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Operation Transformation backlash shows being overweight is the last taboo

Hats off to those brave leaders on RTE

RTÉ’s Operation Transformation craic team

Deirdre Reynolds

No money would pay me to go on national television in sprayed-on lycra with my increasingly lumpy bits on full display (though, try me).

So hats off to the five brave men and women who did just that during the week.

Operation Transformation returned to the small screen on Wednesday night. And, in these body positive times, it didn't take long for the weight-loss show to come under fire.

Held up as "state-sponsored fat-shaming" by some, the long-running RTÉ programme - backed by HSE initiative Healthy Ireland - was also blasted as "irresponsible", "humiliating" and "voyeuristic" by others watching from the butt groove in their couch.

While fitness expert Karl Henry was the first to feel the wrath of viewers for slating Galway leader Paul Devaney after joking his way through the nerve-racking first weigh-in.

The annual backlash to the series is proof that being fat is one of the last taboos in 2021.

But it's the show-shamers themselves who should be called out for stigmatising those who take part - as well as the thousands of people across the country who follow their progress each new year.

Funnily enough, I recall none of the same faux concern over the "degradation" of the singletons who put themselves forward to find love on First Dates Ireland. Or for the superfit clans from all across the country battling it out to be crowned Ireland's Fittest Family.

Yet, when it comes to those who are carrying extra weight, it's assumed they have somehow been manipulated into taking part - before being demeaned on a weekly basis for ratings.

As if being overweight, in and of itself, is something to be pitied, or which strips you of the regular decision-making skills of a thin person.


As someone who has slimmed down from a size 16 to a size 10 in the past, I know some of the embarrassment of being asked in a room full of people if you're pregnant when, in fact, it's just a food baby.

Is baring all on reality TV the best way to overhaul your health for good?

Probably not - but ultimately how is it any more shameful than signing up to a commercial slimming club or gym which don't exactly guarantee success either? Apart from #lycragate, Operation Transformation has long-since been criticised for its 'sob story' element.

Admittedly, it was excruciating to hear the 'sad piano music' amped up as Limerick nurse Hazel Hartigan shared her devastating story of child loss and Dubliner Andrew Burke-Hannon opened up about the homophobic abuse he suffered at school on Wednesday night's show.

All the more reason for the nation to get behind them in the coming eight weeks. Between its ad break challenges, walking events and healthy-eating recipes, OT is sure to inspire thousands of 'Covid stone' victims nationwide to lace up.

At the end of the day though, it is still a midweek entertainment programme. And the defense, "Well Kathryn, I just love my spuds", doesn't exactly make for riveting television.

If you're still not a fan, then in the words of the presenter to those braving the scales every week, "up you get" - and change the channel.

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