Monday, July 19, 2010

Fat Cat Syndrome (Lessons about Food from Sambo the Demon Cat)

I share a house with a cat; Sambo the Demon Cat.  I should say, Sambo shares the house with me because when he moved in; he  completely took over.  He is strictly an inside pet.  He does not have the pleasure of roaming the neighborhood, hunting mice, squirrels and birds, or chasing leaves.  He is not sedentary by any means, he tears my house apart; especially when I leave him alone for a few days.

 Sambo came from a very happy, healthy home and he was far from malnourished when I adopted him.  A few months after he became my room-mate, however, I noticed he put on weight.  He was completely preoccupied with food.  He would sit for hours in front of his dish, waiting for food to miraculously appear. I tried to keep his bowl full but as quickly as I filled it, he consumed it and then cried for more.  He could be in any corner of the house, curled up in a ball fast asleep, but the opening of the refrigerator door, the silverware drawer, the turning of a stove knob, or the rustling noise of a bag or box would snap him to attention.  He would be right beside me, circling around my legs, crying for a handout.  I could not prepare food or eat a meal without him flying through the air like Superman and landing on the counter or table begging for his portion!  He would grab the food right from my plate with his little paws. I tried everything to discourage him; yelling, scolding, spritzing him with a water bottle.  Nothing worked.  I locked him in another room while I was cooking or eating my dinner.  He would sit in there and cry.  I would feel guilty. It was a constant battle and I was so aggravated that I considered giving him up.  I couldn't believe I had such a glutton for a cat and I knew if he kept obsessing over food and I kept feeding him to shut him up, he would just get fatter and fatter.  I knew it wasn't healthy for him. 

I thought long and hard about this and came to the conclusion that his unhealthy preoccupation with food was due to sheer boredom.  Sambo is not your normal, aloof, independent cat. He is very social and affectionate and loves being any place I am.  He is left alone for several hours a day while I am at work and almost every weekend with nothing to do but sleep and eat.  The only stimulation, pleasure or satisfaction he had was food.  A full belly was a substitute for his true cravings for fun, love and attention.   I was determined to cure him of this unhealthy habit.

I went to the pet store and bought him all kinds of toys.  Sambo now has his own little basket in the livingroom filled with play mice, plastic balls, stuffed animals, empty toilet tissue rolls, and other goodies. Each night before I go to bed, I retrieve all his playthings from under tables, chairs and from behind furniture and refill his basket for the next day. I thought he might like to see what's beyond his four walls so I put a little table underneath the window facing the back yard so he can jump up and down from the window sill easily.  He is completely fascinated with the outside world and spends hours in his little spot gazing at birds and other small animals, watching the leaves blow on the trees, and whatever else goes on out there. He sharpens his claws on little straw rugs and scratching posts scattered around the house, and he has a wicker laundry basket he loves to hide in. I take time every evening I am home to play with him, pet him, kiss him and reassure him that he is loved.  I hold him in my arms, put on music and dance around the house with him.  It is as if he has an inner alarm clock because every night at the same time he comes running for his playtime, loving, and dance session.  After about a month of this, I made an interesting observation.  His belly is no longer his god.  I can cook a meal without interruption as he happily play with his toys.  I don't have to fill his food dish the minute I open my eyes in the morning because he is already perched on his windowsill and more interested in observing the morning activities in the yard.  I actually have to call him several times now to come and have his dinner. It's as if I have a brand new pet.  I am forever tripping over his toys and baskets but I would rather do that then have an overweight, unhealthy, unhappy cat.

Why am I telling you this? It might sound cute or totally absurd, especially if you are not a cat lover.  There is a lesson in all of this. What worked for Sambo can work for you.

Do you find yourself preoccupied with food? You just can't wait for your next meal? You think, you plan, you prepare, you over-indulge?  You eat when you are not hungry and then you feel guilty because you consumed unhealthy foods that you know are not good for you?  Food is the one addiction that is socially acceptable.  Smoking, drinking in excess, and recreational drugs are strongly discouraged and unacceptable to many, but too much food is perfectly fine.

Are you living to eat rather than eating to live? Do you eat when you are bored,  lonely, or when you crave love and affection.  Is your waistline expanding and your clothes feeling tighter and tighter?  Are you tired and discouraged by your constant battle with food? You run the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues when overindulgence becomes a habit you cannot break.  Food is a quick and easy fix, and while it might satisfy for the moment, you are left empty and craving more and more. Perhaps you eat because something is missing in your life.  I would like to help you discover what's missing. 

This week I am focusing on Conscious Eating.  Conscious eating is paying attention to what you are nourishing or not nourishing your body with and why.  There is an emotional side to eating which most of us are not even aware of.  You eat ice cream and you think it's because you just want ice cream.  There is no harm in having a dish of ice cream but if you find yourself continuously reaching for it and are not satisfied until you demolish the whole container, there could be reasons why. 

I hope you will join us in the Conscious Eating Experiment.  Click the Facebook badge on this blogsite and  become a Metamorphosis friend to participate or send me a message here with your contact information and we can discuss it further.

And this is my Daily Cyn.......

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