RTÉ’sis back — and with a new look. The show has shed its usual weighing scales logo, opting for the letters ‘OT’.
Other changes for 2023 include the addition of dietitian Sophie Pratt, who replaces Aoife Hearne. Pratt will work alongside Dr Sumi Dunne, clinical psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy and fitness expert Karl Henry for the 16th season.
This year, the show is based in Stradbally, Co Laois, and it’s not long before we are introduced to our first leader who we are told is never far from a football — Stephanie Bowden.
Having her first-born Jack was like “winning the World Cup” but after his very brisk entry into the world, Stephanie’s heartbeat became irregular, and she admits she feared for her life.
“From that moment, I never ran. I barely walked,” she says. “I was so afraid that if I moved or stressed my heart in any way, I would have a heart attack.”
Now, the mother of two is ready to fight that fear. With those encouraging words in mind, we are whisked off to Longford to meet the determined Thomas Hynes, who is one-half of a great love story.
It took 20 years and a move to Melbourne for the 50-year-old to be back in his hometown with his childhood sweetheart, Eileen. But following a heart attack five years ago, Thomas realised something had to change if he wanted to be around for his family.
In a change of pace, presenter Kathryn Thomas runs around a residential area in Tipperary as we see her pay a surprise visit to our next leader.
An excited and emotional 32-year-old Marie Clear answers the door. Marie was born with the genetic condition achondroplasia.
“If I don’t change, my independence will be taken away from me,” she tells psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy.
In Wexford, our fourth leader is Lorraine Dempsey, a mother of three and a primary school principal. We soon get the impression that Lorraine is used to looking after everyone else, and now, it’s time to do something for herself.
Summing up her mother, daughter Katie says: “The best thing about my mam would be the way she just looks out for everybody.”
Next, it's on to 38-year-old Wicklow native Andrea Daly who Murphy says is “going to be one of the most profound leaders for people” this year. And it's easy to see why.
“I wouldn’t be the person that I think people are looking for,” confesses our final leader in a heart-wrenching conversation with Murphy.
But there is a reason she is persevering — her son Dylan who was born in 2005. At three months, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and sadly passed away in January 2019.
If the first episode is anything to go by, we’re in for plenty of emotional ups and downs this season with five strong leaders who each bring their own moving story and goals. After this introduction, it's hard not to want to back them all on their journey instantly.
- Operation Transformation airs Wednesdays at 21:30 on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player