Kathryn Thomas: 'I wasn't body confident - there were no full length bikini shots'
Looking at Kathryn Thomas on TV, immaculately clad in one of her tight-fitting dresses, it's hard to believe she once fought her own battle with weight.
The Operation Transformation host (37) says she has huge empathy with the show's team leaders and their gruelling weight loss journeys as she had her own issues as a teenager.
It was something she touched on during a recent visit to her old alma mater of St Leo's in Carlow, where she met the pupils as part of the show's It's Your Move fitness campaign.
"I was 13 or 14 and I stopped playing sport in secondary school, and it was for the same reason those girls in my old school were saying - how they don't like doing PE because they don't like getting smelly and sweaty in front of their friends," she says.
"And I remember I felt exactly the same back then, so riddled with angst. You don't have a lot of confidence at that age - there's a huge level of insecurity when you're a teenager.
"For me, I wasn't hugely overweight, but I felt I was carrying excess weight and I was not as confident as I could have been about my body.
"When I was 16, I started running and playing football and the weight fell off and with that came a good big dose of self-confidence."
Thomas nonetheless insists she carried a lack of self- confidence through to her early days on TV, when she presented travel show No Frontiers and regularly donned a bikini for a beach shoot.
"Even in the No Frontiers days, you would never see a full-length shot of me on the beach. I always had a sarong or some kind of cover-up," she says.
It's a different story now for Thomas, who's renowned for her love of fitness and is a big advocate of healthy living - but in moderation.
She's definitely no Dr Eva Orsmond when it comes to the evils of sugar, and she stops far short of coming across like a zealot when it comes to lifestyle choices.
She didn't even bother doing Dry January, the act of giving up alcohol for the month.
"My Achilles heel is dairy," says Thomas. "I'm a cheese freak. I love it with brown bread and crackers and a big glass of red wine. I tried to cut back on the cheese and just have it at the weekends.
"I'm also a bit of a chocoholic, but I try to make it dark chocolate. That's my treat, as opposed to eating a whole pack of Galaxy or Maltesers.
"I didn't do Dry January. I don't know if I agree with all that because I'm a big believer in everything in moderation and I don't know if I need to cut anything out completely."
She also takes work home with her, so to speak, given that she lives with restaurateur and chef Padraig McLoughlin in her south inner city home.
They'll have been dating three years this summer, and Thomas says the relationship is wonderful, despite her frustration at being constantly quizzed about when she's getting hitched.
"I'm happy out with him - when we get time to see each other as we're both running around like headless chickens at the moment," she says.
Their one bone of contention is the issue of calorie counting on menus, given that she's a big fan and Padraig is still resistant.
"While I'm for it, I'm not about scaring the s**t out of people," she says.
"I go out to dinner and I know that because I'm quite good during the week I'll have a starter, main course, dessert and a bottle of wine.
"I know that's a large calorie count, so I won't have a big lunch or I'll go for a run beforehand or get up and walk the dog the next day."
Her other half recently opened a new venue called Union 8 in Kilmainham and also runs Catch 22 on South Anne Street.
Thomas seems confident that he's "coming around to the idea" of putting calories on all the menu at both places.
Continuing her interest in fitness, she opened a bootcamp on the west Cork island of Inish Beg last year.
Called Pure Results, it is "going great", she says.
"It's something that I concentrate on in the summer months, but it looks like April is booked out already and we're running right through until September.
This year's Operation Transformation has also been getting a thumbs-up from Irish TV viewers. Its audience share is up 7pc on last year, with 482,700 people tuning in each week.
It's not all get-fit. Thomas is also gearing up for the start of the live auditions of The Voice of Ireland, which she co-presents with Eoghan McDermott.
Does RTE's golden girl ever sleep? She freely admits that she "certainly doesn't like being bored", but is planning on taking a week off in the coming months to just chill out.
She has also had to develop a tough skin over the years, thanks to being in the public eye and also an active tweeter.
"The power of Twitter is amazing. Take something like Cervical Cancer Week, you can re-tweet something about it and instantly reach over 60,000 people. For me it's more of an information tool than anything else," she says.
"I keep saying to myself that I need to be more active and post more on Twitter. I thought I fell off the wagon a bit. I prefer it to Facebook, where it feels like you spend way too long stalking your friends from 100 years ago,"
How does she manage to keep her cool when the notorious Twitter trolls raise their heads?
"I get a bit of negativity, but nothing that I would ever let get to me because people are going to like what you do and you're not going to last in this game if you try to make everyone like you."
Operation Transformation is on RTE One on Wednesday at 8.30pm