One thing this year’s Operation Transformation fan-favourite would like to point out is that the programme is about a lot more than numbers on a scale.
"I didn't lose as much weight as I would have loved to,” says Susuana Komolafe.
“I had to step back and tell myself that this is meant to be a joyful experience and a platform for me to acquire as much knowledge as I can. It’s more than just losing weight and numbers or being on the TV.”
Komolafe is originally from Lagos, Nigeria and before she moved to Cavan with her two children 18 years ago she was a size eight and an active walker. The cold weather in Ireland deterred her from exercising and over time, she began to notice that her fitness level wasn’t where she wanted it to be.
"I came across that they were looking for people on the programme and I was interested because I've always talked about how I wanted to lose my belly. I saw it as an opportunity to be a part of something and achieve something," she says.
The application process was time-consuming and Susuana felt discouraged after she applied for last year’s season and failed to make it on to the show.
She is not the biggest fan of filling in forms.
“You really have to want it to keep going. You can easily just give up and say it's too much. If I'm applying for a job and I have to fill out a form, I'll leave it, I won't bother,” she says, laughing.
“But something just made me go ahead and say ‘Give it a go and see what happens,' and luckily I was called. To represent an African on a mainstream forum and to be a part of that motivation, that gave me all the courage I needed to sit down and fill out the form."
Susuana received some backlash online last month after a weekly weigh-in showed she had gained half a pound. Going into the programme, the mum-of-two hadn’t planned on losing too much weight, just enough needed to be a healthy BMI for her stature. Though she was a bit disappointed, her greatest achievement, she says, has been changing her mindset.
“At that time I had zero fitness. So, this is going to get me back into that, like the way I was growing up. I wanted to be conscious of my level of fitness and to change my mindset. That's the most important thing in all of this," she says.
"For me to go out walking when there is rain, that is an achievement. I wouldn't do that before. The moment it was cold I wouldn't go anywhere. I'm a very positive person but even if you're positive, you need somebody to motivate you. My son said ‘This is a time for you, do this for yourself, not for any other person’."
Komolafe is very proud of her journey and is delighted to be the first African featured on the programme.
"This programme has been running for 14 seasons and this is the first time somebody from a different community is part of the programme. We've never had any Eastern European or someone from the Caribbean, or Africa, or Asia, or even within the Traveller community,” she says.
“This is really a true change for the programme. I'm hoping I can leave a footprint so that people want to be part of it and watch it even more and that the food plan will showcase different cultures and reflect that change in society.
“I'm really proud of myself to be the first person creating that and doing that. My reverend sent me a card and said ‘We love you on the show, you've been really gracious', that is beautiful. Those are things you want to see and leave behind."
Though the journey hasn't been easy, Susuana is taking a lot away from her time with the team.
"It's been a challenging journey. It's been up and down. But the whole overall experience, the advantage you have with the likes of Karl to support you in terms of physical weight or Aoife with food and Dr Su. Those are the things I'm taking away from it,” she says.
Besides approaching food and exercise differently, Susuana is also paying closer attention to her health, particularly her blood pressure.
"When I started the programme I took my blood pressure and it was 200/120. I've never had that kind of blood pressure in my life. I didn’t know it was as high as that. Some people would have died or had a stroke,” she says.
“I’m alive to talk about it and tell the whole world to be cautious. The moment you start feeling a little unfit, Don’t throw it aside, get your blood pressure checked."
Susuana also says that she would urge anyone interested in taking part in the programme to apply.
"It was worth every moment of it. Experience is the best teacher in life. I would encourage everyone to give it a go. All you can do is just fill in the form and give it a try,” she says.
“It’s a life-changing experience. It’s now up to us individually the way we go out there and explore and utilize the advantage of being part of it but I’m never going to go back to where I was when I started.”
- Watch Operation Transformation on RTÉ One tonight at 9.35pm