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End Diet Culture says it's not as simple as just 'turning off' Operation Transformation to avoid it

It comes after a former medic on the show, Dr Eva Orsmond, told Sunday World that those who do not like the show can simply not watch

Dr Sumi Dunne with the Operation Transformation team, Karl Henry, Kathryn Thomas, Aoife Hearne and Dr Eddie Murphy

Clodagh Meaney

End Diet Culture Ireland has said that people cannot just “turn off” Operation Transformation in a bid to avoid diet culture and weight stigma.

It comes after a former medic on the show, Dr Eva Orsmond, told Sunday World that those who do not like the show can simply turn it off.

Dr. Eva, who left the show in 2015 said claims that the show triggers eating disorders is “ridiculous all together.”

“There’s such a small percentage of people in the country with eating disorders, and if this triggers something in them, they should not watch it.”

Speaking to Sunday World, Sinéad Crowe from End Diet Culture Ireland refuted her comment and said: “It’s not as simple as turning off a show that you don’t enjoy.”

“We aren’t talking about a dislike for a soap. This show perpetuates societal inequalities for marginalized bodies. It’s irrelevant whether some people enjoy it or not.”

“When it’s evidently contributing to weight stigma - research is clear that weight loss shows increase viewers' anti-fat attitudes - and eating disorders, it is not as simple as ‘just turn it off’.”

Sinead says that the show is negatively impacting public health regardless of who’s watching it.

“We see Operation Transformation everywhere at the minute, it’s on our children’s junior certificate Irish curriculum, teachers are recommending students to download calorie counting apps, it’s in our supermarkets, our GAA clubs are following along, our local communities are fully immersed in it.”

“Again, it’s irrelevant whether we turn it off, it’s negatively impacting public health, which needs to be addressed and relevant measures put in place by our state to ensure they no longer sponsor and support an entertainment show that continues to harm our people.”

This position is also supported by Margaret Steele, PHD, MSc Obesity, from the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Science in NUIG.

“Operation Transformation relentlessly spreads one message above all others: Thinness equals health, and anyone can choose to be thin if they try hard enough.”

“This is not only false but profoundly stigmatising to people at a higher weight.”

“There is clear evidence that those who believe weight to be under individual control hold more negative attitudes towards people of higher weight. Operation Transformation encourages precisely this belief and all the anti-fat stigma that goes with it.”

“This effect can only be magnified when the message is endorsed by a government agency like Healthy Ireland”.

End Diet Culture say that the government funding of the show continues to be questioned and examined in the context of eating disorder funding in Ireland.

The Department has yet to make a statement and can offer no evidence that Operation Transformation is a long-term safe, effective health intervention.

Market research was reviewed by Irish researcher Éadaoin Butler, who has a PHD in childhood obesity from the University of Auckland.

She considers there is weak evidence to support the ongoing funding of the show.

“Despite having a sample of over 1500 survey respondents, the researchers mostly relied on results obtained from the approximately 580 respondents who had watched Operation Transformation in 2021,” Éadaoin noted.

“The survey was conducted only one week after the show ended in 2021, and there was no reporting of any long-term behaviour changes made by the over 570 respondents who had watched the show before 2021.”

The End Diet Culture movement believes equating healing with food restriction is dangerous as the show evolved beyond the celebration of weight loss.

They do however note: “Our campaign is not focused on the individual leaders but the thousands of adults and children absorbing the subliminal message that ‘fat bodies are bad’ and ‘weight loss is good’ while watching at home.”

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