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Dieting for the Leaving? That's plain daft, Kathryn

KATHRYN Thomas is back in the papers and, whatever about all the publicity surrounding Grainne Seoige, 2011 is surely her year.

Set to present RTE's headline show for the autumn/winter schedule -- The Voice of Ireland -- Kathryn is also the main presenter on the hugely successful, and hugely worthy, Operation Transformation.

So the sight of Carlow's finest clutching a bunch of grapes and a lettuce leaf can only mean one thing -- Op Trans is back, and its slimmer and fitter than ever.


The focus this year is to combat obesity, not just for the sake of losing weight, but to highlight the many life benefits that come with being in shape.

Namely higher self-esteem, a better sex life, and in all likelihood a saving to the taxpayer by not being a drain on the HSE when you're older.

But one particular comment of Kathryn's jumped out, and hinted at a disturbing new development in the programme.

"We are working on a campaign," says Kathryn, "that would involves getting points on your Leaving Cert if you get to 17 or 18 and you have a certain level of fitness."

So let me get this right. The plan is to introduce some kind of test which will award extra Leaving Cert points, and therefore improve your chances of going on to further education and secure employment, to students who are, for want of a better word, fit?

Which means, by extension, that teenagers who do not live up to whatever standard prevails will be punished.

Now it's one thing to chastise adults, who should know better, and have the independence and financial means to keep fit, for being overweight.

And it's a argument that I'm not afraid to indulge in, as you will see below.

But picking on teenagers? As the publisher of KISS, the magazine for teenage girls, I am very much aware of the peer pressure exerted on young girls in Ireland to conform to a certain ideal, and how this leads to feelings of guilt, resentment and low self-esteem.

And the idea of institutionalising weight, body shape, fitness... whatever you want to call it, is a truly bizarre development.

You'd have thought that Irish school children were under enough pressure to get good grades by performing academically, without also judging them by their waistline.


The educational system's obsession with As and Bs is worrying enough, without them also demanding size 8 and 10s...

Rather than getting on the children's backs, Operation Transformation should be targeting adults, parents, and people in authority, both in terms of getting their own lives into shape, and passing on sensible dietary and fitness habits to those in their care.

And Minister for Health James Reilly would be as good a place to start as any...