It’s a New Year and a new series of Operation Transformation. New presenter Kathryn Thomas talks to the RTÉ Guide’s Janice Butler about taking over the reigns from the late Gerry Ryan and about staying in shape.

It’s that time of year again – after throwing caution to the wind during the Christmas festivities, it’s time to slip on those runners, put away the tins of Roses and get back into shape. Thankfully, Operation Transformation is back to give this year’s leaders – and the rest of us – some guidance. Sadly, the show’s original host, Gerry Ryan, is no longer with us, but this year’s series is in safe hands with his friend and colleague, Kathryn Thomas.

Kathryn, along with the three experts: medical doctor, Dr Eva Orsmond, fitness expert, Karl Henry and clinical psychologist, Dr Eddie Murphy, join forces to help five chosen leaders transform their health and lifestyle. During the series, the five leaders will have to kick their bad food and exercise habits and re-style their wardrobes on TV, on radio and online! The lucky five will transform their lives by following a tough exercise regime, a weekly weigh in and by preparing a meal-by-meal diet plan for two months. They will need courage, determination and a major investment of effort to benefit from this fantastic opportunity to change their lives. Here, Kathryn talks about her own fitness regime and the challenge of filling some very big shoes.

Did you have any doubts when you were approached to present Operation Transformation?

I just felt so privileged – I was a fan of the show anyway, and to be honest I was slightly nervous and I needed a week to think about it because I knew there would be a lot of sensitivity around it. Gerry was a huge part of why the show is as successful as it is and he was the reason why I tuned in every week. He was always very supportive of my career and I knew he’d be delighted that I’ve been given the opportunity to put my stamp on it.

Do you think it was important to continue the show even though Gerry is no longer with us?

I do, he was so proud of it and the fact that it was so successfully is mainly down to him, so I think he’d be delighted that we’re continuing it. The show works because the whole nation can get involved and in that way the public own the show, so it was important to continue what he started.

It’s clear that you are very enthusiastic about the show, so is it the perfect job for you?

Absolutely! I’m getting to spend time with such good people, who are on a journey and have been so brave. To be a part of that journey and help and support in any way that I can is a huge privilege. I would be quite a competitive person and I always like to set goals for myself so in that way too I can relate to the leaders.

Do you miss working on No Frontier or have you been happy to spend more time at home?

I’m really enjoying it. This summer was the first one I was at home for in ten years. I’ve really enjoyed spending the weekends travelling around Ireland and rediscovering it.
Not travelling as frequently hasn’t bothered me as much as I thought it might do, considering it had been such a big part of my life. But thank God, I’m so busy with work – I’m fortunate to be involved in so many interesting and exciting projects.

What do you think of this year’s leaders?

Having met them all, I think they are so brave to do it. For so many people who are overweight, be it by a stone or just a few pounds, the idea of going on a journey like this is quite scary and especially to do it in front of the nation. I think the five leaders are going to be very inspirational, work hard and make it a great programme.

You always look in such great shape, but has working on the show made you more aware of your health and fitness?

To be honest, I’m conscious of it anyway. I work out a lot – I’ve been training with Paul Byrne since we climbed Mount Kilimanjaro together. I wouldn’t consider myself a skinny Minnie; I’m very athletic, I’ve got the big hips, broad across the shoulders and I do have to watch what I eat. I was quite overweight when I was younger, so I can relate to the leaders. But saying that, I never deprive myself of anything. I like to go out at the weekends and have a good time, I love my red wine, bread, Chinese take-away on Sunday and then I try to be quite disciplined during the week. After a long time of being critical about myself and my body, like most women are, I’m content with how I look.

Will you make any New Year’s resolutions?

I always make resolutions and break them about two days later! I should probably cut down on the red wine and cheese – cheese is my absolute downfall!

Janice Butler