How to Fast Your Dog by Being Mindful

(originally published in Raw Pets Digest)

Here’s my article in Raw Pets Digest magazine!

Go Collect Your Baggage:

Fasting is one of those tricky subjects. For us humans, it evokes memories of social rights activists not eating out of protest, organized religion or feelings of plain old “hangry”. We attach a lot of meaning to food. For some, it’s comfort after a tough day, for others it’s a sign of love. And we unknowingly, but lovingly impart those meanings on to our dogs.

Some “reasons” I hear a lot from pet parents are “My dog could never do that.” Or the humans display some form of guilt around food; about feeling bad not feeding their dogs at their regularly scheduled feeding time (guilty of the guilt right here!).

For our dogs, fasting doesn’t come with all that baggage. Dogs have adapted and evolved to intermittently fast, meaning when our sweater-wearing fuzz butts were once wolves in the wild, they naturally fasted. They would make a big kill, gorge on the entire prey, and then did not eat again for several days. It was self-imposed intermittent fasting, not self starving!

That’s why I believe, true purposeful fasting, is healthy and actually needed for longevity. What I like to call “Mindful Feeding”, is the determined choice of when and how to feed your dog. So why all the fasting fuss?

Time for a Little Introspection

When dogs were wild, they self-regulated. But since dogs are now under our care, they are at the mercy of the choices we make. Mindful Feeding is a way for us to detach our human meanings to food and to mimic their body’s natural evolutionary tendencies, by choosing to feed them occasionally.

For this we need to do a little digging. We need to dig up and digest (pun intended), what meanings we attach to food, and take a good look at it. If you show love by feeding treats and gourmet meals, that’s okay. But you want to ask yourself, “Is my personal food story getting in the way of my dog’s wellbeing?” or “Is there another way I can show my love, that can provide me the space to choose to mindfully feed him or her?”. I would offer you to look at your reasons and honestly ask yourself if that is your story about food, or is it your dog’s truth?

What Is Your Food Story?

Here are a couple of questions you can think about to help open up the awareness gates into mindfulness as it related to feeding your dog.

  • What meanings do I attach to food?
  • What feelings do I surround food with? (guilt, fear, love, being needed)
  • Does that meaning cross over into the way I feed my dog? i.e. do I impart my attachments on to them?
  • Are those attachments turning into a story I am living out, and if so, if I stop telling that story, am I afraid of who I will be if that doesn’t exists?

I know how it is. I am Italian woman and am no stranger to “food-for-love”. I know a lot of Italian women who would be massively disoriented if they could not feed their people or animals at first entry into the home. The biggest reason for this, is that they would be completely leaving their culture, A.K.A., their identity, behind.

No Judgies

The important part here is to know that this is all completely okay. None of these realizations are bad. A main point of being mindful is to not judge what comes up for you. It is just a tool to recognize your truth and become aware of it. You don’t even need to stop being those truths, but the fact that you are aware of it, can make the world of difference for making conscious choices instead of living on autopilot.

Once you are in a place where you know your truth surrounding food, you can much easily withhold food from your dog in order to give his or her body a break from the constant barrage of guilt/love/reward treats in their digestive system. Not only will fasting give them a break, but it will align all their systems back into a state of natural flow in their bodies and increase their longevity. It will lovingly give their body rest. It will relieve their arthritis and type II diabetes, and calorie reduction reduces inflammation, which is turn reduces cancer prevalence. All good things.

5 Easy Ways You Can Mindfully Feed Your Dog

The great news is, there is more than one way to mindfully feed your dog. And I really think you’ll feel more comfortable fasting by starting with the less extreme forms and moving on as you continue the Mindful Feeding journey.

  1. Reduce Overall Calories: this means to feed your dog regularly, but feed them less at each mealtime. Science says less food=more life. Go with that.
  2. Feed Low Carbs: Good job everyone, you are killing it on this one! So this tip is for all your non-raw feeder friends, who need a stepping stone.
  3. Feed Only Between 8AM-4PM: by doing this, you inadvertently fast your dog for 16 hours (and everyone was none were wiser!)
  4. Feed Every Other Day: This one can be hard for a lot of us, but hopefully by reading the introspection section above, you can eventually play in this dog park.
  5. Feed Responsively: This means to be aware of how your day is going. If it is a lazy Sunday on the sofa, use those days as fasting days. It’s easier to grasp fasting if you are confident your dog is not starving. And if they are sleeping all day, they are not staring. Conversely, if it is a hiking or beach day, those are your meal days

Mindfully Feeding Is Not Starving

Fasting is not starving, and most of the fasting issues lies with us. It is not the meanings we place on it, rather it is a powerful way to mimic how our dogs would have eaten in the wild. And knowing that you are reading a whole prey magazine right now, means you are 99% there already! A simple mind reframe by using the tricks above can help us overcome our fasting issues via Mindful Feeding.
Overall, mindfulness can be a scary word… but it doesn’t have to be once you know its meaning.. Just become aware of your fears surrounding fasting, and you are much better positioned to overcoming them for the betterment of your dog’s health. Healthy people are healthy dogs.