As January rolls around, enthusiasm for setting weight loss goals lingers in the air. This year, no matter what avenue you choose to take, I encourage you to practice mindfulness in reaching you and your dog’s wellness goals.

Choose a Strategy that Works for You

One of the biggest mistakes that individuals make (including myself) is constantly trying the new fad diet for a few weeks and then switching to another one and so on. Your friend lost a ton of weight on X, so it must be amazing right?! Not necessarily. There are many healthy avenues to reach your desired goals and you need to determine what works best for you and your lifestyle. For example, Whole30 is much more restrictive than Weight Watchers. When I coach a client, we work together to craft a lifestyle plan that she can live with for the long-term, not something that she does to simply lose 10 pounds for her upcoming Spring Break, only to gain back 20 pounds.

Consult with Your Veterinary Expert

Just as you need to take your time and do research to figure out what works best for you, your doggy needs the same careful consideration. Consult with your veterinarian about what food, formulas and brands are best for your dog based on his or her current health needs. For instance, an older dog that needs to lose a few pounds, will require a different formula, plan and possible supplementation, compared to a younger dog that you may just be over treating.

Track Your Progress to Identify Behaviors 

A principle that I always come back to for my clients and myself is tracking your progress through food and behavior journaling. Being mindful of your behavior and taking time to figure out why you are doing things is monumental to achieving lasting success.

Invest in a beautiful journal and for 30 days record what you eat and drink, including the time of day, where you are and what you are doing (kitchen table for family dinner, on the couch watching Netflix, working at your desk, driving in your car). In addition, record anything emotional that may be impacting your eating and drinking choices and how you feel following your meal. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but what you learn about yourself and your habits will be invaluable.

For example, do you consistently binge on a bag of chips or cookies in your car on your way home after a stressful day at work? Or do you drink a glass (or bottle) of wine to unwind? Do you consistently eat a healthy dinner and then pick at your child’s fries, chicken fingers and macaroni-and-cheese? Do you have an ice cream binge before bed, sleep awful and then wake up with GI issues?

Once you are aware of your habits that are holding you back, you can create a list of positive behaviors to replace the negative ones. For example, instead of binging on junk food after a stressful day of work, you can take your doggy for a walk, go to a fitness class, call a friend, listen to an uplifting podcast, cook a healthy meal for your family, take a Detox Bath, or do a 10 minute meditation on an app like Headspace or Calm.

How are Your Behaviors Affecting Your Doggy?

In addition, consider if you are unintentionally contributing to your dog’s weight loss struggle. For instance, are you over treating him or her because you feel guilty for being at work all day? Do you give him or her too many table scraps at dinner without realizing it? Do you limit his or her walks during the colder months without replacing them with indoor exercise? All of these things could be contributing to your dog’s weight struggles, which he or she has absolutely no control over. Trust me, your puppy loves you so much that you can show affection in many other ways, like taking him or her for a walk, to an indoor dog activity center, snuggling together while watching Netflix on a Sunday afternoon, or taking the time to cook a homemade meal of protein and vegetables to share.

Remember as you start this New Year, you and your doggy each get a clean slate. Do not beat yourself up for any past behaviors. Start fresh and be mindful of what you do going forward as a team.

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