Nights In

“this journey isn’t just about losing weight”

Every year Operation Transformation focuses on five leaders who are overweight and willing to change that. The viewers at home are encouraged to chose one leader to follow. 
Recipes and fitness and lifestyle tips are provided throughout the show with the help of experts such as dietician Aoife Hearne and fitness expert Karl Henry. 
Similar to previous years, the leaders range from young to old, and slightly overweight to obese, so that almost every viewer will find someone to relate to. 
However, just minutes into the first episode Katherine Thomas explains that, “this journey isn’t just about losing weight.” 
This year many viewers may have been surprised about how much they could relate to the leaders, with many of them sharing personal and heartfelt stories of grief.
The shows first episode of the year began with the story of 24 year old Lucy Dillon who weighs 16st 13.5lbs. The mum of one explains that her own mother died from lung cancer at just 54 and that, despite treatment, “it just took her away”.
She said: “I just miss the bond and her texting me every ten minutes of the day to see where I am, or her writing stupid stuff on Facebook, making a show of me or putting up pictures. I just miss her.”  
During Dillon’s first weigh-in, clinical psychologist Dr.Eddie Murphy discusses how the loss needed to be addressed, saying: 
“One of the areas that we’re going to need to look at is that whole area of bypassing that death of your mum, we need to go back there a little bit to really help you move on so that you don’t get stuck again.”
After the leader began to get upset, Murphy said: “To get over grief you have to go through grief and go all the way in and go all the way out. You’re not going to do that on your own, you’re going to be supported in that process. People say time heals, but you’re a good example that time doesn’t heal, it’s what you do with the time that heals.” 
The third leader to be revealed on the show was 47-year-old John Conmy who sobbed in the circle of truth as he explained that his parents had both died while he was in his early 20s. 
“My mum was only 47, from cancer, and Dad was 58 with a brain haemorrhage, they died three years apart. I had an 11-year-old brother and a 13-year-old brother.” 
The Mayo man, who weighs over 22 stone, shared the story of how he took on the role of a parent after losing his own.
His wife went on to say: “When they passed away and he was looking after the two lads, he was running away from the problem, he was running away from that. He had to mourn himself and I actually think he’s still running and that’s why the weight has just increased to what it has increased to, and his health got as bad as it has.” 
On the shows second episode the final two leaders were revealed, one of whom shared her own tragic story of loss. Clare Scanlon spoke painfully about her son’s sudden death at the age of 15. 
The mum, who has two other children, explained how she went to wake her son Darra for school only to find he had passed away during the night from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. 
Scanlon said: “The impact of that, no-one gives you a manual for it or no-one can understand it unless it has happened to them.” 
She continued: “The emptiness you feel is with you all the time, it impacts everything.” 
During her weigh-in Dr. Murphy said: “You are in survival mode, it’s the greatest fear that any parent could have and you’ve experienced this massive traumatic grief and it’s about giving yourself permission to move into thriving mode. It’s about how you live a life with compassion for yourself.”
With so much grief and feeling of loss among the leaders, it seems this year that the show will have to focus on more than just diet and exercise to get the leaders to where they want to be.
The loss suffered by the leaders was very much acknowledged by the team of experts. While it may not have been wholly intended, the show took a big step in looking at mental health and how grief may affect other aspects of one’s lifestyle. 
While Dr. Eddie Murphy has long featured on the show it seems that this year his role on the team could be the most important for many of its participants.
Photo: Operation Transformation leader Clare Scanlon