Wednesday 21 March 2018

Life lessons with Dr Eva Orsmond: Live like it's your last day and plan like you will live forever

Dr Eva Orsmond. Picture: Douglas O'Connor
Dr Eva Orsmond. Picture: Douglas O'Connor
Close: Dr Eva Orsmond with husband Wyatt and friend Sharon Kenny.

Meadhbh McGrath

Best known for her tough love approach on Operation Transformation, Dr Eva Orsmond is a weight-loss specialist with four of her own clinics around the country.

Born in Helsinki, Finland, Eva completed her medical degree in Italy. After two years of training to become a plastic surgeon, she had a change of heart, and went on to pursue a degree in public health in Sweden.

She met her husband Wyatt, a geotechnical engineer, while on holiday in South Africa. After having children - Christofer (now 20) and Evan (18) - they moved to Ireland in 2000. A year later, Eva opened her first weight management clinic. Now living in Wicklow, she appeared on six seasons of Operation Transformation, and has created a number of one-off TV documentaries, most recently RTÉ's Sugar Crash, an investigation into our consumption of sugar. She also appears in the new series of The Restaurant on TV3.

I wanted to do medicine that actually sees a transformation. The biggest kick I get is when I see that transformation in my patients' health. When people change their lifestyle and lose weight, they're not only changing their physical appearance, they're changing their quality of life.

I tell my patients: "Live like it's your last day and plan like you will live forever." I'm still learning to follow this myself!

After I met my husband, we got ­married quite quickly and I was suddenly ­pregnant. We lived in Cape Town for five years, but I didn't feel safe with all the crime there. I was living in fear all the time. When a friend of my husband's got offered work as an engineer in Ireland, we decided we would go there too.

We didn't know anybody and nobody knew us, but Ireland has received us very well. I had been at home for five years so it was quite tough to go back to work, but the hospital staff at St Columcille's were absolutely brilliant in how they supported and helped me.

The Irish have such a kind ­mentality. They hate to say anything negative. In one way, I was surprised because in Finland, there isn't such a relaxed attitude. We say things exactly the way they are. I didn't learn the Irish mannerisms very quickly - I still haven't!

I do like watching myself on TV. It's important that you like yourself. I ask my patients, "Who is the most important person in your life?" Often, people say "my children" or "my husband", and I say, "wrong answer. It should be yourself." I hope I'm not narcissistic in a bad way, but I think I would be lying if I said I didn't like it when people recognise me.

Sugar Crash was a dream come true. I received hundreds of emails from people afterwards. I had one from someone saying: "Let's hope someone gets some sense in their head and appoints you Minister for Health!"

I met a lady who had given up sugar three years ago, and I said, "well done, I couldn't do that". I have my sweet tooth. I believe in balance, you don't have to be a fanatic about it, just be aware.

I'm an only child. I don't think I was spoilt, but I got a lot of attention. I was always expected to work hard. My boys tell me I was a nerd, but I just liked studying. When I look at my boys, I think they don't really have a clue what studying is about!

My mother was quite a glamorous lady and still is in her 70s. She liked fashion and she was always very conscious of her weight. When we ate at nice restaurants or over Christmas, we would have to lose the weight. I was 11 or 12 years old when I started to look at my weight.

We need to say things as they are. When I was 18, my mother visited me in France and the first thing she said was: "Thank God you are safe and healthy, but you have to go on a diet." I remember thinking she was so mean, but that is exactly what parents need to do, because who else is able to say to them that they need to lose weight?

I'm not a typical mother. I wanted to have children but I was never really a child-lover. I never thought I would have the patience. I brought them up more as my friends than my children.

My husband is away quite a bit for work. I found it difficult when the children were smaller, but when you've been married for 20 years, there are times when you're actually quite happy he is away! It keeps things fresh.

I've always been very independent. I think it's important if you want to keep a long marriage going that you have independent lives and interests outside the relationship, because otherwise things can go stale.

I don't particularly like to talk about age. My metabolic age is 34, and that's how it's going to stay. Whenever I go around with my boys, I tell people they are from my husband's first marriage. When people figure out they are actually my children, they are absolutely shocked, but my boys just think their mother has always been a little bit different!

People have a concept of women of a certain age. I really feel so young and fun-loving and want to get the most out of life, so I'd hate for anybody to put me in a box because of my age.

Since the boys have gotten a bit older, I've been enjoying my life so much more. When they were small, so much of my time was gone from being paranoid and looking after them. I remember the first three years of changing nappies, I thought, "this is never going to end".

At the moment, I would say I'm at the height of my career. I'm realistic enough to know there probably won't be anyone coming from Hollywood to offer me a movie role! I really wanted to be in Love/Hate, it was the best series I had ever seen and I'm totally in love with Nidge.

The Restaurant was a different type of show. I think it will show people a different side to Dr Eva - much more fun. I was worried I had too much fun, flirting with the cameramen and all that stuff!

Watch Dr Eva try her hand at cooking a three-course meal in a professional kitchen in 'The Restaurant' on Wednesday, February 17, at 9pm on TV3

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