Hazel’s Heart-Warming Story

Hazel and her husband Richard.

Every year, RTE’s Operation Transformation programme creates a stir with participants and viewers alike. We watch the show religiously, always hoping for good results for those taking part, and many follow the diet and exercise regime that the programme offers. Indeed, shops nationwide make huge efforts to accommodate the programmes followers by putting meal plans together for weekly shoppers. And, of course, every year, we all have a particular leader that we favour. This year, Hazel Hartigan’s honest and open description of her struggle has captured the hearts of all. A busy nurse in St. John’s hospital in Limerick, Hazel lives in Pallaskenry. Last year, she contracted Covid 19 and had to spend much time in isolation to protect her family. She’s determined to get fit and healthy this year. When speaking on her interview with Operation Transformation host Kathryn Thomas, Hazel said, “I remember saying to you Kathryn when we first met that I want to be fab at 50 – and you said sure why not be fab at 48. I am so happy to get that chance.”
I caught up with Hazel last week and asked her why she was so keen to take part.
“ I applied for OT as I was afraid that my weight was going to start to affect my health. I am lucky that I got to 47 and that hadn’t happened. I found out on the assessment day that i am actually pre diabetic which surprised me” she said.
So, what’s the whole process of Operation Transformation really like? I asked her. Hazel said frankly, “The process of OT is tough going and can be tiring at times, but I am gaining so much from it, I refuse to let this huge opportunity pass me by or waste it.
The crew that are filming me in my home are fantastic guys and I count myself very lucky with them.
The experts are great, it may seem that they are full on, but they are only trying to get the best from us in the short period of time they have with us and provide us with the knowledge and skills for us to be successful going forward. They will be there for after the show is over but won’t have us in front of them weekly like before” she explained.
I asked her to describe a typical day while on the programme. “A day in my life with OT is busy. However now that I have learned to manage my time better, I’m finding that fitting it into my life is getting easier. For example, I used to follow the exercise and food plans religiously and I found it stressful to fit everything in,for example, someday I would come home after a 13-hour shift and then have my resistance training to do. Which was hard to do as you would be tired so now, I do my walk in the mornings before work and I do my resistance on my days off. I also do my batch cooking on my day off for the days that I would be working. OT has definitely made my life busier, but I am grateful for that as they have changed my life in so many ways and all for the good”.
Does emotional stress play a part in weight gain? “ I would 100% agree that emotions and stress add to weight gain as much as overeating, however it is also down to lack of physical exercise. For years I would be envious of people who were out walking and running early in the morning. I’d wonder where they got the energy or the motivation for it. Now I am one of them and I feel physically and mentally better. It’s not an urban legend that exercise can help with the feel-good hormones, it is a fact of life.”
Hazel is delighted with the support she is receiving. “When the first episode went out, I was totally not expecting the rush of support that I got from across Ireland. I just lived my life and never really thought that there was anything remarkable about it or me. It was breath-taking that pure strangers took me into their hearts and cried for and with me. It’s an emotion I’ve never experienced before, and I am grateful to each and every one of them. They have taught me to appreciate that I have accomplished a lot over the last 47 years and be proud of myself. OT is not just about weight loss it’s also about helping you to recognise why you needed their help in the first place and learning to find a new pathway to a happier and healthier life. I just want to thank everyone who has sent me cards, letters, messages and flowers to my house and those who have approached me while out shopping or in work telling me how proud and inspired, they are by me, it is really humbling.” She added.
I asked Hazel about her work during the pandemic. “Covid 19 has really affected a lot of people in a way no one thought of this time last year. For me in work it has issues for the older person population that I would look after in organising a safe discharge for them. This wave has taken its toll on the community as a whole with home help carers, family members and nursing homes contracting covid. It has made getting these people discharged next to impossible. I am lucky that I am not working on the Covid ward, but we have to take every precaution to ensure that it stays that way.” She said.
How does she see her future when the programme is over? “ When OT is over it is just the start for me. I had said to Kathryn Thomas the day of the assessment day that I wanted to be fab at 50 and she said why not be fab at 48 and be fab and fit at 50, she was dead right. So, for me I want to be more able to live a great life physically, mentally, and emotionally and to do that with my fantastic family supporting me all the way is a true blessing that I will never take for granted. By the way Kathryn Thomas is really as nice as she appears!!!
I would totally recommend OT if you are 100% prepared to be honest and be open to everything. You will learn things about yourself that you never dreamed were even affecting you. Physically you will be pushed, mentally you will be challenged, and you will taste food you may never have even heard of, but it is such a worthwhile journey you will never regret taking the chance.”
We wish Hazel and all the participants the best of luck. Hazel certainly has her hands full and working in her chosen field at this time makes her part of a group of all -time great heroes.