January 6

Of thin models and fat dogs

16  comments

We are in big trouble. Like Jack Sprat and his wife, our dogs are too fat and our models too skinny.
But no problem is insurmountable to good ol’ American ingenuity.
For the fat dog in your life, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has come out with a new diet drug for doggies called Slentrol that was approved yesterday by the FDA. Said drug can’t be used for humans because it causes fatty infiltration of the liver, although one researcher opined that similar drugs may be used in humans in the future as long as they are taken with yet another drug that blocks the entry of fat into the liver. (It would be fun to ask this moron how this latter drug would affect fat made in the liver, the origin of most of the fat that accumulates in that organ.)
Why do we need a diet drug for dogs, especially one costing $1 to $2 per day? Because, just like their human owners, dogs are suffering an obesity epidemic. Vets estimate that 20-30% of dogs in this country are overweight and another 5% are out and out obese.
One wonders why. I may have trouble fighting off all the neural and hormonal signals telling me to have at the giant cinnamon roll and go face down in it, but I wouldn’t have trouble denying such a thing to my dog. But, apparently, many people can’t abide Fido’s hungry stares, and so give in. Clearly, the dog owners are at fault.

“People are treating their dogs like children,” said Dr. Hal Taylor III, a veterinarian in Columbus, Ohio, who calls obesity one of the biggest health issues dogs face. “They overindulge them, they get them heavy.”

And, hey, their children are overweight as well.
But not all children are overweight. A subset of children, teenage models, have the opposite problem: they are way too thin. So thin, in fact, that a few of them have died.
Fashion show officials in Italy and Spain have taken steps to reverse or at least halt the trend toward evermore skelelonized models. Spain requires that models have a BMI of at least 18 before they are allowed to strut the runway. Italy’s rules, as you might imagine, are more labyrinthine, but still hold models to some standard of weight decency.
Like young men wanting to make it in professional sports, women wanting to break into the lucrative modeling world will go to any extreme necessary. And like the governing bodies of most professional sports that keep and eye out for steroid and other performance-enhancing drug use, the Council of Fashion Designers of America has met and come up with recommendations for models in fashion shows in the United States. What are these recommendations?

According to participants at the meeting, the recommendations are likely to include scheduling fashion-show fittings with younger models during daylight hours, rather than late at night, to help them get more sleep; urging designers to identify models with eating disorders; and introducing more nutritious backstage catering, where a diet of Champagne and cigarettes is the norm.
There are no plans to require models to achieve an objective measure of health like a height-to-weight ratio, which was imposed by Madrid in September, a move that brought much public attention to the issue. It was further highlighted by the death of Ana Carolina Reston, a 21-year-old Brazilian model, from complications of anorexia in November.

So, there you have it. Eat more and sleep more. I wonder why the models hadn’t thought of that already. I’ll bet these new recommendations have these young girls porked up in no time. I’m sure that none of them actually realized how easy it was to not be skin and bones.
Thanks Council of Fashion Designers of America for your serious concern about the health of these young women. And for your concern about their looks. I can’t wait for the change, because I’m tired of seeing models that make the ultra-thin Twiggy of my youth look like Mamma Cass.
Alas, it’s probably only a dream.  The reality is that, damn the consequences, we’ll continue to overfeed our dogs and underfeed our models with all too predicable results.


