When fighting fat is no joke for comedian Karl Spain

Karl Spain enjoys scones and coffee but want to improve his eating habits.


Karl Spain is hoping to be the “biggest loser” on Celebrity Operation Transformation. David Raleigh finds out why the battle against the flab is no joke for the Limerick funny man. 

IT’S an awkward enough topic to approach, but here we are, two men sitting down together, one asking the other about his flabby bits.

I order coffee from the waiter and Karl Spain orders coffee, and a fruit scone.

The golden bun arrives at our table with a tub of raspberry jam and a pot of cream.

Karl doesn’t like cream, but he can’t ignore the jam, and he lovingly spreads it over his afternoon snack. Yum!

“Treats” have always been his downfall, Karl admits.

He’s “20 something stone”, and he knows it’s time to shed the pounds.

“I’ve only had porridge today so far,” he offers, as we chat in the restaurant of the Limerick Strand Hotel.

“I have porridge every morning. It’s after that that things start to go wrong,” Karl jokes.

The well-known comedian, who hails from Corbally, in the Treaty City, is one of five well-known faces, revealed as leaders, for the first ever RTÉ series of Celebrity Operation Transformation.

The three one-hour shows, presented by Kathryn Thomas, will weigh into our homes, every Wednesday night, from September 7.

Joining Karl, who promises to wear Lycra on the COT scales, will be fellow comedienne Katherine Lynch; solicitor Gerald Kean; TV3 Midday presenter Elaine Crowley; and veteran RTÉ Radio 1 reporter Brenda Donohue.

Karl’s plan to prepare for his new diet and exercise regime, has been to “run a lap of honour” around his favourite food stops, so he can “say goodbye” to all those treats.

“I think I’ve put on weight since I said I’d do this,” he scoffs, as he tucks into his second coffee, adding, “my reputation for scones is out there.”

But, joking aside, Karl, aged 44, acknowledges the offer to appear on the show, was the “kick in the arse” he needs.

Standing an average 5 ft 10”, and weighing over at 20 stone, is a problem, Karl admits.

“It’s one thing you can’t can’t lie about — your weight.” he says.

At first, he jokes about accepting the offer to appear on the show: “It’s basically someone saying to you, ‘Hi, we think you’re fat’. For a joke, I actually told them I had lost all the weight recently and that I’d be too thin for the show.”

Despite his belly-aching one liners, Karl says he honestly hopes the show will change his life, for the better.

“Seriously though, it was probably an awkward enough phone call for the show’s researcher to make. I am overweight,” he confesses.

Karl explains he simply is happiest when he is snacking or “treating myself”.

His downfall, he says, comes when the “sweets, chocolate, and biscuits” come knocking.

His rising career as a stand up comic, means he works a lot at night, usually at social gatherings, where others are letting their hair down.

It’s then the night terrors appear, and the temptation to have stodgy food at 1am, after a gig, are hard to resist.

“There are days I actually forget to eat. I’ll be all go, go, go, and then I’ll realise I didn’t eat since breakfast, and it’s late.

“I might get a taco chip, and then I might get a kebab as well,” he says.

Karl’s weight problem started in his teenage years. 

He was managing a restaurant aged 19, “and that’s where it developed”.

He says the usual tell-tale signs began appearing... loosening his waist belt another notch, and, he was putting the pounds back on as quickly as he would loose them in the gym.

“My weight has fluctuated a lot. I think the worst thing for me was getting a car — I had been heavy before that, but then I realised, driving everywhere meant I wasn’t getting any exercise at all.”

Karl says has previously lost excess weight, but keeping it off has been a huge mountain to climb.

He admits he has constantly fooled himself into thinking he has got it licked every time: “I used to call it ‘the purges’ — and for a while I’d purge myself and tell myself, ‘I’m having no more sweets, no more biscuits’, and I’d feel so great.

“But then, I’d go and treat myself, and I’d slowly fall back into my bad habits.”

Karl says he rarely drinks alcohol, and has recently undergone a cooking course — two good habits he hopes will arm him as he prepares for his biggest and most public battle against his weight.

“I haven’t a specific target weight loss.

“Looking at the other contestants I think I’ve more to lose. I know rapid weight loss wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing. I think if I’m approaching loosing a stone, I’ll be very happy, and then I’ll try and continue it.”

Karl adds: “But, even more than losing weight, I’m hoping it’s going to be a lifestyle change. I’m hoping I can get to the point where, if I do feel the urge to eat a kebab, or a slice of cake, that it doesn’t become my unraveling factor, which it has been.”

He’s a clear winner in the jokes department, but appearing on the COT stage, he’s hoping to be “the biggest loser”.

The Operation Transformation team want to hear from groups, workplaces and communities across the country who are hosting special events to promote health and fitness events in September.

Contact the Operation Transform team at ot@rte.ie

Viewers of the Celebrity Operation Transform show can track each of the five celebrities’ journey online, as well as following their eating and exercise plans at www.rte.ie/ot


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