, think about getting a workout buddy. It’s not a magic bullet — not a quick fix — but it is one great tip for sticking to a weight loss plan.