Walking dogs for fitness and fun

I really wanted to call this post How I lost 30 pounds walking dogs.

Turns out that won’t happen unless I also cut back on the M&Ms and french fries.

When I first started volunteering at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley, I went two or three times a week and walked three dogs about 20 minutes each on a trail that included some steep inclines. As sweaty and dirty as I was when I returned to work afterward, I thought surely I’d drop a ton of weight.

(In my early 30s, I lost 3 pounds just by walking Isis several days a week, with no changes to my diet. Sadly, I am now in my late 30s.)

Realistically, I couldn’t keep up that pace, so I cut back my volunteer hours to once a week. I’ve watched happily as many of the dogs I’ve befriended have found families of their own.

Two of my favorite inmates at the moment are Abe and Dylan, whom I like to cally Dilly, Dilly Bear, or Dillsbury Dough Boy.

Abe looks a lot like my old pal Buddy, who recently got his own home, soccer ball included. He’s a lean, but very tall hound-shepherd mix, with a boisterous bark that might intimidate visitors who only see him behind bars. But let him loose in the play yard and he’s a big, smiley goofball. Yesterday, I let him run loose for a few minutes before our walk. I let the dogs drag their leashes in the yard, so I don’t wind up playing keep-away when it’s time to put the leash back on. Abe ran so hard that he tripped over his leash and flipped onto his back like a cartoon character.

Don’t hold it against him, but Abe is a bit of a puller. It’s not his fault; no one taught him any better. I make kissy noises and give him treats when he comes back to me. (A clicker would be impractical; I need both hands on his leash.) On the wooded trail, I let him pull ahead a little, because he is a hound dog and deserves quality sniffing time. Yesterday, while he had his head buried under a bush, I saw a deer ahead on the trail. The deer ran off before Abe saw it.

It didn’t go entirely unnoticed though. Abe sure perked up when we reached the spot where the deer had been. He went bonkers, squealing and sniffing, making snuffling noises against the ground and, sorry to reuse the imagery, looking like a cartoon dog. I worried a little that he might pull me off my feet, but I held onto that leash for dear life as he dragged me up the trail until he lost the scent of the deer.

After returning sweet Abe to his kennel, I visited Dilly, a medium sized brindle pit bull mix. Dilly is the ideal dog for snuggling on the couch. He has this way of leaning up against you, like all he wants in the world is to be touching you. I sat down on the floor of his kennel and he crawled into my lap and I just held him for a few minutes, kissing his head. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade Mia and Leo for anything, but Dilly could teach them a few things about cuddling.

On my walk with him, I paused a few times to crouch down and rub his belly (and kiss his face, I admit it). At one point when I stood back up, he had a sudden burst of energy and sprang ahead. Unprepared, I let the leash slip out of my hand.

(Somehow, I managed to hold onto huge Abe, but let Dilly go? How did that happen?)

I quickly recovered from the heart-lurching fear that I’d just lost a shelter dog, realizing that Dilly would come back to me if I sat down and offered him a lap to sit in. And he did.

At this point, I was feeling pretty fatigued, still recovering from a recent head cold.

Maybe I won’t walk a third dog, I thought. I had planned to walk Clark, whom I like to call Clarkson. Now that Buddy has found a home, Clark, the so-dark-gray-he’s-almost-black pit-lab mix, has been there the longest of my pals. He initially was surrendered by a family with an apparent allergy, then was adopted to a family who brought him back after he got in a fight at the dog park. He’s been pretty anxious since I’ve known him, chewing through at least one collar and two harnesses. The shelter staff says he didn’t do that kind of thing during his first stint in the clink.

I couldn’t let Clark down, especially since shelter staff felt the need to rename him Clyde, so in lieu of a trail walk, I played with him in the yard. I swear, never has a dog been happier to chase a tennis ball. And then… he got even happier when I threw a second ball to him.

Two balls! I get to play with both of these? At first, Clark dropped one ball to pick up the other, but then he realized he could fit both in his mouth. There’s an old boat on a trailer in this play yard, and Clark likes to lie under it and tear the fuzzy skin off tennis balls. Tail wagging, huge smile on his face.

How, I ask you, HOW does this dog not have a yard of his own? I want to give Clark a yard, and a family with kids to play with him, and a bucket full of tennis balls to tear apart. Who cares if he doesn’t play well at the dog park?

I want to give Dilly a couch and a person to lean on.

I want to give Abe a person with patience to teach him to walk nicely on a leash (using force-free methods of course), and yard to race around in without a leash to trip him up.

I would use those wishes before I wished to lose 30 pounds.

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How to sabotage the Skinny Rules: Holiday Edition

Make excellent choices.

