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WEIGHTY ISSUE Anorexia sufferer slams Operation Transformation as 'fat shaming wrapped in pretty bow'

"I feel in years to come we are going to look back and ask how this show was ever allowed to be televised?"

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Amanda Lynch has to avoid watching

Amanda Lynch has to avoid watching

Amanda Lynch has to avoid watching

A young woman with anorexia says Operation Transformation encourages eating disorders and has called for the controversial weight loss show to be axed.

Amanda Lynch (33), who was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa when she was 24, said there is no space for body shaming on national television.

Now in its fifteenth series, the RTÉ juggernaut has come under fire for its "dangerous" and "harmful" approach to weight loss. Since returning to our screens this week, the broadcaster has been besieged by calls to cancel the show permanently.

Dubliner Amanda said time is up for the hit series.

"I feel in years to come, we are going to look back and ask how this show was ever allowed to be televised.

"Even when you look back at X-Factor and how people were fat shamed on that show and ridiculed, we are disgusted.

"Now we have people standing on a weighing scales in front of the entire nation crying because their weight hasn't gone down. It is heartbreaking.

"It is a fat-shaming programme wrapped in a pretty bow."

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Amanda was diagnosed with anorexia when she was 24

Amanda was diagnosed with anorexia when she was 24

Amanda was diagnosed with anorexia when she was 24

Aiming to show the reality of eating disorders through her social media platform @amanda_lynch_ Amanda revealed: "The irony is that RTÉ aired the programme Unspoken a couple of weeks ago that focused on male eating disorders and now a couple of weeks later they are airing Operation Transformation.

"You are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder if you engage in diets.

"I've heard people say, 'well, just don't watch it if you have an eating disorder,' but it is not as simple as that, it is like a magnet for people with eating disorders."

For Amanda, who was warned by doctors last year that her heart would stop if her condition deteriorated further, the show has the potential to trigger the disorder.

"People with eating disorders can often be triggered by a show like this.

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"I am not supposed to do any exercise at the moment but if I watched that show it would make me feel guilty for not exercising.

"Exercise is important, I am not anti-gym or anti-health, but there is the little voice in my head that will say 'just watch it, just watch it' - and then you are bombarded by information on calorie deficits and watching people being put on a weighing scales.

"I believe it has the ability to fuel eating disorders in some people."

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RTE's Operation Transformation host Kathryn Thomas with this year's leaders

RTE's Operation Transformation host Kathryn Thomas with this year's leaders

RTE's Operation Transformation host Kathryn Thomas with this year's leaders

Working to dismantle diet culture, nutritional therapist and co-founder of Intuitive Eating Ireland, Sinéad Crowe has been working steadily to petition the end of the controversial programme.

"I was spurred on to contact the Minister for Mental Health, Operation Transformation and RTÉ last October after I received an email from a 13-year-old girl who was in treatment for an eating disorder because her mum and herself followed the programme last year.

"She became obsessed with counting calories and it developed into a full-blow eating disorder. This is not the case for everyone, so I don't want to portray that it is, but for a percentage of people dieting will develop into disordered eating and then that will evolve into a full-blown eating disorder.

"These are not isolated, one-off experiences of people being harmed by the show.

"When we put the call out last October to our social media followers to email Operation Transformation, RTÉ and local TDs, I was getting cc'd into emails and there were thousands of people negatively impacted."


Taking aim at the RTÉ series which is backed by HSE initiative Healthy Ireland, Sinéad said she believes the show is perpetuating the idealisation of thinner bodies while also encouraging dangerous and ultimately unsustainable weight loss.

"I have spoken to nine past leaders to date. One woman didn't leave the house for nearly a year after the show because she gained weight after the series ended and she felt like a failure and was embarrassed to be out in public.

"To read her words and the damage the show has done to her is utterly heartbreaking. This isn't normal, we shouldn't be doing this to people.

"RTÉ put in writing to us that they denied that it was a weight loss show which was clearly laughable because their logo was a weighing scales. In a really fast turnaround they've since changed their logo. I think any graphic designer would cringe looking at the monstrosity of the new logo."

Asking people to tune out from the popular format which is fronted by Kathryn Thomas, the mental health nurse added: "We have a very poor understanding in society about the harm of dieting because we idealise the pursuit of thinness and praise people that are trying to lose weight, regardless of the cost that comes to our mental and physical health and wellbeing

"We have no evidence that this show is supporting public health, where is the data that the leaders to date and the public have benefited? If they carried out adequate research and not a survey by the sponsor of the show then we might have a better understanding."

Sinéad, who runs Intuitive Eating alongside her sister Gillian Crowe, was also keen to highlight some positive changes to the show.

"They have made an effort to revamp it by introducing health goals such as reducing smoking, screen time, blood pressure and stress, and this is all positive. But as long as they are given weight loss targets and stepping on a scale and following a strict diet then it remains, fundamentally, a weight loss show.

"I believe their intentions are good but the reality is it is a harmful show. I would love to see it decommissioned for next year or that they remove the weight loss aspect completely and make it safe for everyone. They could look at educating people on nutrition and movement, stress management and sleep hygiene."

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Sinead and Gillian Crowe of Intuitive Eating Ireland say the
series shouldn’t make weight loss its goal

Sinead and Gillian Crowe of Intuitive Eating Ireland say the series shouldn’t make weight loss its goal

Sinead and Gillian Crowe of Intuitive Eating Ireland say the series shouldn’t make weight loss its goal

The Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, Bodywhys, also said many of its service users found the show to be "triggering".

In a statement, it said: "Although the show has a positive objective, intending to bring focus to health and wellbeing, the considerable emphasis on dieting, body weight and shape and the way these are measured, collectively counted and presented, create a community sanctioned dieting culture that research shows does little to achieve long-lasting weight loss or health promotion."

In a statement, RTE said: "Now in its 15th season, Operation Transformation has evolved considerably over the years and now encompasses a more holistic approach to adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as losing weight.

"In this year's series, for example, the weekly check-in incorporates an overall health check looking at a range of health indicators including blood pressure, cholesterol, hydration, sleep quality and psychological wellbeing."

"Weekly targets for the leaders will now be set in a variety of areas."

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