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Guest Blogger – Dara Chadwick (When the Dog Becomes the Trainer)

Today, I’m teaming up with fellow freelance writer for a blog swap. So, her entry appears here, and mine is posted on her blog. Keep an eye on Dara, she’s HOT STUFF, her book about how mothers shape their daughter’s body image is set to publish in 2009. One of the reasons I find Dara’s blog so compelling is that we have essentially the same body and similar issues with food and exercise. BUT, for today, she’s musing about what she’s learned about food from her Golden Retriever, Colby:
When the Dog Becomes the Trainer

By Dara Chadwick

Last year, I lost 26 pounds as the Weight-Loss Diary columnist for Shape, a
women’s fitness magazine. More than a million readers watched as I re-shaped my body, addressed my emotional eating issues and overhauled my diet by thinking about food in a new way. It was an intense year, filled with ups and downs and lots of public pressure. But when I reflect on what I learned about food, my body and what it needs every day, I realized something — I could learn a lot by simply watching my golden retriever, Colby.
Each morning, I fill his bowl with a delightful mix of lamb and rice kibble. He’s always interested in watching what I’m doing, but it’s more observation than anything else. He’ll walk over, give the kibble a sniff and sometimes even take a bite or two. But he doesn’t scarf it down the moment it appears. He’s come to trust that his bowl will be filled twice a day, so there’s no need to rush. He eats when he’s hungry, walks away and comes back for more later, knowing all the while that he’ll find what he needs.

I’ve come to look at food that way, too. I eat when I’m hungry, but now I eat smaller amounts instead of pushing myself to finish what’s there. When my body tells me I’m hungry again, I go back for more, confident it’ll be there. Food isn’t some scarce commodity that needs to be consumed on the spot.

Colby’s also taught me the right way to indulge in a treat. He’s well aware of when something extraordinary has appeared in his bowl, whether it’s a piece of cheese or a juicy bit of steak. When that happens, he eats with gusto, never worrying for one moment about calories or fat grams or whether he should. It reminds me of the advice my dietitian gave me last year about holiday eating: When something special appears, like pumpkin pie or a holiday casserole, treat
yourself to a reasonable portion and enjoy it guilt free. But foods you can get any old time, like potato chips or mashed potatoes? They’re not splurge-worthy.

If anything, Colby has taught me that it’s OK to ask for what you need emotionally. I’m an independent kind of gal, so asking for help or a shoulder to cry on has always been a struggle. My pride sometimes gets in the way, but not so for Colby.

When he’s bored or anxious or just wants to connect, he never heads to his food bowl. Instead, he walks right over to where I’m sitting and nudges my hand until he gets his nose under it. “Pet me,” he demands. He never worries about seeming needy or bothering me or distracting me from the important work I’m doing. And if I tell him to lay down, he doesn’t feel hurt. He just plops down next to my desk, content to be near me and knowing he’s loved…no food necessary.

From Colby, I’ve learned to take my time, eat when I’m hungry, enjoy an occasional treat and ask for what I need from others — a perfect training plan for a healthy attitude toward food.

 

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Peggy - July 30, 2008

Hi Dara,
I write for various magazines and anthologies about dogs, and you’re right, there’s so much we can learn from our dogs! I’ve recently lost 40 lbs. I’m not sure what Kelly’s taught me because just now I had to pull her away from eating a snake in the back yard. Anyway, I think she’s taught me most that we might eat whatever is put in front of us (at least I would!) so it’s important to be sure what we put in front of ourselves–and our dogs–is of good quality.

Nancy - July 30, 2008

I love this, Dara. If I ate like my dog Dinah,I’d be absolutely svelte. If I ate like my other dog, Crispin, I’d be enormous, especially since he spends much of his day sniffing around to see whether we might just have accidentally left out a whole box of butter or briefly turned our backs on the burgers on the grill. The irony is that Dinah’s the one who could lose a few pounds and Crispin is our skinny boy.

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