Lose some weight, gain a new mayor?


Just in time to take attention away from his cost-saving, service-cutting plans, as Toronto City Council was about to vote on the divisive 2012 budget, Mayor Rob Ford announced that he’s going on a diet to lose 50 pounds by June.

Score one for the spin-doctors.

It looks like Ford’s waning popularity is causing his handlers to take drastic measures to reshape his image, literally. The mayor, who at 178 centimetres (5’10”) and 150 kilograms (330 pounds) is, in clinical terms, obese, will be scaling down while calling on Torontonians to give to local charities in support of his weight loss efforts.

A person would have to be pretty mean-spirited to want to dump on a city leader who is trying to make a go of becoming healthier. Although it’s not that those with whom Mayor Ford does not find favour have not been doing so.

Even so, credit has to be given where it’s due. It didn’t soften city councillors who opposed spending cuts and voted 23-21 to reverse $20 million in proposed cuts in such areas as daycare and homeless shelters, but it really was a clever piece of timing with a can’t-miss issue – weight loss and health improvement. Who wouldn’t be able to identify with this, especially landing as it has, right after the Christmas feasting season?

The airwaves and other media are primed with all manner of advertisements encouraging people to make weight loss a New Year’s resolution. Then, on top of it, the mayor of the city joins the bandwagon with his cleverly allusive “Cut the Waist Challenge”.

Yes, it’s all about the cuts, whether of gravy, of waste or of the waist.

But, as an indication of the current mayor’s unpopularity, former mayor David Miller’s decision to become healthier by shedding some pounds did not bring out nearly the level of unkind remarks as the Ford effort so far has. It would appear that more than the usual number of comments below articles online about the Ford brothers’ weight loss plans – for brother Doug, the rookie councillor for Ward 2 Etobicoke North, is also claiming some of the spotlight in this venture – have been so unacceptable they have been rejected by site monitors. (By the way, Ward 2 falls within one of the areas of the city with the highest rates of diabetes, a disease related significantly to diet and lifestyle.)

Beyond the Fords’ grand show, a more objective look at the crisis of obesity makes it clear how important it is to pay attention to excess poundage and the need to get eating habits under control. Then too, diabetes is now epidemic. And Toronto has the highest rate of diabetes in Ontario.

What will the Fords have to look forward to in order to take on new eating habits? Even more than exercise, what goes into the body is what will make the difference. That means late night ice cream binges will have to end. The same goes for all forms of processed sugar. And it would be best to let go of anything made with flour; all the bread and pasta. Portion sizes will also matter. Regulating one’s pattern of eating is also important.

It’s true what dietitians tell us about a well-balanced breakfast being the most important meal of the day. Planning meals ahead of time will help those changing their eating patterns to avoid the out of control behaviour that comes with hunger.

Just as important, a person making such a lifestyle change – since this is really what is called for – has to be reconciled to a new way of feeding his body.

One more thing: If indeed the Fords are going ahead with their weight loss project in earnest, then we can expect, as a city, to be affected one way or another by the changes that will occur for them, since losing significant amounts of weight causes not only physical but also psychological changes.

It remains to be seen how Mayor Ford will manage these changes while functioning in such a high stress, high demand position.

Expect change.

A note on the passing of time…

Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali stepped out of the ring for good more than 30 years ago, but he is still considered “The Greatest”. More than just a boxer, Ali, who turned 70 on Tuesday, is a history maker.

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