There was loud praise when X-Factor singer Mary Byrne faced her fears of heights on Celebrity Operation Transformation and abseiled down the side of a tall building in Dublin to raise money for the children’s charity Make-A-Wish. But behind the scenes it was a different story.
“I was standing on that building for a half an hour holding onto the bars, crying my heart out,” she says.
Then she remembered why she was there in the first place and the cold terror receded.
“I said to myself if I don’t abseil down this now I’m going to let down so many children who suffer much more than I’ll ever suffer and I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”
And so, trusting the ropes and pulley to do hold up their end of the bargain, she went over the edge.
“When I was moving down, I could hear the people shouting ‘Mary, Mary, Mary’. I burst into tears and I said to myself ‘oh my god this is fabulous’. I’m very, very proud of myself. I had to face the fear of heights and I did it,” says the Ballyfermot mother of one.
With just four weeks to get into shape, there is no let-up: “I haven’t had a second to myself. Never mind trying to keep to the plan they have given us for food and exercise.”
But the hard graft is paying off — her weight is dropping and she has a new spring in her step. “I’m out walking in the fields and I’m doing more exercise — my mind is clearer than it ever was and my body is feeling a little bit better than it ever did.”
Celebrity Operation Transformation, RTÉ One, Wednesdays, 9.35pm
What shape are you in?
At the moment, I’m not in the best of shape but I’m getting better. I do about 20-30 minutes of cardio and also go for 45-minute walks every day.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
A bowl of porridge with nothing on it only milk. I have a good lunch — a tuna salad or two slices of good brown bread with turkey and tomato or salmon. For snacks, you can have cracker breads with peanut butter. Also, you can have carrot sticks and hummus — I would have never tried that before. Your evening meal can be a pork chop or steak or a stir-fry with steak or spaghetti bolognese with whole wheat pasta.
What are your guiltiest pleasures?
It’s seldom that I go to the pictures but when I go I will have a bar of Aero, a packet of Tayto crisps, a packet of Manhattan popcorn, a small bag of sweets, a bottle of coke.
How do you relax?
If it’s not listening to music, I’m normally on the PlayStation. I play an old game called Jak and Daxter —where a guy and this animal friend are saving the world.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
To have a good laugh — Alan Hughes. And if you want someone who inspires me you can just bring Tom Jones in. Then there’s Elaine Crowley — she just says her mind and she makes me laugh and always makes me feel good about myself.
What’s your favourite smell?
Red Door by by Elizabeth Arden.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
I’d like to be slimmer and just feel better about myself. I wouldn’t mind a bit of a nip and a tuck around the face. When you’re losing weight the old wrinkles show up a bit more.
When is the last time you cried?
Yesterday. I was talking on the show about my mother and I was shown a beautiful vase that she had bought — a very cheap one, I might say — but I kept it when she died. I was explaining about the vase and I just burst into tears.
What traits do you least like in others?
Poor manners. And people who think they are better than other people just does my head in. It costs nothing to be nice and to be kind to your fellow man.
What traits do you least like about yourself?
My weight. I also have a tendency to be a hoarder of sorts. I’ve clothes in bags and it’s so hard to get the energy to throw them out.
Do you pray?
I pray every night and I pray for everyone in the world, all my family, my daughter. I have a statue of the head of Christ on my mantelpiece — I always say good morning to him and ask him to bless me through the day.
What would cheer up your day?
Lots of things. Having my daughter with me. If I’m feeling low I’ll take out an old Hollywood musical DVD with Gene Kelly and Judy Garland and I would just go into another world. They were in For Me and My Gal. I just love him.
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