'We've been helping the nation get fit and healthy for 10 years, and we're doing it all again...'
Our fitness expert on the return of Operation Transformation
In less than 12 weeks, the ninth television series of Operation Transformation will hit TV screens, with five new leaders who are ready to change their lives and help lead the nation to a healthier life.
I am lucky to be part of an incredible team of experts and production people that are passionate about health. We are determined to help people change, to get the hundreds of thousands who watch the show each week to make changes to their own lives and the lives of those around them.
I am equally lucky to have been there since the very beginning - for all nine series of the TV show, as well as the year before on radio. How quickly time passes, and as I get older it seems to pass even faster - scary stuff.
In this week's column, I thought I would discuss the show and some of the criticisms we received from health commentators last year.
I also want to remind you all that we are searching for this year's leaders. Our closing date is the end of this month and we want to hear from anyone who wants - really wants - to change their life, to accept our help and to lead the nation in getting fitter. Is that you? Or do you know someone who needs our help? Log onto www.rte.ie/ot or check out the Operation Transformation Facebook page for more details.
Two out of every five adults in Ireland watch the show, making it the most popular health show ever in this country. We are leading the fight against obesity and ill health every year, providing with exercises, recipes and everything you need to get healthy.
We have leaders who inspire people to follow them and the show culminates in two 5k runs, with over 8,000 people running or walking their way to health.
However, it isn't all positive. Last year we were criticised for having our leaders dressed in lycra and also for some of the interaction between the panel and the contestants.
So let's take a look at both of those issues:
The famous lycra
This is always one of the most discussed parts of the show: do the leaders really need to wear lycra? I can understand why this frustrates people, but the lycra serves a really important function. The lycra clothing allows both the panel and the viewer to see the changes in the body shape of the leader. If our leaders wore T-shirts or hoodies, you wouldn't be able to see any difference from week to week. By making our food changes and exercising sensibly, our leaders' bodies shape up each week, losing inches, weight and, most importantly, fat. The viewer needs to be able to see these changes to stay motivated and the leaders use the visual progress to stay focused themselves.
It is nothing to do with embarrassing anyone, we want to show the nation just what hard work and eating cleanly can do and the lycra helps us achieve this. It's actually a crucial part of the show, for positive reasons.
Our job on the panel each week, both on and off camera, is to guide our leaders through the emotional and physical rollercoaster that is the show. Nothing can prepare you for what the show brings and our job is to guide people through it. My experience, as a personal trainer and expert on the show, is crucial to helping people during the good weeks and the bad weeks. Each leader will need a different approach to get the very best out of them. We, as a panel, want the very best for each leader and will use whatever side of our personalities is required to help that leader achieve their best. Sure, sometimes there will be rows, but that's natural, isn't it?
One of the key components of the show is the website. We give the nation, who are hungry for health initiatives, a site they can log on to at any time of the day, all year round, filled with videos teaching people to cook and prepare healthy foods.
There are free videos with exercise routines that don't require equipment and can be done anywhere, by anyone. The food plans don't cut out any nutrient groups, the exercise plans don't contain overly intense routines or anything heavier than a water bottle - no fads, no gimmicks, just proper hard work and healthy eating.
Sometimes, you sit and ask yourself: "What have I achieved. Have I made a difference?" When I think back over the last 10 years and the leaders we have helped - not for just the eight weeks but for life - the thousands who have used the website and completed the 5k runs and all the other initiatives, such as the first-ever health radio show I did last year with Nicky Byrne, I stand proud. As I write this, I sit proud.
But you know what, we aren't done yet. I'm not done yet. We have a nation that needs our help to get fit, to get healthy. This is the show that will lead the nation to a healthier life, but we need the five brave leaders to do this. There are people all over Ireland who you know, who I know, who are unhealthy and unfit, who can't do it on their own. This column today is my call-out to you. Get in touch with the show on www.rte.ie/ot and know that you helped trigger the change in their lives and the health of the nation who'll follow them.