The start of a new year, with all of its promises and possibilities, is one of my favorite times.
Facing all the hype is not. In January and into February, the weight-loss commercials are relentless. Exercise gurus with Batman-like abs squawk about their latest fitness machines and techniques. Skinny celebrities extol the virtues of weight-dropping shakes and meal plans.
I decided this year I would turn a deaf ear to it all and concentrate fitness efforts on someone else — my dog.
My dog is fat. Not obese, but definitely in the chubby category. I know she doesn't get enough exercise, because every time I go in and out my front door, I have to step over her.
Just how little Bella actually moved wasn't apparent until I tested a smart new device called Whistle 3. This Fitbit for dogs (and cats) not only measures your pet's level of activity, calories burned and resting hours, it also serves as a GPS locator to help you keep up with your furry friend's whereabouts.
Setting it up was easy. Once I linked the device to my phone with the Whistle 3 app, I knew exactly where Bella was at any time. I found myself wishing I had one of these when my kids were still at home.
I set up a safe zone for Bella, so if she wanders too far from home or gets into the street, the Whistle 3 attached to her collar sends an alert to my phone. I was addicted.
I kept waiting for her to do something, anything. It took her three days before she moved farther than the porch. She was nowhere near her goal of 63 minutes of daily activity that is recommended for her breed and weight.
After a week of tracking Bella's mostly inactivity, I knew I had to take action. According to the Whistle 3 log, she was sleeping 18.1 hours per day with only 34 minutes of activity and burning 1,351 calories. Other than the sleeping part, I realized her daily averages mirrored my own, if you reversed the calories expended into calories ingested.
This new device had shed light on not only my dog's health shortcomings, but my own as well.
One evening, I had a sudden urge to go out and throw the tennis ball that comes in the Whistle 3 kit. I wanted to ramp up Bella's activity meter and help her reach her goal, at least once.
After a few minutes of tossing the ball, I realized we were both enjoying time together. Wanting to extend that feeling, I decided we would go for a walk. The farther we went, the more I found myself relaxing and taking in the beauty around me. We must have walked for 30 minutes before it began to grow dark and we headed home.
When we arrived back home, I had a happier dog and I felt pretty good too. We got into the routine of taking a walk, playing fetch or just wrestling like kids every evening. After a couple of weeks, Bella was hitting her goals every day, not just every once in a while.
She must have felt better too, because her sleeping hours dropped some, which meant she was being active more. And she was looking a little less fluffy.
I felt better and my stress level dropped. What made this experiment a success was when I got on the scales one morning and my weight was down.
I did a double take and laughed.
All the focus on Bella's calories and activity had helped me do what I'd been unable to do for myself — get in better shape and drop a few pounds.
The old adage "focus on someone else and it might surprise you what happens" is true, even when your focus is on your pet.
This year, instead of trying another diet and weight-loss regime, I'm just going to grab my hat, put on my walking shoes and spend time with my furry friend.