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{print_subheadline}Make a New Year’s resolution for better health{/print_subheadline}

Well, it is my favorite time of year again! What time is that? The very beginning. 2018 had its ups and downs for me, but I must admit that no part of me is sad to leave it behind and start new in 2019. Obviously, you can’t start all new because our memories and those of others are never wiped clean a la Total Recall, but there are a lot of things we can start over.

Part of why making resolutions is so appealing is because it allows us to set a goal that is important, and our past failures mean nothing. That sounds wonderful to me! As we all know, lean and fit pets are a point of enthusiasm for me. Usually, people ignore me and go on about their life, but this is my chance to really talk when someone might listen to me!

Weight loss resolutions are the No. 1 most popular resolution in America almost every year. This makes sense for a lot of reasons. Weight loss often comes with a healthier lifestyle, which leads to better self-esteem and longer, healthier life. Our pets don’t need to worry about self-esteem issues because they are cute as anything no matter what, but a longer, healthier life is important.

While they don’t worry about that either, a longer life makes us happy, and a healthier life where they feel better does make a difference to them.

So what does your dog have to do with your resolution? A lot, as it turns out. People who make a resolution with a buddy are more likely to stay accountable. Often, on days we can’t do things just for us, we can do them for someone else. So these studies may be mostly based on human buddies, but realistically, your pet is a better bet. OK fine, not a better bet....but certainly I have a bigger interest in your pet getting healthy than your friend (sorry human friends!) Success rates for goals that have a helping buddy are at least three times higher than those without. People are great, but you can always count on your pet to be up for the challenge.

Make a reasonable goal and match it with your goal for your pet. If you need help determining a health goal for your pet, your veterinarian will be glad to help you. Maybe you both need to lose 10 percent of your body weight. Maybe your dog needs to lose 10 pounds and you need to lose 50, or your cat needs to lose two and you need to lose 20. Pair these goals on paper so that you have a weekly or bi-weekly total. Maybe you will each cut your food, exercise 45 minutes a day and aim to lose 2 percent of what you need to per week or two. Write down the amount you exercised your dog each day on the calendar so that if you start skipping days it is plainly on paper.

Maybe your pet is in perfect shape (as mine are) but you have some work to do on yourself (as I soon will once my baby arrives.) The great thing is that your dog is always going to be happy to jog with you, even if the goal for them is to stay exactly as they are. So, even if you don’t have matched weight-loss goals, you can still have matched exercise goals.

Once you get into a routine of exercise, the chemicals that your brain releases during exercise become their own reward. This happens for us and our pets both. I find that having a reason to exercise is one of the only things that gets me out, but I am always happy it did. No matter how tired I am, I feel more energized after my walks. When I come home exhausted in the dark, my dogs are still bouncing up and down ready for their walk. Usually, this is all the motivation that I need, but when it is dark and cold and I’ve had a long day, I need more. On these very hard evenings, I think about increasing their lifespan and decreasing their disease chances. I have almost no motivation to walk myself on days that aren’t ideal, but I always, always have motivation for my pets.

Next week you can look forward to an article on why weight loss and fitness in pets is so important, to use as extra ammunition on those nights when you need more motivation. As for now, make that fitness goal for everyone and get the whole family involved (of course, that means pets too!)

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