Keeping up with eight dogs, including seven large hunting dogs, is easier now that Rebecca "Becky" Smith is 76 pounds lighter. Becky and her husband, Mark, show Vizsla pointers (a Hungarian breed) in conformation, agility, obedience and hunt test trials.
"I ran every night with the dogs after work. Afterward, my knees and hips all hurt. I thought 'I won't be able to do this much longer if I don't do something now,' " says Smith, a 48-year-old supply management specialist at John Deere Horicon Works.
That realization led her to join a group weight-loss program in November 2005. Becky stayed with the at-work program for 24 weeks, until a drop in participants forced her to find an after-work program. While both types produced good results, she definitely prefers the support at work.
"Somehow 'good job' doesn't mean as much when you don't work beside the people in the group everyday," says Becky. Still, she has continued to lose weight thanks to a combination of sheer will, improved eating habits and a few mind games.
"I started a paperclip chain, and I add a new link every time I lose a pound," she says. The chain, which is coiled on her desk in a six-foot loop, is a visible reminder of progress. "I do look at it quite often. I'll think, 'Man, I'd like a candy bar,' but then I look at the string. It's just a matter of mind over matter," she notes.
With six more pounds to lose, she's looking forward to reaching - and maintaining - her goal weight of 135 pounds. Her next challenge is to stick with exercise when the temperatures dip around her countryside home, 20 miles northeast of Madison, Wisconsin. "The days when I can't run the dogs, those are the challenge. I really have to make a commitment this winter to use the exercise equipment. I know it's an integral part of losing the weight."
"While she was able to keep up in the show ring before losing the weight, her new, slimmer self has made a difference. She recalls a friend who said, "You just look so much more fluid now when you're running in the ring," leading Becky to reply, "It's because I have one dog on the lead and I'm not carrying [the equivalent of] two extra dogs on my back."
And it's made an especially big impact in the outdoor courses."In fact, we just had a really big hill at a place where we just showed. I don't know if I could have done it if I hadn't lost the weight. As it was, I ran four dogs up and down that hill for two hours."