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  1. Its interesting that not only do people overfeed their dogs but the pet food they buy is highly geared not for the dog’s wellbeing but to the clueless ideas of their owners what is healthful (have I got that right yet?!) A visit to the pet food aisle in the supermarket gives you not only a good indication of the silly amount of money lavished on ‘premium’ products for pampered pooches(no wonder Pfizer wanted a slice of the action) but also the slogans ‘low fat’, ‘high fibre’ etc and my favourite “balanced formula”. It seems just like our paleo ancestors, a wolf visiting a pet shop would have to smack his head in dismay and wonder how he had survived so long (or at all) largely without wheat, rice, pasta and yes sugar (read the labels) based nutrition.
    I don’t have a dog but have spent the last three weeks looking after the ‘office labrador’. Her owners are routinely amazed that she always looks healthier and thinner after her stays with me – sure she gets longer walks and swims while she is here, but strangely enough I find I don’t necessarily follow their detailed instructions for her supposedly weight limiting (expensive) formula (first ingredient wheat) and she seems to thrive anyway. Go figure.
    Hi Malcolm–
    Healthful, you’ve got it right.
    I agree with you.  And it’s not always the dog owners who have misguided ideas as to what’s ‘healthful’ for dogs and even cats.  I’ve had a number of people tell me about how their vets don’t want their dogs or cats eating a meat diet, but instead want them on some kind of formula diet containing grains and all kinds of other crap that never would be eaten by dogs or cats in the wild.
    Until all these people reported this to me, I didn’t realize that vets had gone through the same anti-saturated-fat brainwashing as have physicians.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  2. Ah, yes. Teenage models are encouraged to eat healthier. Teenage models cut fat and eat whole-wheat pasta. Teenage models feel less full. Teenage models gain a pound. Teenage models freak out. Teenage models cut more fat and replace it with more pasta…
    Well, maybe an increase in eating disorders amongst teenage models will encourage the US council to set real weight limits?
    Hi Carly–
    Or teenage models can consume a diet of cigarettes and champagne as the article describes. 
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  3. Dr. Mike,
    You think the dog OWNERS have some culpablilty here? Oh, that’s not gonna fly. It’s gotta be a “glandular” issue. Or perhaps the dog’s environment is causing it. Or maybe it’s just hereditary. You know, those mammals with canine teeth just don’t seem to be getting as much fiber in their diets anymore… 😉
    -Rick
    Hi Rick–
    Point on.

    Cheers–
    MRE 

  4. “I can’t wait for the change, because I’m tired of seeing models that make the ultra-thin Twiggy of my youth look like Mamma Cass.”
    Why wait? You could do it now by turning away from entertainment products and the screen.
    Dare ya to live media-free, or at least text-only, for a day.
    Hi Connie–
    I pretty much live a media-free existence, at least as far as TV is concerned.  Other than football games, I probably don’t watch 10 hours of TV a year.  It’s not that I’m tired of seeing the ultra-thin models because I see them all the time and have model fatigue–I’m tired of them when I do see them because they look so creepy, all skin and bones.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  5. My vet prescribed a KD (kidney “preserving”) diet for my 18 year-old, kidney-failing cat (alas, my meat diet was apparently no good), and she refused the grains lock-stock, & barrel. My darling cat has also refused the New Fangled Fancy Feast with GARDEN GREENS. There is nothing but fish in her mind. What does a cat need Garden Greens for anyway?! I wonder… she got to the ripe old age of 18 years… eating nothing but real meat and fish?
    We are avid Koi keepers, and after 20 years keeping these beautiful swimming Jewels of fish (imho- the best of Homo sapien intervention/breeding) I still cannot understand why people insist on feeding the little carnivores wheat and corn?! Then they wonder why the little buggers are always sick…
    We also have many neighbors who feed their dogs wheat and corn, who also must feed them insulin.
    As far as ultra-thin models are concerned, who can blame them? They are just doing what the media have programmed them to do. It’s all about the money.
    Hi Karen–
    Great story about the cats and Koi.  I, too, can’t understand why people think they are doing good by feeding carnivores grains.  It just doesn’t make sense.
    It’s the money and glory that drives the models to be so thin–all the same reasons that pro-athletes are driven to use performance enhancing drugs.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  6. You may or may not have seen this, but Twiggy now 50ish is Marks and Spencer’s lady of the moment, she’s a lot healthier looking than she was in her hay-day, and in my view more beautiful. Now, I really could aspire to this.
    Good on Marks & Spencer, both from the age point of view and the size.
    Glenice
    Hi Glenice–
    Twiggy looks a lot better than she used to.
    Thanks for the link.
    MRE 

