Dear Zelda Wisdom Fear Factor bulldog humor advice therapy dog advice column

Lookin' Good (8/23/06)

Dear Zelda,

I really want a tummy tuck but am terrified of plastic surgery and turned off by the extreme makeovers. All I really want is a mini tuck to help a little... nothing drastic or extreme or perfect. What's your opinion? Do I keep trying (after 15 years) to lose those last 10 pounds or go under the knife? I'd love to hear your opinion.

Less Than Perfect in Florida

Dear Less Than Perfect,

Doesn't "tummy tuck" sound nice and easy... like some yoga position, or a new way to fold a napkin? It sure sounds a lot better than elective surgery where you're cut open, vacuumed out, and have your skin stretched and sutured to remove those "last ten pounds." It's all well and good to see it on television, where weeks of recovery occur during the commercial break, but going through it yourself is another matter. Personally, my idea of a tummy tuck is squeezing into a pair of jeans for a photo shoot!

Being healthy and happy DOESN'T require being perfect. In fact, always striving for physical perfection is a guaranteed way to never be happy. That said, I do understand how troubling it can be to have that one bit of anatomy that just won't obey and go away. We're all human (so to speak), and sometimes we have little things that bother us to no end. So here's how I would break it down. If it's a matter of weight, and you want to lose those last ten pounds and get in better shape, you should keep working to achieve it through diet and exercise (more on this later). Tummy tucks, mini tummy tucks and liposuction are not good weight-loss strategies; they are intended to reshape a specific part of your body. So if your tummy won't disappear with a diet, then I'd say surgery may be a reasonable option, particularly if it will make you happier. What you need to decide is whether this is about fitness and weight loss, or about changing something specific and cosmetic about yourself. While I'm a certified therapy dog, I'm not qualified to give much advice on surgery, and you'll need to talk to a board certified doctor about the pros and cons of different procedures.

If you decide you'd rather continue to try dieting, my personal favorite strategy for moderate weight loss is called Zelda's 'Last Ten Pounds' Diet. Believe me, everyone who has tried it has lost ten pounds, and the expense will be significantly less than the thousands a surgical tummy tuck would cost. In fact, you need only a few items: a scale, ten plastic ziplock bags, and, get ready for this... ten pounds of fat. Yes, you'll need to shop around for a friendly butcher who will gladly give you the fat... free. Have the butcher place one pound of fat in each of the ziplock bags. You'll be amazed at the amount, and motivated to lose it. Gross? YES! But that's the point. Take the ten bags home and place them prominently in your refrigerator. From that day on, Zelda's 'Last Ten Pounds' Diet begins. Think thin. Think about those fat baggies and how good it will feel when you lose that first pound and can transfer a bag from the fridge to the freezer. Weigh yourself everyday, and write down your progress. Lose a pound? Freezer reward. Gain a pound? Move that frozen fat baggie back to the fridge. If you want even more motivation, stick that frozen baggie in your pants, wear it around, and feel the pain.

Of course, you have to eat well and exercise regularly for this diet to work, but those fat baggies will serve as a constant reminder of what it's costing you every time you raid the fridge. When you've lost those ten pounds, let me know and send me a photo. Whether or not you decide to go through with the surgery, you'd be well advised to continue making a healthy diet and regular exercise part of your daily life. But then again, wouldn't we all?


Dear Zelda,

I have a really bad habit! I constantly bite my fingernails. My sister does it too! We can't stop and now my three year old niece is starting to bite her nails. I hate how I don't have fingernails and I don't want her to go through the same thing. The only way we can get her to stop is if my sister and I stop! It sounds like an easy thing to quit, but it's not because we've been biting our nails since we were very little! Do you have any advice to help us stop biting our nails?

Nail Biter

Dear Nail Biter,

You're not alone in suffering from gnawing or nibbling your nails. Did you know that forty-four percent of adolescents bite their nails? Hands down... that's a lot of nails to chew on. Nail biting is usually caused by nervousness, stress or boredom. Heck, I spend half my waking life chewing on old bones and rubber toys, so I definitely understand the draw to gnaw. While we can't keep you from being nervous, stressed out or bored, we can try to derail that reflex in your head that automatically starts you chewin' when your brain starts stewin'.

Often people who bite their nails have trouble sitting still. They bite their nails in class, watching television or movies, sitting through a football game, or waiting in the doctor's office. Try to notice WHEN it is that you bite your nails and once you do, find ways to keep your hands busy and out of your mouth... doodle on a note pad, take up knitting or needle point, chew gum or munch on small sugar-free candies. You can also try using any number of bitter-tasting products to put on your nails to serve as a reminder to leave the nails alone. They even make bitter nail polish designed to discourage just this behavior!

Personally, though, my favorite strategy for helping you eschew the chew is to make a point of pampering your hands. Treat yourselves to manicures, even if you just exchange nail-painting sessions with each other. Fixate on your nails in a positive way, and work on making your nails and hands look nice. Use sweet smelling lotions and potions. You can include your niece in these 'spa' treatments. Most three-year-old girls love a "Pretty Party." While you're at it, talk with her about her nail-biting and let her know that it is 'so last year,' and that you and your sister are totally over it. Set up a reward system for the three of you, like having a weekly check-up/let's-paint-our-nails party. Whoever refrains from biting her nails that week gets the large dish of ice cream, while any losers will be faced with a big bowl of broccoli! I'm sure you can come up with lots of enticing rewards and gross penalties. Continue to praise your niece when she is not biting her nails, and if you see her start, gently remove her fingers from her mouth and distract her with a new activity. When the three of you work together, you will have your own built-in support group that promotes taking pride in how great your hands look. With your 'Just Nail It Team' you'll never be tempted to bite off more than you can chew!


Dear Zelda,

My bulldog is a little overweight. How can I get her to lose some weight so she looks a little better, because, sadly, her head is smaller than her body.

Big Dog Owner

Dear Big Dog Owner,

We're not fat, we're just big-boned! People look at bulldogs and think "Big Dog," even when we're thin. Personally I feel fit and fabulous, and I exercise and watch my weight to stay healthy. Even so, when I flop down on the ground it still takes a few minutes for the ripples to subside. That's just part of being a bulldog. The best and simplest way to keep your dog within her healthy weight range is to carefully and consistently measure the amount of food you feed her. Unfortunately, what makes 'Fido' fat is her owner...YOU! Sure we beg, we give you the sad-dog look, (the one we practice in front of the mirror at night), we do just about anything... but the food starts and stops with you!

Now to be honest, if left to my own devices, I would work at Dunkin' Donuts and die young. But my owner has learned better, and because of it I'm a healthy, energetic ten years old: proof that exercise and a balanced diet works. Basically I eat one cup of Royal Canin Medium (made specifically for bulldogs) in the morning and another cup for dinner. Following my morning meal we go for a long walk, which is extremely important for weight watchers like us. Only then can we sleep and snore and dream of our next meal.

I know you love your dog, but rewarding her with food isn't really a reward, it's a "reverse reward." Give food, get fat dog. Go back three steps. Hugs, kisses, play, and exercise are the true rewards for your Big Dog. Well, maybe with a stick of Lean Pup-peroni thrown in once in a while.