Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Break a habit, double the benefit

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Earlier this month, Rob Ford had what he called a "come to Jesus moment."

No, the embattled Toronto mayor wasn't referring to a conversion experience. His epiphany revolved around his need to lose weight and stop drinking.

In a Nov.18 interview with CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge, he said he will "eat his words" if people don't see a difference in him after five months.

I hope he can do it. It's not easy, as many who have tried to lose weight or quit drinking know. Like many others before him, Ford will need some help.

One way he can get it is by doing what Graham Kerr, the former Galloping Gourmet TV chef, calls "converting habits that harm into resources that heal."

Kerr, 79, once lived a life he called "hedonism in a hurry." On his highly acclaimed and popular show, he promoted a rich and lavish lifestyle while creating dishes overflowing with cream, butter and fat.

Then, his life changed. It started with a severe car accident that made him reconsider his purpose and direction. It included a decision to live more simply -- a decision aided by his realization while millions of people in Canada and U.S. were struggling with health issues because of over-consumption and unwise eating habits, millions of others were dying of hunger in the developing world.

About the same time, his wife, Treena, had a stroke and heart attack. As part of her recovery, she was told to cut down on saturated fats. They decided to do that together, eliminating foods that were high in such fats, in order for both to live healthier lives.

By cutting down on those kinds of foods, the then-family of four discovered they could save about $80 a month. They used half of the savings to buy healthier foods, such as vegetables. They decided to donate the other half to sponsor two children in the developing world.

The result was what he calls the "double benefit." The couple "lost weight, lowered cholesterol, felt better, and we enjoyed the change which are all benefits," he says. In the developing world, two children received food and education because of their donation -- the second benefit.

For Kerr, the key to sticking with the new diet was the commitment to help others.

People who decide to make a big life change such as losing weight can "expect to be severely challenged," he says on his website, By tying the decision to a commitment to help others, people can "know that someone somewhere has life and hope because of your choice" -- a knowledge that can make it easier to stick with the weight-loss plan.

His advice to those who want to achieve a "double benefit" is to circle everything on a grocery receipt that "you think might do you harm" -- too many calories, too much fat, over-salted, expensively packaged, etc. Next, either eliminate these items, or compare the price with alternatives you would enjoy, yet cost less.

After that, he says, estimate the savings that would represent on an annual basis. This is money you can use to help others.

Rob Ford faces some unique challenges. But many others also have things about their own lives they'd like to change. Maybe the "double benefit" can help. After all, there are lots of people in the Philippines, Syria and other places around the world in need of assistance; a small change in the way we live could have a big impact on the lives of others.

A decision today to change a habit that harms could result in a life-long practice that heals -- your own life and the lives of others.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2013 D15

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