Operation Transformation's Dr Eddie Murphy: Our leaders are getting to grips with real life changes

Operation Transformation psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy's weekly column

Dr Eddie Murphy

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Dr Eddie Murphy

Operation Transformation's Dr Eddie Murphy: Our leaders are getting to grips with real life changes

Leaders Mary Diamond, Wayne O'Donnell ,Felicity Moroney, presenter Kathryn Thomas, David Cryan, Sarah O'Callaghan

We had an amazing day in Croke Park with our community champions on January 6. This was a training day for those people up and down the country who take Operation Transformation off the screens and onto the street of Ireland.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar turned up, and with partners including Healthy Ireland and the Sports Council, we all championed the three pillars of health and wellbeing, starting with simple, small steps. These three pillars include:

* Eating more healthily

* Being more active

* Minding our mental wellbeing

As a psychologist, I am glad to see that our mental health and wellbeing is now on a firm footing and of equal status in conversations about our health and wellbeing. We are coming out of the dark where mental health is concerned.

And they're off in this year's Operation Transformation!

We had our first weigh-in on the show last week, and there was great excitement and incredible nerves. It feels like the New Year is starting in earnest, and this is always a good time to make a start on a changed lifestyle.

Week by week we get to know the leaders more and more. As we do, we get to understand the challenges that they experience are ones that we all contend with — mainly centring around how to manage all of the demands of family/work life and make still make healthy choices in life.

Here is my assessment of how this year’s leaders got on during their first week of the Operation Transformation programme.

Sarah O’ Callaghan; Age: 27; Location: Ballinagh, Co Cavan

Sarah has shown us the role that support plays when you are confronted with adversity in your life. Her husband, father and mother all rallied around to keep Sarah going during her cancer journey.

She self-soothed with food and as a result as her weight went up her confidence went down during this period. Now, with her second chance at life, Sarah wants to place health as her number one goal.

For a young woman, her social life is absent. What’s very important is the role that food will play in prevention strategies for future cancer for Sarah. Her old ‘high sugar, high salt, high fats’ hits are going to be replaced with healthy fruit and vegetables.

David Cryan; Age: 38; Location: Dublin via Tulsk, Roscommon

Many would call David a fine, strapping fellow. That’s how our filters have shifted over the years, and we see obesity and being overweight almost as normal, given that 70% of the Irish population are in this category.

All you have to do is look photographs of our parents when they were younger and see what ‘normal’ weight is. David is the classic carer. He was drawn to the Gardaí always as he wanted to help others.

He is the main provider to his young family at the moment. He doesn’t want to let anyone down. I know he won’t. There is stress and pressure when it comes to David’s life. In fact, he has had chest pain which he ignore .

Tackling stress is a key task for David. To do this David needs to put himself first.

Mary Diamond; Age: 52; Location: Kiltimagh, Co Mayo

I had great fun walking with Mary for the nationwide walk in Kiltimagh, Co Mayo. What we learned about Mary is that she engages in ‘Mindless Eating, Emotional Eating and Secret Eating’. This triple whammy is her Achilles heel.

Different tools are required for each of these, but first of all it is important to raise the conscious awareness as to what’s happening so that you are not engaging in these behaviors .

Mary is a chocaholic ! During this OT period, the sales of chocolate are going to dramatically fall in Mayo.

She is not in a happy place, normally confident she has become socially withdrawn as she is disgusted in her body image. She had put on a stone each decade. She was 8stone when she got married, now she is over 12 stone!

READ MORE DR EDDIE: Fulfill new year's resolutions on Operation Transformation

Wayne O’Donnell; Age: 29; Location: Mallow, Co Cork

Wayne’s trigger to apply for Operation Transformation was a recent photograph where his size confronted him and he asked ‘how big I have become?’. He stopped sports due to serious elbow injury three years ago, but fear has played a significant role in this particularly avoidance.

Remember avoidance will always strengthen your fear muscle. Wayne says he “wants to get back to the old Wayne”. I don’t think that’s a great idea as he needs to grasp a lot of new skills to be healthier for all of his life.

If weight loss is 75% food and 25% physical activity, then when he would have stopped sports this weight gain would have been inevitable. You can’t out train a bad diet!

Men find it hard to get this message, hence so many former sportsmen putting up weight when they stop playing.

Felicity Moroney; Age: 30; Location: Artane, Co Dublin

I was putting myself into Felicity’s shoes. Here she is standing in front of the nation and she experiences anxiety.

Now that is bravery. At 12 she lost the main anchor in her life, her mother. Cast adrift, she entered puberty (in psychology this is a particularly vulnerable time for children if traumatic events happen ), and went from national to secondary school, which are l all major transitions.

Felicity was triggered to start OT by her desire not to visit her poor food habits on her daughter. I was really struck when Felicity said she “hated cooking”. Well, there is a shock coming in store . It’s a critical skill and planning and preparation is the core skills to getting it right. Can she be converted? Let’s see. Hate is a powerful word/emotion!

Operation Transformation's Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychological and counselling service in Portarlington, Co Laois. He writes a weekly column for the Leinster Leader. If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or go to www.facebook.com/ dr.eddie.murphy.psychologist