I’ve been kind of obsessed with my dog this week. This started when I went with her to get an evaluation for obedience classes (sit and stay) and agility classes (running through mazes and hoops). Well, low and behold, my very food motivated dog overcame her shyness and conquered the agility obstacle. She got lots of treats and learned how to do a fun trick. And watching her put a big smile on my face.
This got me thinking about how much our dogs enrich our lives. And in enriching our lives, they can also improve our health. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how the health benefits can translate to weight loss. In fact, having a dog can be really supportive for any weight loss attempt for multiple reasons. Well, 5 reasons to be exact.
1. They Keep You Active:
I decided to get the obvious one out of the way first. However, it isn’t just your dog’s walks and the trips to the park that will keep you in shape. Most dogs do require some extra activity inside the house as well. Your dog will want you to throw its favorite toy. Maybe she likes a good game of chase. Your small dog may want to be picked up and carried. She begs you to get up and walk across the house to get his favorite treat. While this might not take the place of formal exercise, you will most likely be more active with a dog than without one. I talk quite a bit in my Body & Soul Transformation Program about how even those of us who exercise tend to be way too sedentary in our down time. Having a dog is a good way to keep yourself moving when you’re at home and might otherwise be mindlessly sitting in front of the TV.
2. They Keep You Social:
Dogs make you get up and actually explore your neighborhood. These days, most of us don’t really know our neighbors. Dogs help ease the introduction by running to the nearest stranger and give them a big slobbery lick. Ok, so you might be thinking, that’s nice, but how will my dog’s social nature help me lose weight? Well, when we feel detached from our community, we can experience loneliness and depression. These negative emotions can create an internal chain reaction that will actually slow down the metabolism and create cravings for sugary, fattening foods. So your dog, by being your best friend and helping you get to know your community, will help make you feel more connected which can help you lose weight. All the more reason to get your dog out of the backyard so the two of you can experience the world together.
3. They Make Great Sleep Buddies:
Yes, there are experts that say that you’re not supposed to let your dog sleep on the bed. But most of us do it anyway because it is just so tempting to spend the night cuddling with our lovable pile of fur. Dogs never expect more from you when you start cuddling. They naturally sleep in packs, so they will keep you nice and warm on cold winter nights. They are excellent at spooning. And if you kick them or roll over onto them when you’re sleeping, they totally won’t hold it against you in the morning. When I was a little kid, I was scared to sleep alone, so my dog stood guard on my bed which allowed me to fall into a deep, restful sleep. So how will this help you lose weight? Studies show that we need good quality sleep to lose weight. Sleep deprivation leads to sugar cravings, inflammation and heightened hunger signals. Just make sure you don’t sleep with a dog who takes the whole bed or turns so much that they wake you. That will have the opposite effect on your weight.
4. They Lower Your Stress:
So, you’ve had a horrible day and you can feel the stress creeping into your shoulders. But when you get home, your dog is running in happy circles to celebrate your arrival. Or you just hung up the phone from an argument, and your dog, sensing the tension, runs over to lick your face. Or maybe you’re obsessing about this project, and your dog forces you to take a break with a game of fetch. Stress is one of the most undervalued and overlooked aspects of weight gain. Our stress hormones directly communicate with our hormones that store fat and send them into overdrive. Stress hormones also inhibit the signals that communicate with our brain to tell us we are satiated after a meal. Dogs help lower stress hormones which will help our waistline as well.
5. They Can Help You Stay On Track With Your Eating Goals:
Most dogs go bonkers for people food. And they can get much more excited by healthy food than we do. For instance, my husband got my dog addicted to carrots. And whenever we start eating carrots, she gets super excited because she knows we’re likely to share with her. So carrot time is a bonding time for the whole family. Find a healthy food your dog will be willing to share and make your shared snack a household ritual. Your dog will start to expect it and remind you when you’ve forgotten your veggies for the day. Just make sure to stay away from healthy foods like onions and grapes which are toxic to pups.
While having a dog is certainly not a prerequisite for weight loss, dogs can become our partners in our weight loss endeavors. It’s important to note however that you should never adopt a family member just to lose weight. Dogs provide a lot of love and support, but they are also lots of work. And when you commit to a dog, you commit to them for life.
So one last thought. What is the best way that dogs help us lose weight? They remind us how perfect we are as we are right now. They remind us that we are lovable, whether we lose the weight or not. And these feelings of self-worth are invaluable to our entire well-being. Of course we should already know how fabulous we are, but to be honest, it’s nice to have the reminder.