BITING BACK Former Operation Transformation medic says 'If you don't like the show don't watch it'
'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'
Former medical consultant on under-fire Operation Transformation, Dr Eva Orsmond, has said if people don't like the show they shouldn't watch it.
It comes as the programme, which sees leaders participate in an exercise and diet overhaul in a bid to lose weight, returned to TV this month.
The series has seen an online backlash from viewers, experts and activists who have petitioned for the show to be taken off air due to the programme triggering eating disorders and 'fat-shaming' participants.
Statistics from the HSE show that approximately four per cent of the Irish population will experience an eating disorder at one point in their lives.
Speaking to the Sunday World, Dr Eva, who left the show in 2015, said claims that the show triggers eating disorders is "ridiculous altogether".
"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," she said.
"I'm sure other things will trigger somebody who has an eating disorder.
"Operation Transformation is for the goodness of the population, trying to create a team effort, awareness and it's totally realistic," she said.
"It has an exercise plan, a diet, people are being weighed."
Many voices online slammed the show for fat-shaming contestants as they are weighed on TV in their underwear.
"Yes, maybe they could be weighed with their clothes on but the point is… this is a television programme, it's a reality TV programme, there has to be some sort of visual so people can actually see how someone of a certain weight looks.
"I've been in this business for 20 years and I can't judge somebody's weight with their clothes on.
"It's not about fat-shaming, it's not about physical appearance, it's been like that from day one.
"It was always about how to bring health into the context of weight, not physical appearance."
Dr Eva, who is trained in Public Health, said the makeover aspect of the show during the finale is to celebrate the leaders' achievement and "what they've done."
"It's about your health, it means you sleep better and have more energy," she said.
When it comes to revamping the format of the show which first aired in 2008, Dr Eva said that despite more conscious consumers, there is no other better approach.
"What is a different approach? If someone has another, better way…
"The programme has always been edited and worked in a very sensitive way."
She also refuted claims that the show portrays the idea that losing weight can "resolve all your psychological problems."
"Not at all, that's totally deviated, it's not at all what the programme is about.
"The programme is actually trying to say that 'OK, there is a possibility that things in your life…you are self-sabotaging yourself' and they're trying to empower you to take control of your life and look at the positives and actually treat yourself how you would treat your child.
"You wouldn't actually make your child eat unhealthy food and become overweight on purpose."
The 55-year-old also insists the show looks at what participants want out of life in the long term.
"We look at the instant gratification, and the comfort eating when we are in a sad mood.
"People sort of feel 'I have high blood pressure in my family because of a genetic pre-deposition', but they don't actually look at it as if they're inheriting the lifestyle, the diet, because that's what they were used to eating at home and that's what they carry on eating."
In a statement, Bodywhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, said although the show has a positive objective the emphasis on dieting, body weight and shape and the way these are measured, collectively counted and presented, create a dieting culture that research shows does little to achieve long-lasting weight loss or health promotion.
"We cannot ignore the fact that hospital admissions for young people with eating disorders have risen by 66 per cent and by 32 per cent 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," a statement from Bodywhys said.
This year, the Government spent €278,300 sponsoring the show as part of the government's Keep Well campaign.
"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," the Bodywhys statement added.
"There are many factors involved when a person develops an eating disorder, one of which is the atmosphere and world they are living within."
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