'You’d be aware of people sniggering and laughing' - Operation Transformation leader Cathal
Operation Transformation leader Cathal Gallagher was the biggest loser on the show this week, shedding a massive 16 pounds.
The paramedic, who piled on the weight after a house fire forced his family into rented accommodation and left him dealing with banks and insurance companies, says he’s thrilled with the results.
Now into week two of the show, Cathal has become something of a household name, so much so that even the grocery shopping takes longer now.
“One morning this week I had a lot on and I couldn’t get the shopping done because so many people want to talk to you when you go to the supermarket.”
“Little old women who I barely know are all over to me and practically wanting my autograph.”
On Friday, Limerick woman Trisha Lewis, who is close to achieving her personal goal of losing 100 pounds, told the Late Late show of the hurtful comments people would make when she was morbidly obese.
Cathal agrees that he too has seen people staring at him, and “sniggering” and “laughing” because of his weight.
“People would have stared. When I was over in Poland, we went swimming every second day, and I’d be going into the pool... and I’d see women pulling their children away from me. The sniggering would start. And it’s not just Poland. I wouldn’t have been in the pool here this last couple of years. You’d be aware of people sniggering and laughing.”
He added: “People would steer clear of me on the bus, people wouldn’t want to sit beside me.”
The affable Donegal man says he feels lucky to be on the show, because his wife Agi applied on his behalf. The show's producers have never accepted a third party application before.
Agi was so desperate for him to overhaul his lifestyle that last summer they mutually decided that she’d move to Poland to give him some time to focus on his health.
“We took a bit of time out, she went back to Poland, to see was I going to do something about the issues that I have. But for the four months, I didn’t put a pot or pan on the cooker at all. It was delis and takeaways, and with the good weather there were barbecues and wine.”
Often, his unhealthy lifestyle Cathal was the cause of friction in their household, Cathal says.
“The eyes would be rolling and she’d be giving out to me: ‘look at the s*** you’re eating. That’s crap food’. It would be takeaways, chinese and pizzas. I could write book in excuses, there were always reasons to celebrate, celebrate something that happened in work or celebrate something else.”
“It caused conflict in the house. I had my head stuck in the sand. I now realise my wife had major concerns about my health. I was a cardiac arrest waiting to happen.”
He added: “She had given up asking me to do something about myself.”
“When I went over to Poland to bring Agi and Maja back, she may have been happy to see me but she certainly wasn’t happy to see so much of me. She thought I’d have been able to take control. But with them being away, I was further depressed, I had low self-esteem, and I remember thinking well if I drink this tonight, maybe I’ll die in my sleep.”
Cathal says he’ll never return to the weight he was at when he started Operation Transformation and is ready to spend much of this year getting his health back. His confidence is back, he says.
“I had lost weight about four and a half years ago, and then we had a house fire, and I was dealing with banks and insurance companies, and that is not the easiest on the best day. The stress increased so much that I went back smoking and comfort eating."
"I had to rent a house. We were knocked out of our routine as such. And I find when I’m knocked out of my routine, I go for comfort food to make me feel better. And then the next morn, you ask yourself ‘why did I do that?’ It’s the rush of sugar to the blood that gives the high.”
“Myself and my wife we’d been trying to get pregnant and that was another stressor. Now we have our beautiful wee girl Maja."
Cathal says there’s now fun and laughter back in his household, and when little Maja jumps on the resistance trainer with him, the whole family is laughing along.
And seeing people travel from all over the country to take part in a walk with him in Ballyshannon was a massive boost to his confidence.
"A couple came over to me at the start, and the man said ‘you don’t know me but everything you said, every part of it and I could tell you about it. So much so that I got in the car in Dublin and I’m here to walk with you.”
“Another couple came from Belfast, another came from Longford... I’m over the moon that I’m inspiring other people.”
“You can feel it in the air, people in the northwest here are walking around with smiles.”