  7. I just love the nonense about dog and cat food. I remember a very, very expensive dog food advertising in a health mag…of course! Appeal to the health obsessed who probably want to feed their pet the best!
    The ad was half a page of print, not photo. It started with a question about if you cared for your animal, you would not feed it food with fillers… how nice!
    Toward the end of the story, it said something about necessary ingredients for well rounded health, or some such. I checked their package at the store… it had rice as the first ingredient! So much for necessary ingredients!
    Marketers never cease to amaze with their lack of integrity and the fine hairsplitting of the English language!
    But the tragic thing is how many people don’t check. I’m not an animal owner, but I had enough curiousity to check on the ad’s story. I just don’t know how some Americans today put one foot in front of the other and don’t get taken every five minutes because they don’t check up!
    On a more positive note, I sell butcher supplies and occasionally have animal owners asking for bone meal grinders and such–something too specialized for me to carry. It turns out that there’s a whole movement out there to feed cats and dogs whole meat products where you grind the meat, organs, and bones together to feed your animals. It’s very similar to what Canadians,Alaskans and Inuit have always fed their sled dogs. So there are pet owners out there who are learning about their carnivorous pets.
    Hi LC–
    Too bad there’s not a movement afoot to feed children whole meat products.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  8. The irony is that I doubt most males actually find those rail-thin models attractive. I prefer some meat on my ladies. As for the dogs, I don’t think most people are actually smart enough to realize that dogs are carnivores. Standard thinking is if grains and no saturated fat are good for humans, why not dogs too?
    Hi Scott–
    I can’t believe that any males could find them attractive.  I’ve read that it’s not for men that they do it, but for the envy it inspires in other women.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  9. As a owner of six cats, nothing makes me see red more than all that hype about “wholesome grains” in cat food. I’m not sure about about dogs but I do know for sure that cats are obligate carnivores. They shouldn’t be eating anything but meat period. I’m looking into switching them to an all-meat diet but with six of them, I worry about the cost being prohibitive. As it is, they seem to do ok on the premium food that we feed them. One of them has food allergy issues, so I am hesitant about taking him off of something that he’s finally ok with.
    Several years ago the paper ran a story about a vet who saw a cat who was in very poor health. It turned out that the owner was a vegetarian and had been feeding the cat nothing but tofu because she didn’t want her cat to perpetuate the barbarity of eating meat. And I don’t have to tell you she was from Boulder, do I? The reality of it is, the best canned food for cats would be chopped up mice. Good luck in getting people to buy it, however.
    Yeah, I saw that story about the diet drug for dogs and just laughed. It goes hand in hand with that article that some friends of mine were passing around about healthy eating for dogs. Essentially, it was the same low-fat nonsense that humans are encouraged to follow. My first thought when I read it was that it’s a miracle that any wolves at all survive in the wild given their meaty diets.
    As for thinness in women, yes, women definitely compete with each other and it starts when you are a teen. It doesn’t help that part of that is the fear that men will find you fat and move on to someone else instead. The trouble is, what is considered to be fat has gotten really distorted. Most film stars of the fifties would be considered fat by today’s standards. As for me, Sophia Loren has always been my idea of what a woman should look like.
    I agree, Twiggy sure does look great these days!

  10. I’m embarassed to admit that it was several months after we got our pugs that it dawned on me how stupid and unnecessary it was to feed them “cookies” for treats. They didn’t even like them that much, but somehow I thought dogs were supposed to have cookies. The power of advertising, I suppose? Now we give them the occasional piece of dehydrated chicken along with their regular bagged food. I’ve read about feeding them the raw meat, etc, and maybe it’s negligent of me, but after cooking for my family, I really don’t feel like making another meal for dogs, too. Plus, then the cats would feel left out, and I’d have to make something for them, too.

  11. RE: dogs. This is truly a pet peeve of mine. I started looking into pet foods shortly after I started LCing, when I adopted a cat that tipped the scales at 22 pounds….and this was a “small” cat, ideal weight was probably only 8-10 pounds!
    Long story short, I ended up having to give up the cat as he didn’t get along with my 2 puppies (Dobe/Shepherd mixes).
    I did, however, switch my dogs to raw meat and bones. When they were 8 months old, I was told by the vet to put them on senior food! When I questioned it (I didn’t tell him they were raw fed), he said it was to prevent weight gain! I asked if they were overweight and was told no, they were “perfect”….but to still switch them. Needless to say, I have a new vet, one that is perfectly happy that their raw fed. Today, they’re 3 yrs old and are beautiful! Perfect weight, never been sick, and they have the whitest teeth you’ve ever seen!!!
    Cats are true carnivores….dogs are more omnivores, but do best on a heavy meat diet…..meat and fat….veggies only if they want/like them. I did a lot of research and found that not only are dogs today more often overweight, but they are being diagnosed with heart disease, cancer and diabetes much more frequently….even in the absence of a weight issue!
    “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” but they sure are tying!!!

