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‘You bottled it’: Last night’s Operation Transformation scolding was uncomfortable and unnecessary

by Erin Lindsay
06th Feb 2020

Weight-loss show Operation Transformation came under fire last night for its treatment of one leader

I am, in general, a big fan of Operation Transformation. I like everything the show stands for — slow, sustainable weight loss, healthy eating and exercise as a lifestyle, not as a lose-weight-quick scheme, the presence of a GP and a psychologist to look after all your needs, not just physical and nutritional. I really think it’s one of the most progressive weight -oss programmes ever made. So when an episode comes along to prove me wrong, it really disappoints.

Cork-native Tanya Carroll has a story that many women can relate to. The 33-year-old lives with her partner, Mark and four children in Glanmire. She said at the start of the series that she has struggled with her weight since her first pregnancy as a teenager, and since giving up smoking last year, her weight has crept up more and more.

Tanya has not had a social night out in over a year, because of her feelings about her weight. Friends described how she refused to leave the house during the day, because she was convinced people were staring and making comments about her weight. Mark has expressed his sadness throughout the series at this, and that he misses just having a companion to wander the town with.

Hard work

Over the course of the series so far, Tanya has kicked her Coca-Cola addiction, lost weight, and, most importantly, regained some confidence in how she looks. Mark felt the time was right this week to celebrate, and arranged a hotel night away, including dinner and drinks, as a gift to Tanya.

Before the date, Mark consulted the show’s dietitian Aoife Hearne on whether they could have a drink to celebrate. Aoife advised that having one glass of prosecco wouldn’t do any harm. Tanya ended up having three, was a little worse for wear the morning after, but still exceeded her weight loss target for the week.

Hardly seems like a big deal — if the aim of Operation Transformation is to equip the leaders with the tools for a lifestyle change, then that hardly means restricting yourself at every turn. It means a plan that allows for indulgence every now and then, and changes that are sustainable over a lifetime, not just eight weeks.

To the team of experts though, this wasn’t the prevailing attitude. Both trainer Karl Henry and dietitian Aoife Hearne did not hold back at Tanya’s weigh-in, and their feedback on what, overall, seemed to be a successful week for Tanya, came across more like the scolding of a bold child than speaking to another adult on their level.

A school scolding

Language like “the cost of your night out”, “you couldn’t keep to the plan”, “I watched in disbelief” and “you bottled it” were all thrown Tanya’s way, as the two experts berated her for not sticking rigidly to her plan for the week. The only expert who defended Tanya was psychologist Eddie Murphy, who asked the others to lighten up.

A weight-loss programme in 2020 needs to be something very different from what we’ve seen before. The idea that viewers want to tune in and see a person cry over being heavier than other people, and shed the pounds until they fit a societal expectation of beauty, isn’t exactly where we want to be at this point in entertainment history. The departure from this idea is what, up until now, Operation Transformation has done so well. The weight loss, while a goal each week, is not framed as the be-all and end-all — the goal is sustainable, long-term health and fitness, in both body and mind.

Big step forward

The fact that Tanya took a massive step forward in terms of her mental wellbeing and confidence this week and it was ignored, and even punished, is sickening. What must a viewer, who, like Tanya, struggles with their body image, feel when they watch that? That they can never have a drink on a night out lest they are judged as not caring about their health? That they can never indulge for one night, even if they get right back on track the morning after? That even if they work hard to reach their goals for their health and fitness, that that hard work can’t ever be celebrated?

Watching Tanya be given out to as if she was a petulant child was uncomfortable. I found myself physically worried for her — what if this criticism was enough to send her completely off-track? Or to make her feel humiliated on national TV? Thankfully, Tanya had an air of quiet indifference about her — when asked, she said she didn’t regret the night she had and was happy that it had happened. I hope she keeps this attitude up throughout the rest of the series – getting a scolding is something you’d rather leave at school.

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