I keep trying to tell her that it’s a lifestyle change, not a diet.
She just thinks we’re starving her.
Not too long ago, we took our older dog (she’s not really old, just older than the other at 6-1/2 years) to the vet because we were feeling lumps on one side both in her skin and underneath it. After a biopsy, followed by a surgery, she was diagnosed with mast cell tumors. While the growth was fully excised, due to the nature of mast cell tumors, we’re going to be checking her for lumps the rest of her life to stay ahead of it. When she went back in to have her stiches out, she also had her Annual Wellness Exam (referred to as AWE, now isn’t that sweet?) in which the vet pointed out the plaque on her teeth and her thickening middle. She said Daisey needed to lose a few pounds.
Now, the reason I’m talking about both her cancer and her weight in practically the same breath, is that it really made me think about another experience from about eleven years ago. I spoke about this in one of the first posts we made on our blog: The PINK Edition. My mom’s life was saved by the weight she had lost just prior to having her mammogram. If she hadn’t lost the weight, they wouldn’t have been able to get close enough to capture the lump in the image and they wouldn’t have caught her breast cancer in the very early stage that it was in. We were lucky with Daisey. Her tumor formed in her skin, so we could feel it pretty easily and so caught it at a stage I. Mast cell tumors can form under the skin, near vital organs, though. The next one could very easily not be in her skin.
Here’s a picture of Daisey taken last night:
As you can see, she’s not the chubbiest dog you’ve ever seen. However, to be a healthy dog, her tummy should tuck up more and while you certainly shouldn’t be able to see her ribs, you should be able to feel them when pressing in at her sides. You can’t. If I can’t feel her ribs, how am I going to be able to feel a dangerous lump in or near her belly?
We have been calling her “Chunky Monkey” for a few years now as an endearment, so obviously we had noticed, but in our eyes, it hadn’t gotten to the point of restricting her access to food until the vet said so. I was very loathe to do this. You see, for over six years, we had never had to have feeding times for our dogs (even our lab mix). They had always been so good at self-regulating. The food was always there, so they never felt they had to eat it all in case it was gone. They ate when hungry and always left plenty of food in the bowl. For the most part, this was a really healthy way for them to live. It became a habit though, and as Daisey got older, less active, lazy and letting the younger dog do all the “work” during playtime, she kept eating the same way she had when she was only two years old. Each spring less of her winter weight would melt away and it all accumulated around her middle and on her rump.
Daisey’s weight snuck up on her (and us) just like ours had done years ago. She used to bounce around between 28-32 lbs depending on if she had her winter weight on or not. This summer she clocked in at 39 lbs. On a 100lb human, that’s like gaining 30+ lbs. Over the course of a few years, it happens, and if it’s not addressed, it becomes 40, then 50, until you suddenly have to lose half your body weight to be healthy again. In a way, we’ve learned from our own mistakes. We don’t want this to get out of control for Daisey, so we’re helping her do something she really can’t do on her own.
We switched her to a healthier blend from the same brand we’ve been feeding her since she was a puppy and we’re giving her appropriate servings for her size with the aim of losing weight. Once she loses the weight, we’ll keep her on the same food, but switch to the “maintenance” serving sizes they recommend. So, even though she thinks we’re starving her, it really is lifestyle change.
It’s very simplified and there isn’t much variety (but when you’re a dog, do you really get much variety?) but it’s a lot like what we’re doing in our own weight loss journey. We’re switching to healthier foods with familiar flavors. We’re eating less with an eye towards weight loss. Then we’re going to keep eating those same foods for the rest of our lives in slightly different proportions to maintain.
We were on vacation for part of last week and ended up slightly off-plan for about a week. We tried to make healthier choices, but didn’t bother tracking. I was really focused on being as active as I could for part of our vacation to offset the lack of tracking, and managed this one our first full day of the vacation:
That’s a lot of green!
Coming back from being out of town it can be very difficult to know what to expect on the scale. The only thing you really hope for is to avoid a gain (or at least have it be a small one). Happily neither one of us gained at all:
- Jason 0.0 stayed the same
- Jenny -1.2
A little bit at a time, Daisey’s weight will come off. And a little bit at a time, so will ours. She isn’t magically going to be the lean little dog she was before and neither will we shed the pounds we’ve accumulated over the years overnight. It is a process, a journey, a lifelong shift in perspective and habit. Sometimes we lose, sometimes we don’t, but overall we are (all three) going in the right direction.