  12. I switched my cats to a high quality, high-protein, low-carb cat food – simialr to their diet in the wild. Even though it has only 7% carbs, they seem to be just as healthy (even more so!) than when I fed them a so-called high quality cat food that was mostly carbs.
    The only human food they get is meat – an occational can of tuna fish or bite of whatever I’m eating. Once in a great while I’ll give Abby a bite of cheese.
    People need to feed dogs the same way – a HEALTHY dog food with human treats of only healthy food.
    And no free feeding or eating between meals. Dogs, like cats, only need two meals a day (and sometimes my two don’t even eat breakfast when I set it out).
    Hi Victoria–
    And humans need to feed humans pretty much the same way they should feed dogs and cats.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  13. When we first got our dog nine years ago, our vet told us to feed her one soup can’s worth of food a day, all at one time. She has always been healthy, thin and active eating that way (she does occasionally get raw meat scraps on top of that). Ironically, that is also the schedule that I’m eating now (a warrior diet type of once a day eating), thanks to your IF blog and Dr. Bert Herring’s Fast 5 book.
    Hi Ryan–
    Sounds like it is working for both you and the dog.
    Good luck.
    MRE

  14. Pets are now dying of the same ailments as their human caretakers. It’s amazing. Fat, sedentary, and eating the wrong industrial waste foods.
    The last few years I have noticed lots of new premium pet foods, all marketed to appeal to humans. Cat food labels list not just stupid ingredients like apples, but Granny Smith apples! Last time I saw a cat in an orchard it was chasing a rabbit, not climbing the tree for a juicy Rome or Pippen. Michael Pollan refers to this label marketing in The Omnivore’s Dilemma as “pastoral literature”.
    As I scrutinized labels looking for better food for my ailing cat, I was astonished to see ingredients such as oat bran, blueberries, sweet potatoes, cranberries, flax seed oil (cheaper than fish oil, I guess), & carrots, etc. When I could find good information, the scientific literature on cat nutrition indicated that the cat metabolism cannot convert many of these ingredients as easily as humans can. All the beta carotene in the world will not help a cat, who must have pre-formed Vit A from animal sources. Same for omega-3 fatty acids. Same for carbohydrates, which are not well metabolized in cats. CHOs are converted directly to fat. Cats are extremely efficient at converting protein into blood glucose. Yet we feed cats fermented organ meat-flavored cereals, then shoot them full of insulin when they become diabetic. Ironic, huh? I finally gave up on commericial cat foods, as they only made my 10 yr old cat more fat, more sedentary, and more unhealthy looking and acting. The final straw was blood work that indicated 75% of his kidney function was gone and the recommendation to put him on Hill’s “Science” Diet Rx, the low protein dry kibble formula. I couldn’t do it. I know too much, which is a curse and a blessing at times (probably describes everyone who reads this blog).
    As I’ve stated before, I’m now one of those folks who feeds raw ground whole chickens to my cats. I highly recommend the recipes at http://www.catnutrition.org or http://www.catinfo.org for anyone who has an interest. The recipe was analyzed by one user and is quite similar in carbohydrate, protein, fat, moisture, and mineral content to a mouse.
    I don’t recommend feeding raw exclusively unless you have a well balanced recipe to follow. Meat alone is not enough; the raw bones or bone meal is necessary for balanced mineral content. Cooked food denatures the proteins and enzymes and makes the bones splinter, so that is not recommended either. The raw diet needs to be done right, so check out the websites above. They are free and well-researched (one belongs to a vet who has nothing to sell). I have no affiliation other than as a satisfied web reader.
    The two main barriers to raw food for most people (I’m assuming that most people reading this blog aren’t creaped out by raw meat) are time and cost. Both turned out to be not a big issue, in my opinion.
    Even after buying the $185 heavy duty grinder at http://www.onestopjerky.com, it is cheaper to feed my two cats this recipe compared to the $3/day I was spending on Wellness canned food. The grinder pays for itself in less than a year and now I can also make sausage for the family. I buy organic whole chicken, but for more savings conventional whole chicken is even cheaper. Chicken livers ($2 or less/lb), egg yolks, and the supplemental vitamins are very cheap. The chicken hearts are cheap ($2/lb), but hard to source, but taurine amino acid and additional meat can be substituted.
