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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford jokes around while standing on a scale during a weigh in marking the start of a 6 month weight loss challenge that Ford and his brother Doug are attempting in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. (Pawel Dwulit/Pawel Dwulit for The Globe and Mail)
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford jokes around while standing on a scale during a weigh in marking the start of a 6 month weight loss challenge that Ford and his brother Doug are attempting in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. (Pawel Dwulit/Pawel Dwulit for The Globe and Mail)

Marcus Gee

Budget-busting Ford brothers try to cut weight Add to ...

It was all laughter and kibitzing as Rob and Doug Ford mounted the industrial scale outside the mayor’s office on Monday.

The mayor insisted that his brother go on the scale first because Doug was the “skinny guy.” Rob patted his brother down, cop style, to make sure Doug wasn’t packing extra weights to cheat in their weight-loss contest. Doug did the same to the mayor.

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Playing the role of moderator, radio broadcaster and “recovering fattie” John Tory joined in the fun by slipping two pineapples onto the scale as Doug weighed in, hoping to give him a surprise when the big needle came to a halt on the scale’s round face.

For the record: In his stocking feet with no sports jacket, Doug weighed in at 275 pounds. Rob, who once called himself “300 pounds of fun,” is even more fun than he thought at 330.

Japes aside, though, the Ford brothers did something rather admirable when they kicked off their Cut the Waist Challenge with the weigh-in. Even for individuals as brash as the Fords, being fat in a world that prizes leanness can be embarrassing.

Not everyone will go in front of the television cameras to have their weight recorded for all to see. It takes courage to lose weight, said Mr. Tory, and “it takes even more courage to do it when you’re a public figure.”

By going public at a time when the country faces an epidemic of obesity, the Fords hope to set an example. As one of the best known politicians in the country, Mr. Ford could do a lot of good if he proved that slimming down is possible, even for someone as busy and as heavily built as he is.

“I want Toronto to lose more weight than any other city in North America,” he told reporters.

The mayor and his brother decided during a family vacation in Florida it was time to do something about their weight. “Enough is enough,” he said. “It’s the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’ve got young children. You can’t be running the city, you can’t be doing all this, at 330.”

His goal is to lose 50 pounds by June 18, a span of six months. Ultimately, he hopes to lose even more, shedding 105 pounds to reach 225.

To trim down, he says he will “hit the gym, lift some weights, do some walking, do some jogging” and stop having late-night snacks.” His weakness, he said, is raiding the fridge for ice cream.

That habit will have to go, he admitted. So will fattening snacks while watching football, the Ford family passion. “I’m going to have to sacrifice Super Bowl Sunday.” He pledged to show up for a weekly weigh-in at City Hall to check his progress toward his goal.

Reaching it will not be easy. Weight-loss expert Joey Shulman, who has two clinics in Toronto, says that losing an average of two pounds a week for six months is an “aggressive” target, but not impossible.

“I think he’ll do great,” she said. “He just announced to the entire GTA what he weighs and what he can lose. He can be the inspiration to so many people who want to lose weight out there.”

The Mayo Clinic Diet recommends that dieters aim for a loss of six to 10 pounds in the first two weeks and one or two pounds a week after that until reaching their target.

“Don’t rush it. Take your time,” cautioned Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan. He has shed 54 pounds and now tips the scale at 194 pounds. Mr. Duncan began his own weight-loss regimen 19 months ago. He has another 26 pounds to go before hitting the upper end of his normal weight range. “Given the challenge he’s faced with, I hope he’s seeing a doctor, not just weighing in for the cameras.”

One more thing to hope for is that Mr. Ford’s weight-loss campaign changes his mind about how cities affect health. He came to office as a skeptic on bike lanes and a champion of drivers, promising to end the “war on the car.” He himself seldom travels in any other conveyance than his famous minivan.

Cities where people walk and cycle more and drive less are healthier places. Forward-looking cities like New York are acknowledging it. If Mayor Ford would, too, he could do even more to help city people get healthy and lose weight.

Follow on Twitter: @marcusbgee

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