In this world, there are pet people and there are… not-pet people. Then, of course, there are people who treat their pets better than their own children, but we're not here to discuss that odd phenomenon. We're here to talk about a little-known benefit of pet ownership: the ability of your pets to keep you thin.
But, you might cry in a voice filled with outrage, there are plenty of overweight people out there with pets! All it takes is watching a few episodes of shows like Confessions: Animal Hoarding (and yes, this is a real thing) to see that there are pet owners out there who aren't exactly poster children for weight loss methods.
The problem is, these people are simply doing pet ownership incorrectly. If you take care of your pets like you're actually supposed to - taking them out for exercise, petting or playing with them regularly, and feeding them in the correct manner, among other things - and you don't have any deep-seated health issues standing between you and svelteness, then pet ownership can help you achieve your weight loss goals. And there's even science to prove it!
They Reduce Stress
It's true! Just ask science; simply having pets around is known to decrease stress. That's one reason that people like to introduce animals into stressful environments, such as nursing homes and prisons.
Why is stress reduction important to losing weight? In addition to the direct health benefits, such as lower blood pressure and less risk of developing heart disease, lowering your stress can also improve your health indirectly by keeping you thin. People who stress less tend to eat better and take care of themselves better than people who stress more. In addition, the stress hormone cortisol is linked to weight gain. Less stress means less cortisol, which makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
True, when pets are tipping over their food bags or chewing on your brand new pair of shoes, they might not seem like great stress reducers. But in the long run, they definitely help to prevent some of the bad effects of stress.
They Help Ward Off Depression
Depression is one of a myriad of causes that contribute to weight gain for several reasons. For one, depression is related to stress, so it's like taking all the negative stress effects listed above and doubling them. For another, symptoms of depression include people not wanting to participate in every day activities, such as exercise. Depression can also lead to emotional eating, which definitely isn't good if you want to avoid packing on the pounds.
So it makes sense that anything that can ward off depression can help to keep you thin. And it's pretty easy to see how having pets keeps depression at bay. They're loyal and unconditionally loving, no matter what else is going on in your life. They don't judge, and they don't stop hanging out with you if you have a bad day. They're warm and cuddly, and because they pretty much need you to stay alive, they help give your life a sense of purpose.
They Beg For Your Food
In general, pet owners don't try to encourage begging, unless they're teaching it to their pets as a trick. We like to eat our delicious human food in peace, and leave our pets to their dried, tasteless kibble and their canned food made of parts of animals that aren't fit for human consumption.
That doesn't stop animals from doing it, however. And with those adorable puppy-dog eyes and sorrowful mewlings from your cat - which are, by the way, designed to sound like the cries of a hungry baby, who can resist giving in every now and then?
And every morsel that you feed to your pet is one more morsel that doesn't go into your own gullet. Which means you take in less calories. In addition, it's hard to keep stuffing your face when there's someone going desperately hungry right in front of you. It hasn't been scientifically documented, but we like to think that it's a factor.
They Force You To Get Off Your Butt
If you consider how many hours a day the average person spends sitting, it can be pretty mind boggling. Add in the fact that each hour you spend sitting increases your risk of getting heart disease, and it gets downright scary. The problem is, it's just so easy to sit without even thinking about it. You sit on your way to work, and then you probably sit at a desk all day. You sit on your way home, and when you get there you sit to take a break from your day. You sit when you eat and often during your breaks.
However, if you have a pet, sitting is the last thing it wants to do when it finally gets your attention. Young animals especially love to run, jump, and play, and they prefer to do it with a partner. If you're the only one who cares that you're lying on your lazy butt all day, it's hard to get motivated. But if something is going to pee on you and your things if you don't get up, motivation suddenly becomes a whole lot easier.
Caring For Them Means Caring For Yourself
As a living thing, you inevitably develop habits over time. Some of these, like getting up in the morning and going to work, are good for you. Others, such as stopping at the bar for a few beers every day after work, aren't so much.
Once a habit is established, it's really hard to break it, unless there are outside influencing factors. Getting a pet is kind of like having a child in this respect. Now that there's another living being depending on you, you pretty much have to do things that are good for you so you can continue to care for that being. For example, you can't stay at the office until late at night if your pet is at home waiting to be let out. And if you get sick because you're not living healthy, who will take care of Poochy-Woochy and Mr. Piggles? Having someone depend on you is a pretty much sure-fire way to get your act into gear health-wise.
They Improve Your Social Life
It's a good thing that pets are so great at getting their owners to socialize, because socializing is harder than it used to be when we all lived and worked right next to one another.
How do pets help you socialize? First off, you have to actually go and talk to people in most cases to get a pet. As far as we know, they haven't invented mail-order pets yet. After that, the purchasing of pet food, exercising of pets, and trips to the vet, among other things, can lead to a variety of opportunities for socialization.
But how does this keep you thin? Well, just like having relationships with pets wards off depression and keep stress and bay, having relationships with humans does the same thing. Socialization leads to happiness, which leads to better eating and less cortisol. And having relationships, especially with other pet lovers, means an increase in the number of people available to exercise with you, further improving your chances of staying in shape. It's all one awesome circle of support, and it's all because of adorable animals. Puppies and kittens for the win!