This month, thousands of Irish telly watchers settled in to watch the new season of Operation Transformation, a show dedicated to following the weight loss journey of contestants and motivating Irish people to transform their bodies and minds.
The programme has been a ratings hit with RTE for many years, and is even sponsored by the Department of Health. But not everyone is happy about the return of the show, with many expressing concern about the damaging effect they believe the show may have on both contestants and viewers of the show alike. An episode that aired last night has particularly raised questions.
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While RTE have maintained that Operation Transformation has evolved with research over the years and takes a well rounded approach to achieving a healthy lifestyle, an episode this week that showed a woman weighing a piece of Toblerone chocolate has raised eyebrows. And it’s not the first time people have been left with a bad taste from the show.
The programme has been brought to the attention of the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, Bodywhys, who say that they have received ‘a great deal of correspondence and concerns, which we share, regarding the programme’, and that many who got in touch with the organisation said that they found the content on the show triggering.
Bodywhys further explored the nature of the show, saying that they found the dieting culture on the show to be unsustainable, and that they have requested a more ‘inclusive’ approach from the team over at RTE. However, not everyone is happy with the show simply making adjustments, with a number of the population urging for it to be cancelled altogether.
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A petition set up to decommission the show on Uplift has almost reached its goal of 10,000 signatures, while another on Change.org has roughly 5,500 at the time of writing. Both petitions state that the show perpetuates ‘disordered eating’ and ‘weight stigma’. On social media, users have engaged in a debate over the show’s content, with some people blaming the backlash on ‘woke culture’ and saying they find the show inspiring, while others beg people to be cautious about entertaining it.
One twitter user wrote; “I think this narrative of #OperationTransformation being damaging is madness. It is educating people on healthy eating and exercising” while another asked parents not to watch the show with their children, for fear of negatively impacting their body image.
A representative from RTE said that the studio has received no formal complaints about the show, but the ‘End Diet Culture Ireland’ campaign claims that nine previous Operation Transformation ‘leaders’ have reached out to them to share that they didn’t find their time on the show to be a positive experience. In the meantime, the programme continues to air on RTE1, with presenter Katherine Thomas at the forefront, and five Irish contestants working through their weight loss journey in front of the nation.
As for whether the online debate will change anything, time will tell.
Words: Aoife Cody Kane