The show will return on Wednesday, January 4 at 9.30pm on RTÉ One.
On the show’s current Facebook page, the show’s logo has been changed and no longer features a weighing scales. Instead a blue ‘OT’ logo is utilised.
Also, following an RTÉ Liveline discussion in advance of the 2022 season airing, the producers addressed the issue of the leaders’ weigh-in outfits.
It was decided all the leaders would wear leisure/gym clothing, consisting of T-shirts, shorts/leggings and running shoes. Previously, the weigh-in outfits were tight-fitting Lycra crop tops, leggings and bicycle shorts.
There was a backlash against the show last year, with Bodywhys flagging some concerns and with some viewers criticising leaders being provided unflattering clothes during weigh-ins. There was also concern the programme could trigger issues for those suffering eating disorders.
Show host Kathryn Thomas explained the sensitivities of the topic of weight loss in current times: “I think in terms of where we are at the moment, I think it’s a tricky space. All I know is that what we do on the show is go above and beyond. Every year, we check in after the series is finished. What did we do? How can we do it better? Are we keeping abreast with the scientific advances that are happening?”
Despite last year's criticism, Thomas announced she’s fully committed to the new show. "I genuinely believe in the positivity of Operation Transformation,” she said.
“I don’t think that anybody should be silenced. And we all have differences of opinions. I always stand over the work that we do on the show. And I think it’s important to point out that the people who come on Operation Transformation, in a large majority of the cases, are people who are trying to avoid weight-related illnesses; Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke.
“And weight loss is an important part of living a longer, happier, healthier life,” she adds. “But it is only a small part.”
She added: “We’ve adapted and evolved because we know that that’s what we needed to be doing.”
This season there are four experts on the show, with a multi-disciplinary panel of general practice, nutrition, psychological wellbeing and fitness.
And the first two leaders are mothers in their 30s. Andrea Daly (38), originally from Arklow, Co Wexford, but now living in Portlaoise, Co Laois, is mourning the loss of her son, Dylan, who died aged 13, in January 2019.
Dylan was born with cerebral palsy, and Andrea and her husband Joe were full-time carers. Now Andrea wants to go on an adventure – not only for herself but for children Alex, Ryan and Masey too.
Talking about her plans for Operation Transformation, she said: “I look forward to getting healthy and being happy in my own body.
"I feel this is my year and I'm looking forward to the next eight weeks and seeing what the next months and year brings.”
The second leader to be announced is soccer coach Stephanie Bowden (31), who lives in Clondalkin in Dublin with her partner Brian and their children, Jack and Aoife.
Stephanie said: “I can't wait to start my journey on Operation Transformation 2023 because I'm looking forward to the adventure of learning all the skills to improve my overall wellbeing, but also an opportunity to experience what I feel life is about, community and connection as part of the process.”
Since becoming mother to Jack over four years ago and Aoife last year, Stephanie is struggling to get her mojo back.
Stephanie is a football coach at Crumlin United and holds a Uefa coaching licence but really wants to get back to playing like she used to.
The final three leaders for this year’s Operation Transformation will be named in the coming days.
Kathryn Thomas has also revealed the show has always, in fact, stayed in contact with former leaders, after public concern last year that this was not the case.
“You know, the criticism comes at us again: 'Why don’t you check in with leaders from previous years?' But we do. All of the leaders can’t understand the negativity towards the show.
“The biggest thing you’ll hear from them, always, is what they learnt, the education around it, and where their confidence levels are at.”
RTÉ also responded to criticism, with a statement, saying Operation Transformation had “evolved considerably over the years and now encompasses a more holistic approach to adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as losing weight”.