THE RTÉ show may have started last week but in Kinvara, a group of 11 men began their Operation Transformation just over six weeks ago and with life-changing results.
“Last November, 11 local men approached the club willing to help raise funds for the new pitch development,” explained Michael Bermingham of Kinvara GAA Club.
This idea was based on Operation Transformation, so on Saturday, November 23, 10 men weighed in to begin their six-week programme of diet and exercise. Three days later, another man joined their group. The starting weights ranged from 16st 8lbs to 24st 1lb and so the transformation began.
“The lads changed habits of a lifetime, exercised and changed how, what and when they ate. The commitment of the 11 lads was so much that they survived Christmas Day and each of the individuals lost weight during Christmas week,” Mr Bermingham outlined.
“The final weigh-in was carried out at The Pier Head on Saturday, January 4 and the results were outstanding. The total weight loss was an incredible 24 stone 3lbs. Not only that, the lads looked and felt great and are still continuing their transformation. In the process, they raised €11,000 in aid of the new pitch currently being developed,” he continued.
“This event has being a very positive experience to all involved. The leadership and inspiration shown by the 11 lads was magnificent. Not only did they bring along their friends and family members with them but they are in the process of getting the next group of 11 leaders to start it all over again,” Mr Bermingham added.
John Waites from Killina, Kinvara was one of the volunteers. The sponsored weight loss was his brain-child.
“It all started by pure chance. I was feeling too heavy. I look after my father’s farm at home and I went to the local vet, Mick O’Hara, for injections for a calf. We had been at a card game together the Wednesday before to raise money for the GAA club.
“Mick’s wife and John Donohue from the senior club were trying to raise money for the pitch. They raised €500 at the card game. I asked Mick what he would think if myself and a friend of mine lost a bit of weight and got sponsored doing it. So I rang the friend and he wouldn’t do it. Then I rang Paul Donohue and he came on board straight away. Then he rang another fellow, Richard Kilkelly. He was the third man on.
“Before a couple of days passed, we had eight fellas. The only thing was that there were only six weeks before the King and Queen campaign ended on January 4. So we started the following Saturday. Ten of us weighed in on the night, then three days later another fellow joined in,” he recalled.
Forty-eight-year-old John is 5’ 7” and at the initial weigh-in, he was 18st 12½lbs. “I was feeling very inactive,” he acknowledged.
“I had six weeks and I decided to go for it. I started on a diet programme with exercise,” John explained.
As well as switching sugary snacks for fruit, John opted to use a milkshake supplement.
“The change [in lifestyle] was unreal. The whole thing was a big change for me. I was used to sweets, sugar and all that stuff. All the wrong stuff, I was eating it,” he recalled.
Combined with a healthy diet, John took up exercise. “I would eat apples and fruit during the day, with the shake at breakfast and lunch. Then, in the evening, I have a dinner but it is about half what I used to eat. We started off by walking three nights a week and then The Lady Gregory let us use the gym for free, so we started that. I had not exercised in years and years. I used to hurl for Kinvara until 1999, then I went to America. That was the last real exercise I did. I was a smoker too. I gave up cigarettes three years ago and put on weight after that,” he said.
After six weeks, John had lost a total of 32lbs. “I lost 2st 4lbs. I am now 16st 8½lbs. That was in six weeks. It is unreal the change. In between, I did 8km on St Stephen’s Day in Kilbeacanty. I jogged it. I did it in 48m 11s, so I went round at 6kph. It was definitely more than a walk,” he joked.
Two stone lighter, John can’t believe the difference in his energy levels and his waistline and feels as though “I’m fit for anything now”.
“We did 5km on January 5, the day after we finished up so we are keeping it going. I lapsed a bit in the last week or so but my daughter was home from Australia and I’m back on the wagon again now,” he said.
While the challenge was not an easy one, John believes having people to go to for advice, in this case Colm Callanan and Michelle Connolly-Glynn, and doing it with others made a big difference.
“Everyone helped each other. If there were lads getting a bit fed up of it, we encouraged them on. We all got to the end of it and everyone is still going on. We are now turning it from Operation Transformation to Operation Do Good, where we hope to raise money for other good causes. There are women coming on board now too,” he added.
John is not looking back and now aims to be 15st by St Patrick’s Day. The other participants were Damien Mitchell, Gabriel Piggott, Paul Donohue, Jude Kilmartin, Don Maloney, Tom Deveney, Richard Kilkelly, Aidan Fahy, Ollie Bergin and Pádraig Brennan.
“For people who were in my position, I would tell them that if they have any chance of losing weight, do it. They won’t realise the difference it will make in their lives unless they do it. It is unreal. It is indescribable how different I feel. I made great friends through it as well. I am much healthier and it is way different altogether. The bad habits are gone out the door, or most of them,” John concluded.