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with greek yogurt and flax seed.
  • Lunch: Salad with grilled salmon
  • Dinner: Grilled fish, salad, grilled zucchini

Surprisingly, I found it easy enough to observe Bob Harper’s Skinny Rules at meals over the holidays. At the Fish Grill in Brentwood, I even opted for salad and zucchini instead of fries or baked potato, and I resisted eating any of my mom’s fries.

Ready for the the trick to completely sabotaging any hopes of losing weight?

Between meals, stuff your face with cookies, cake, and candy. All of it you can get your hands on. Non stop.

For example, I baked my boyfriend a He-Man cake for his 42nd birthday. (Is that weird?)

While working at home last week, I reduced He-Man from a bust with shoulders and hair to simply a face. Then I ate that too.

heman cake

Look, I’m not conceding defeat or anything. I’m congratulating myself on learning how the rules work, even as I blatantly flouted them.

Starting today, this time I mean it. I’m gonna stop eating starches after lunch, or anything after eight. I’ve almost gotten rid of all the other crap around the house. Except for maybe a little bit of candy. But I’m totally going to exercise some will power over that. Totally. (And if I don’t, I’ll start the Skinny Rules tomorrow.)

 

True Confessions, weight loss edition

Almost 10 years ago, I lost a bit of weight on Weight Watchers. Following the plan was fairly easy and it took me a little over six months. I lived alone and didn’t have much of a social life; controlling what I ate was a piece of cake. I didn’t even exercise that vigorously at the time. And I was in my twenties.

I mostly kept the weight off for several years, despite moving in with Rob, perhaps because I practiced martial arts with him regularly. If the pounds started to creep back on, I thought, no problem, when the number on the scale gets higher than I can stand, I’ll just do Weight Watchers again. I rejoined on two occasions. Once with meetings and once online. I didn’t find it as effective either time, and not because they changed the plan slightly.

Partly, I found it too hard to keep track of my points. I eat lunch at the Skagit Co-op a lot. How am I supposed to know how many points are in their tuna cassoulet? I also blame my thirtysomething metabolism. The pounds don’t just melt off anymore.

When you’ve been meaning for a few years to lose that pesky five pounds, it’s especially discouraging to watch that amount double… and triple… and …

“Okay,” I’d tell myself. “Let’s do this.” Then I’d finish Rob’s fries. A couple of fries can’t hurt, can they?

A few months ago, I saw Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper on the Today Show talking about his new book, The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to Thin.

The rules include:

  • Drink a big glass of water before every meal.

I can do that!

  • Eat apples and berries every day.

Oookay.

  • Go to bed hungry (don’t eat after 8 pm)

Challenging, maybe, but definitely a good idea and something I could work toward.

  • Eat protein at every meal.

This is a tough one for me, since I don’t eat meat (although I do eat fish, eggs and cheese). When I was on Weight Watchers, I considered a baked potato to be an acceptable meal. Which brings me to:

  • No white potatoes. Not even baked.

Uh oh.

  • No starchy carbs after lunch.

Oh, hell, no. That’s too hard. If I can’t have rice, potatoes or pasta, what am I supposed to eat for dinner?

The following week, I may have tried to drink more water and not eat after 8, but that was about it until Rob downloaded Harper’s audiobook from the library. (He downloads lots of books by trainers. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t telling me I needed to lose weight.) I spent a recent Sunday morning lying in bed listening to Harper’s twenty rules.

“Okay,” I told myself. “Let’s do this.” Then ate most of Rob’s fries at lunch.

BUT… I also stocked up on veggies, apples, and berries. Bought the Skinny Rules for my Nook, so I could reference Harper’s sample menus to give me ideas about what I’m supposed to eat for dinner.

A week and a half later, I’m down four pounds. Which is awesome, considering I cheat every day. Just a little.

What’s the difference? I needed some rules to enable me to make better choices. No potatoes. Fine. No starches after lunch. If you insist.

Also, I’m not thinking about what I can’t eat, but what I get to eat. Yay, salmon, peanut butter on apples, fancy hard cheeses, cucumbers and hummus, Greek yogurt mixed into my oatmeal. I feel like I’m changing the way that I eat, not just dieting. Remember that tuna cassoulet? I’m not eating it anymore (pasta noodles and creamy sauce). I stick to the vegetable dishes at the Co-op and make sure to get a small scoop of tuna or egg salad. That place is really a blessing, since I don’t like preparing my own lunches. (Or dinners, for that matter, which makes it less fun to follow Rule 15: Prepare and eat ten meals at home a week.)

I don’t usually tell people when I’m trying to lose weight. And incidentally, I’m allowed one splurge meal a week, so if you see me eating a cracker at 7 pm, don’t wag your finger at me.

If I gain those four pounds back by next week, I’m totally deleting this post.