Operation Transformation's Elaine Crowley is a poster girl for health and positive thinking in Ireland, says Karl Henry
For the last two weeks, 'Celebrity Operation Transformation' has captured the nation's hearts as they follow the journey of the five contestants throughout their challenge to cook healthy meals and work out more.
It's been a very proud experience so far to see just what they have all achieved in such a short space of time. And while all the participants have been inspirational in their own way, TV3's Elaine Crowley has become the nation's sweetheart.
Over the last few weeks, Elaine's stark honesty, not to mention her sense of humour, has hit home with viewers all around Ireland. We've also witnessed something none of us could ever really have anticipated, not just with Elaine, but with all of the leaders: all of them have been themselves, without any filter, in tackling their weight issues.
This is usually a sensitive and personal topic of conversation and I'm impressed at how candid our leaders have been in front of the cameras.
Elaine represents many women in Ireland, and she's been open, honest, funny, and grounded about it on the programme.
Elaine's biggest challenge was going to be sticking to any kind of plan. The programme that we proposed forced her to address many of her fears. Surprisingly, one of these was cooking.
It turns out that so many people in Ireland can't cook - either they won't because they are too stressed or busy, or they don't have the basic skills or knowledge to fulfil what is probably the key component to health.
Elaine's reliance on takeaways, due to her lack of skills in the kitchen, is something that most of the country is sadly familiar with. Her incredible results are built on the foundation of cooking and preparing food herself.
I think Elaine became a heroine to follow for health because her vulnerability was there for all of us to see. She showed herself, warts and all, and this isn't easy for anyone to do, much less a well-known celebrity.
I think we are all vulnerable. We can all see ourselves in her, but her bravery to take these insecurities to a national stage, with a camera following her every move, made our affection for Elaine swell even more.
Her eloquent and heartfelt phrasing with regards to her mental health battle is something that will add a new component to the dialogue around mental health issues, which Ireland is getting to grips with.
Few have ever spoke about the subject so frankly and made it so accessible, showing everyone around the country that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. She sent out the message that you will get through the difficult times with help, and learn just how to manage a mental health challenge, too.
When you are on TV, it's automatically presumed that you are confident and assured, with an undoubted belief in your ability. More often than not, this is not the case. And while she may take the reins on TV3's 'Midday' like a supremely poised pro, Elaine showed us all that appearances can be deceiving.
Her approach to 'Operation Transformation' was to jump in to the challenge feet first; to listen, take advice, do her best and just try. We all can learn from this. It's more important to not be afraid to have a go, regardless of the outcome, than just sit back and do nothing at all. So many people are afraid to try. If there is one lesson to be learnt ,it's to just do it.
Up until now, every week, we followed Elaine's progress with such interest. We laughed and cried as she went on her arduous and daunting journey, and saw ourselves reflected on our TV screens. Now that the show is coming to an end, each leader is mindful of the legacy they will leave.
Elaine's legacy is simple, but will stand the test of time. It's to try and give it your all. And, as happened with our new golden girl, you never know just what may come of it.