    Commercial raw food is more expensive but for the time strapped I guess it could be ok. But most formulas had vegetables I thought the cats didn’t need and I think home ground is better than pre-ground for contamination issues. And my cats weren’t as wild about the commercial frozen raw food. They prefer mine, paws down.
    Raw food is not cheaper than most dry kibbles, but I wouldn’t recommend any formula of dry food for any cat. No cheap food that is unhealthy is economical in the long run.
    And I’m sure I am saving money on vet bill’s because my older cat’s health has reversed after being in decline for 2/3 of his life. After two months on the raw diet all his blood tests are normal (I’ll test again in 6 mos and a year), with no more results or symptoms of Chronic Renal Failure, something the vet said was irreversible. He no longer limps down the stairs. He chases his tail, catches mice & lizards outside, and has a pleasant temperament again. His fur has changed dramatically from dull, flaky and unkempt looking to smooth, shiny, and handsome (& touchable).
    Now for the time barrier: once the food prep becomes habitual, it takes only a bit over an hour to make a 10 day supply for 2 cats. That’s not so bad. That would last longer for one cat and a double batch could be made to last longer or for more cats. I can shop for cat food ingredients the same places I buy my family’s food, instead of a separate stop at the pet food store.
    I ran out of time a couple of weekends ago and fed the cats canned food for three days. We all noticed that Clawed slowed down again, started limping, and looked ungroomed by the 2nd day. After two days back on raw food he looked and acted well again. It is that dramatic. I don’t know what is in or not in the commercial foods that doesn’t agree with him, but I can’t feed it to him anymore, even if it is convenient. It seems negligent. I guess he is a “canary in a coal mine” and all the other cats I have had that seemingly did well on commercial kibble were like the lucky 80 yo who smokes 60 years and doesn’t get lung cancer.
    My vet advised against raw or homemade food as she has only anecdotal stories about raw diets and not everyone prepares it well (good points). She wants scientific studies, but those are not likely to happen as pet food studies are funded and conducted by pet food manufacturers. I’m trying to educate her (about people food, too) but she is quite biased toward what she has been taught (not surprisingly).
    Again, if anyone is tempted to try a raw diet for their cats ( have no experience with raw dog diets, but know others who swear by it, too), I highly recommend the websites I have mentioned above. They were the best I was able to find (I spent hours and days reading up on raw cat food and cat nutrition).
    So i don’t expect that we will be needing Pfizer’s pet drugs anytime soon. 🙂
    Cheers,
    Anna, Clawed de Pussey, and Mrs. Whiskers
    Hi Anna–
    It’s up for all to see and profit from. Except for me.  I’m allergic to cats and just reading your comment makes me sneeze.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  15. We’ve been feeding our dogs raw – mostly whole, intact chicken pieces with the bone – for 4 years with no problems. They are corgies, the champion beggars of all dog breeds; you rarely see a corgi that is not overweight, but at their last checkup, their weight was perfect, even a little low. We feed them once a day and occasionally skip a day. Grinding food is not only unnecessary (assuming healthy dentition), but deprives the animal of the opportunity to chew the bones, which helps to clean off the teeth and exercise the jaw. Also, dogs did not evolve to eat more than once a day, or even every day.
    This may shed more light on a healthy diet for dogs (which are, essentially, wolves).
    Hi Lark–
    About 18 years ago MD and I got a wolf pup from a breeder of wolf hybrids. It was both the best and the worst pet we’ve ever had. When it reached maturity I once gave it a ham bone to chew on. To my amazement, he crunched the bone to smithereens. Most dogs will gnaw a big bone like a ham bone–not this one, however. It was an impressive sight.
    Cheers–
    MRE

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