What My Cats Taught Me About Weight LossArticle posted in: Lifestyle
Have you ever noticed how economical cats are? There’s very little wasted motion or energy in a cat’s daily routine. Sleeping, bathing, sunning, playing, eating, loving—they do it all, they do it every day, and they do it right. Which made me realize how much cats can teach us about weight loss. I live in a house with many cats—I’m not saying how many, because that could brand me as a tad eccentric. Let’s just say my sample size is statistically valid. Here are some things I’ve learned about weight loss from my cats.
Sunlight: Ever wonder if Tabby is on to something beyond just catching a few rays when he lies in a sunspot near a window? A study conducted at the University of Milan suggests that there may be a link between Vitamin D deficiency and obesity. The study, of more than 400 overweight and Vitamin D deficient people, found that those who took Vitamin D supplements lost more weight than those who didn’t take a supplement when both groups were on calorie-restricted diets. The simplest way to get Vitamin D is to expose your skin and eyes to some sunlight. Of course, most milk products are fortified with Vitamin D, too, and we all know how cats like a good saucer of milk or cream.
Sleep: The average cat sleeps 16 hours a day, mostly during daylight hours. It’s been well documented that getting regular, quality sleep helps you lose weight, because fatigue can cause an imbalance in the hormones that regulate both your appetite and the feeling of being full. Cats sleep a lot because, like most predators, they feel the need to save energy for long periods of sustained effort during hunts. While most house cats are well past their hunting days, the need to sleep remains. Pay attention to it.
Bathe: Cats are fastidious creatures, and one of the pleasures of living with a cat is watching the ingenious way it bathes: who ever would have thought of washing your face by licking your paw then rubbing it on the dirty spot. And while we wouldn’t suggest such a method for humans, there’s some good news for those of us who like baths and are trying to lose weight. Epsom salts, which athletes and arthritics have used for years to relieve muscle and joint pain (the magnesium helps reduce swelling), may also aid in weight loss. A study at the University of Birmingham found that epsom salt baths helped bathers by reducing toxins and easing stress, which in turn led to a reduction in emotional eating. Further study is needed, but early results are promising.
Eat: While cats may pester you to feed them, on the whole they require far less maintenance in that department than dogs, who hear can openers every time the wind blows. I’ve learned some very important lessons about eating from my cats. First, if you don’t want something, don’t eat it. No complaining about lousy food and small portions from cats, and please don’t put that Ocean Feast stuff in front of me again. (Human exception: You still need to eat your vegetables.) Second, eat when you’re hungry. I’ve never seen a cat eat out of boredom or because the clock said noon. No, cats come around when hunger strikes. Third, mix it up. We’re out of canned cat food, so have some milk. No problem. Fourth, snacks are good. Maybe a couple of those cat treats will keep me feeling full so I don’t go nuts between lunch and dinner.
Exercise: Yes, one of the cats in this house sets records for the number of hours he sleeps, seemingly in the same position, in the same place, day after day. But some of the other cats are regular decathletes, running the length of the house for reasons known only to them, chasing corks, bottle caps and red laser dots all over the place, and jumping up on everything they think might offer them some pleasure or benefit. It’s documented to a fare-thee-well that exercise helps you lose weight—the simple equation of calories in less calories out equals weight loss shows that. But there are a variety of other benefits to movement, like lower blood pressure, improved mood and better balance. We can’t, however, say anything about the benefit of chasing balls of string.
Love: The neurotransmitter associated with love is called oxytocin, and close physical contact with another, as well as feelings of trust and bonding, can cause it to flood through your body. The act of eating can cause oxytocin to be released, too, which is why the notion of “comfort food” makes perfect sense. But here’s the thing: oxytocin can also cause weight loss. In fact, two recent studies have found it can reduce cravings. So next time Tabby hops up on the couch and purrs for you to pat him, go right ahead. That feeling of love you’re experiencing just might be helping you shave pounds.