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'Negative impact' Bodywhys says Operation Transformation is 'triggering' for those with eating disorders

The RTÉ series is set to make its return tonight, Wednesday 5th January, at 9.30pm on RTÉ One.

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Operation Transformation

Operation Transformation

Operation Transformation

Operation Transformation’s “community sanctioned dieting culture” is “triggering” for those suffering with eating disorders, a leading health organisation has said.

The RTÉ series is set to make its return tonight, Wednesday 5th January, at 9.30pm on RTÉ One.

The show, which first aired in 2008, follows participants as they try to lose weight and get fit with the expert help of a personal dietician, fitness instructor, and psychologist.

In recent years, however, Operation Transformation has faced its fair share of criticism due to its focus on dieting and weight loss culture.

Ahead of its return this evening, Irish eating disorder support organisation Bodywhys issued a statement highlight the negative impacts shows like Operation Transformation have had on people suffering with disordered eating.

They said: “Many of our service users have highlighted that the show has been and continues to be triggering for them, causes them distress and impacts negatively on their mental health. This is, in particular, for those who have or live with a person with an eating disorder, or those experiencing disordered eating.

“Although the show has a positive objective intending to bring focus to health and well-being, 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.

“Anecdotally, we have heard that when the show is broadcast, a wave of pressure and conversations about food, calories, eating behaviours and exercising emerges in homes, workplaces and communities, where health messages become conflated with discipline and a numbers game that is unhelpful at least and damaging at worst.

“We cannot ignore the fact that hospital admissions for young people with eating disorders have risen by 66% and by 32% amongst adults, with increases also reflected across all community, specialist and inpatient services, including more acute presentations and admissions.

“Faced with this growing problem, programmes that are supported by public health initiatives need to take account of the audience they are broadcasting to, and ensure that they have appropriate signposting information at the very least.

"It is important that we are all aware of the impact this pressure can have on people of all different age groups and backgrounds in our society.”

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Leader Deirdre Hosford on the show

Leader Deirdre Hosford on the show

Leader Deirdre Hosford on the show

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Speaking to sundayworld.com, a spokesperson for RTÉ said that the show “has evolved considerably over the years” and now embraces a “holistic approach to adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as losing weight.”

They said that this year’s series focuses less on weight specifically and instead involves an overall health check, looking at a range of health indicators including blood pressure, cholesterol, hydration, sleep quality, and psychological wellbeing.

“Operation Transformation prides itself on bringing communities together and getting them up and out in order to improve both their physical and mental health,” the spokesperson added.

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