Karl Henry: The state of a nation
Every now and then a television show captures the zeitgeist, and right now it's 'Operation Transformation'. Here the trainer outlines what the show has done for the nation, and how we can build on it for a healthier future
Last Wednesday saw the very first 'Celebrity Operation Transformation' on RTE2. Five brave famous souls took on the challenge to change their lives. And above anything, what we saw last week is that the celebrities are just like everyone else, with real struggles and a desire for change.
By taking the tools on board, making the changes and applying themselves, the results were significant to say the least. But when watching the show and reading the coverage that has been in the newspapers over the last few weeks, it struck me just how important a role 'OT' has in improving the health of the country.
It has become a movement of health, a juggernaut that mobilises the nation, gets people looking at what they eat and how they move.
A television show has become a crucial component of addressing the health of the nation. That got me thinking, what have people actually taken from the show and what can they take in future? Here's what I came up with:
1. Getting healthy and losing weight takes effort: If nothing else, the show proves that to lose weight it takes hard work, effort and time. It is no quick fix but instead promotes cooking meals and exercising, both in cardiovascular and resistance forms.
2. Ireland has an appetite for health: The viewing figures show that as a nation, we want to get healthier. We want to know how and we want to be led. Making health accessible and packaging it well means people follow. I think it's a lesson to any government health body in how to sell well-being - make it exciting, simple, free and relevant and they will come!
3. The importance of a goal: Without a specific goal, it's extremely hard to get healthy and change your habits. A goal is probably one of the most crucial components, and on the show we use several, from weight and other body health markers. To be honest, it doesn't matter what your goal is, once it's strong enough to get you through the motivational lulls that always come with change.
4. Not everyone loves the lycra: Here's the thing - tight gym gear has a crucial function that there is no other way to achieve. It shows the public the body shape of each leader. By seeing this body shape, the public can choose which leader looks like them and also they can see exactly what is changing each week as the results happen. It's a powerful visual indicator of change, no more and no less.
5. Ireland really doesn't cook enough: This year on the celebrity version we have seen the struggle each leader is having with cooking, something that Ireland as a whole isn't doing enough of and something many don't know how to do. It's a basic life skill that needs to be reintroduced. There is such a huge difference between food you prepare yourself and food you buy that's prepared.
6. The power of community: Walking, running, weighing, working out, it's all better in numbers, and I love that people all around Ireland take part, getting healthy together and changing lives. When middle-aged men in a pub in rural Ireland start their own weigh-in club, you know that the show is making a difference in local communities.
7. Weight loss isn't an exact science: Every year the show is filmed a few days behind, so we don't know what is going to happen from one week to the next. Weight loss isn't always predictible, we set targets that we feel each leader can achieve, but sometimes it doesn't happen like that. As a panel, we apply our expertise and show the public just what they need to if they are having a problem like the leader is.
8. We drink too much: As a nation, we have a skewed relationship with alcohol, which isn't good for our health or waistlines, as it's liquid calories that people forget about. The answer is not an all or nothing approach, but one of balance.
9. Measure your waistline: We know that high waistlines place you at a high risk of several conditions; take a tape measure, place it round your waist and meet at the bellybutton.
10. You're never too old: Not only are the leaders different ages, but the camera footage from the communities around Ireland show people of every single age group getting involved and it's such an important message. Never, ever let age hold you back.