Can’t Lose Weight? Be More Like a Dog

One of the keys to managing arthritic or painful joints is keeping your weight within an optimal range.

And by the way, the images of people you see in the media – movies, television, Instagram, magazines, etc is NOT normal. People who look toned, ripped and impossibly lean and “fit”, it’s their job to look that way. So let go of that image as “normal” or even achievable.

It’s probably fair to say that many of us in the over 40 tribe are carrying a little too much fat on our bodies. I know I was for several years.

More weight = more force on the joints = more potential for pain.

If you lose 1lb of weight, your joints feel like you lost 4lbs.1

That’s a tremendous ROI.

My vet told me a while ago that our dog Kobe “needs to lose some weight”. Kobe will be 10 this year. In human years, that’s about 66 years of age.

I’ve been secretly proud of keeping our dogs’ weight where it should be so when I heard this, I was surprised.

I said, “Okay, how much?”

She replied,”He should be around 65-67 lbs and he’s 72 lbs now.”

“Hmmmm…. I’ve been feeding him about the same amount for years and I walk him 45 minute to an hour nearly everyday. So, what’s wrong? Why do you think he’s gaining weight?” I asked.

“Because he’s getting older. Just like humans, older age slows your metabolism, you get heavier,” she explained.

Well, whaddaya know…The Middle Age Middle hits canines too.

To put things in perspective, Kobe needed to lose about 10% of his body weight. That’s a lot. Well, not a massive amount but if that was me, that would be a little over 20lbs.

So, now the question is, how would you lose 20lbs if you needed to (or 15, 10 – whatever 10% of your bodyweight might be)?

What’s the plan?

Well, for Kobe the choices are simple: reduce portion size, avoid treats, and make sure he gets exercise and activity.

Seems to me like a good strategy for us humans.

So, why doesn’t it work then?

Dogs eat the same thing everyday, or at least my dogs do, and I control the portion size. The food has the nutrients they need and I add chopped fruit and/or vegetables to it with a little fish oil. They don’t seem the least bit disinterested when dinner roles around even though they’ve had the same thing for quite a while.

One weight control strategy promoted by Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 HOUR BODY, is to eat the same thing or close to it each day. Eat more like a dog in other words.

I do that – mostly. Elle will ask me what my preferences are for dinner and I’m fine with a grilled chicken breast, some broccoli and green beans or maybe some quinoa or brown rice.

Every night is okay with me.

My dinner varies in terms of items but the nutrient content is basically the same each night. I eat the same things for breakfast and lunch nearly everyday and I rarely eat out at a restaurant. Yes, it can be boring but at 61, my metabolism isn’t what it was at 18. If I start tinkering with the food variability too much, BAM, I’ll gain 10 lbs in no time (and yes, I exercise and I don’t drink booze).

This idea of a minimal variable diet is tough if you’re a Foodie. If you love food, and variety, it’s much more difficult to control your weight because, well, you have to have a lot of discipline to eat the proper portion size of food that tastes ridiculously good.

In the wild, dogs are on the move hunting for the next meal. This intermittent activity in humans is referred to as N.E.A.T or Non-Exercise  Activity Thermogenesis – you heat up, boost your metabolism without “exercise”.

Do you know people who, when they sit in a chair or on a sofa or at the movies, bounce their leg all the time? They seem fidgety? Well, fidgety people control their weight better than us non-fidgeters.2

I’ve just recently started fidgeting. I own one of these and use it at my desk. You should see my dance moves. Maybe I’ll make a video of me groovin’ on the HOVr (oh, and this is a great tool if you have knee pain). On second thought, maybe not.

And I pace around the house muttering and playing air guitar. Ok, that was a joke. Well, I pace and mutter a fair amount.And I do play air guitar but never mutter and play air guitar. I use the HOVr or I try to bounce my foot, tense muscles intermittently, go for a 5 minute walk as my N.E.A.T. tactics.

Dogs sprint. They chase other animals, bugs, play, etc. Then rest. This is interval training for dogs. Domesticated dogs sometimes lose this because of the imposed lifestyle of being indoors most of the time. I play chase with my dogs in the backyard for a few minutes or fetch. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk with my pups and run for short intervals.

Dogs don’t drink booze. Good thing too. Imagine how happy your dog would be to see you if he’d had a few vodkas before you got home. “Hey! Alright, alright, alright! Let’s PAWTY! Ha!”

I used to drink – mostly red wine. I had convinced myself that it was okay because red wine is good for you.

Yeah, right. I know about the French Paradox – high fat diet +  lots of red wine = low heart disease. But so far, there’s no proof anyone should do it. It’s an association. But the media grabbed on to it and ran away with it. The suggestions by the way, if you’re going to drink alcohol for a supposed health benefit, is 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men.

A drink, for wine, is 5 ounces.

What does five ounces look like?


The glass I used was the one on the far right. A “drink” for me was more often half the glass or what equals 2 drinks and I might have 2-3 “drinks”.  I’ve not seen anyone drink one glass with five ounces in it except at high priced restaurants.

Booze throttles your metabolism. If you think of your body as a car, you want to be running it on a gas guzzling Ferrari engine and not a Prius. You want to churn through calories. In technical language, that’s called having a high energy flux.

And you remember those days too. Where you could eat whatever you wanted and nothing stuck to your belly or thighs or arms.

No exercise. Eat, drink and be merry.

I could eat a half gallon of ice cream every night when I was in my teens and never gain an ounce of weight. But I was super active and likely had testosterone levels that would make Lance Armstrong jealous.

That’s long gone for me and most other people so start the grief process and hurry up to the Acceptance stage.

It is what it is.

Drop the booze and you will lose weight without doing anything else. Drinking alcohol can reduce your body’s ability to burn fat by almost 80%. 3

If you drink booze, but exercise, eat right, you will not only not lose weight but might gain weight over time.

 I lost about 12 pounds over six months (and didn’t lose any weight for the first 2 months by the way) after I stopped drinking alcohol.

Dogs don’t eat junk food. Junk food is anything that is processed – chips, pretzels, candy, certain breads, pastas. Foods that do not come out of the ground or from a natural source are considered “junk”. Stick to a whole foods diet and then tinker with the components of protein, fat, carbohydrate to find what works for you.

Dogs sleep…a lot. Sleep deprivation = fat gain and most of that in the middle of the body. Why? Sleep is when your body repairs itself, balances out hormones, does all of the maintenance things that need to be done. A lack of sleep leads to a rise in blood sugar followed by more insulin pumped into your blood. The rise in a steady flow of insulin makes your cells shut down the absorption of the sugar which then settles into your body as fat.

Finally, a balanced dog is not stressed. By balanced, I mean the the dog knows where he or she is in the pack, is well trained to interact with humans and is essentially a happy dog.

Stress in humans, which is sort of like saying breathing in humans because it’s just part of living, runs rampant these days. And managing stress is an article or two by itself. So, lets just say that out of control, chronic stress leads to fat gain due to shifts in hormonal levels in the body.  And, some people, eat and drink more as a stress management tool. Then they try to exercise to “burn” the extra calories.

So there you have it. The Canine Way to Ideal Body Weight.

That’s all I have for now.

Thanks for reading.



PS – If you’re interested in what I do for exercise and training, go here. For my books, go here

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  3. Shelmet, J. J., Reichard, G. A., Skutches, C. L., Hoeldtke, R. D., Owen, O. E., & Boden, G. (1988). Ethanol causes acute inhibition of carbohydrate, fat, and protein oxidation and insulin resistance. J Clin Invest, 81(4), 1137-1145.