Old Dog, New Tricks

Tom Dewey eats hummus … and roasted chickpeas, celery sticks (without a Bloody Mary), and even (gasp!) protein shakes.

Who is Tom Dewey and why is this shocking?  Or better yet, why should you care?  Because it proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

My mom and dad

My mom and dad

Tom Dewey is my 70-year-old father who, for decades, existed on chips, salsa and Rolling Rock beer.  Regardless of the man’s dietary choices, his weight and size never fluctuated.  A runner, he was tall and slender with “well-oiled pistons” (read: strong legs, which he liked to show off in shorts), wearing the same size 32-32 pants for as long as I can remember.  Until a couple of years ago.  As we all know, with age comes change — and a little extra weight around the middle.

Two months ago, on the day before he turned 70, my dad asked for my advice.  Pigs were flying and hell froze over (and you thought it was the Polar Vortex!).  He wanted to lose some weight.  He wanted some help on what changes he could make to his diet, and he wanted me to tell him.  [Disclaimer:  I am neither a nutritionist nor a personal trainer, but I have made some major changes to my diet and lifestyle over the past two years with fantastic results.]  Stop the presses!  After two years of preaching the benefits of eating whole foods and increasing protein intake, it seemed that my dad was now ready to hear me.

So I spoke and he listened.  He then went to Trader Joe’s and the rest is history.  My chip-eating, beer-drinking dad has started eating “clean.”  Ok, not really clean per se, but he is making some healthy swaps:  lentil chips instead of tortilla chips with salsa; carrot sticks instead of pretzel sticks (and with hummus now); a breakfast smoothie with protein powder and fruit instead of a buttered roll; and an actual lunch (e.g., low sodium turkey on low-carb, whole grain bread) or at least a (hopefully not-too-processed) protein bar instead of nothing at all.  Baby steps.  I don’t see him going full-on Paleo anytime soon, but I am proud of him for taking steps to improve his nutrition and, ultimately, his health because I’d like him to stick around a lot longer.

I know it wasn’t my nagging that finally got him to make these adjustments.  The man is stubborn and I say that in a loving way.  He’s old-school, set in his ways like most septuagenarians and octogenarians.  I’m sure the impetus came from his doctors.  But does it really matter?  No.  Does it give me a little satisfaction knowing that he’s doing it “my way?”  Yes, frankly, because it’s nice to be listened to, especially for a (recovering) control freak like me.  But that isn’t my point.

What is my point, you’re wondering?  That an old dog can learn new tricks.  That it’s never too late to make a change.


It’s the end of February now and for many of us, those New Year’s Resolutions that we swore we’d keep this year have fallen by the wayside.  So what now?  Start over.  Today.  Every day is a fresh start.  A do-over.  A chance to be better than the day before.  For my dad, that chance involves making healthier eating choices.  For me, each day is a chance to speak kinder, be more patient and enjoy life more.  If I mess up, I’ll try again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.


Eventually, I’ll get it right.




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