01/24/2012 07:10 EST | Updated 03/19/2012 09:54 EDT

Ford Brothers' Weight Loss: Can Siblings Get Through It Together?

When it comes to genetics, it's not just your hair and eyes encoded into the DNA -- it's also your proclivity for packing on the pounds (or losing them without a second thought). So it's certainly not unusual to find siblings who are looking to lose weight at the same time.

In the case of Rod and Doug Ford, brothers who happen to be two of the biggest political forces in Toronto -- Rob is the mayor of the city, and Doug a councillor and his brother's right-hand man -- a decision to lose weight is also a public call to arms. After the brothers Ford held a televised weigh-in last week (Rob at 330 lbs, Doug at 275), they launched Cut The Waist, a chance for Torontonians to lose weight as well. A week in, they've lost 10 and nine pounds respectively (and the city's lost 43). But is publicly announcing your weight loss intentions really the best way to achieve results, or is it a recipe for disappointment?

"Stating to somebody else that you are going to do something makes it more real, and makes [you] commit to [your] plan of action," says Stefanie Senior, a registered dietitian at Athletic Edge Sports Management. "Having someone to report back to and setting a timeline gives an endpoint in one direction."

Score one for the Fords -- but the clicher to their success may be that Doug and Rob are in this thing together as bros. When you and a buddy take on similar weight loss goals, the odds of staying on track improve. Senior, who has run weight-loss programs with group-support components at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, says having like-minded folks to relate to helps those who are looking to lose.

It's not a new approach -- programs like Weight Watchers and sites like Spark People have built their success around group support for dieters and those looking to lose weight, and research has shown that those who seek support are less stressed and more likely to continue -- even if the support was anonymous and online.

"I think it's something about the accountability, and feeling like you're doing it in a team environment," explains Senior. "Having people at home support your food choices and not negatively influence food choices makes a difference, providing positive reinforcement rather than sabotaging your efforts."

In the Fords' case, giving up ice cream and "eating like a rabbit," according to Rob, are the mainstays of the diet to date, but exercise is playing a significant role as well. It's meant to lead up to a 50-pound weight loss for the mayor, which means Rob Ford is a fifth of the way there. But don't get fooled by early results, warns Senior.

"As you lose weight, your metabolism slows down. Right now, [the Fords] are burning a lot of calories through both physical activities and rest, and even small changes to their diet will help them lose weight quicker now than it will later. As well, if they're restricting calories, it's possible the lower weight isn't fat loss -- it might be due to water loss, thanks to less carbs and less sodium."

The key to keeping it off, she stresses, is maintenance. "You don't want to restrict calories dramatically, because it will end up being a diet that is not sustainable. If they're able to lose weight to the point where they're decreasing their health risks of chronic disease -- let's say a 15 per cent weight loss -- if they're losing that in 6 months, it'd be considered healthy. But even if they was able to do that in a year and keep it off, that's what measures success."

Check out the famous siblings who have embarked on weight loss plans together:

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