OPERATION Transformation leader Grace Batterberry has become the poster girl for anti-smoking and cancer prevention.
The mum-of-one faced one of the toughest challenges on the RTE series as she quit smoking at the same time as she began a new strict diet and training regime.
Postmistress Grace (32) helped the Irish Cancer Society launch a campaign aimed at getting younger women to quit smoking for good yesterday as figures show that the rate of lung cancer among women is increasing.
"I didn't want to give up but when I watched myself smoking on TV, I thought it was disgusting," Grace said. "And being on Operation Transformation was a perfect opportunity for me to try."
Before the show, Grace, who lives in Casteltownroche, Co Cork with her son Brodie and her partner William, was lighting up to 20 cigarettes a day.
The show's nutrition specialist Dr Eva Osmond told the Herald that quitting smoking while on a diet was "a perfect time to stop".
"If smokers start losing weight but don't address this issue, then they could start smoking more as they replace food with cigarettes," Dr Osmond said.
"And if they try to lose weight first, then the pounds could start piling up again when they eventually stop smoking."
Dr Osmond remarked that Grace had faced increased health risks because of her smoking, like the other one million estimated smokers in Ireland.
"Smoking and being overweight work together in clogging up and hardening your arteries, it increases your blood pressure and the overall risk of developing a cardiac disease," she explained.
Since quitting smoking, Grace said she felt healthier and that her skin had improved while her teeth were already whiter.
Kathleen O'Meara from the Irish Cancer Society said that it was essential for them to target women in their campaign as lung cancer has now overtaken breast cancer in the leading cause of death in women in Ireland.
"For the first time the rate of lung cancer is dropping with men but increasing with women," she said. "And our rates of lung cancer are among the highest in Europe. From being a predominantly male disease for the past 50 years, lung cancer is projected to be a female disease by 2025."
For help with quitting smoking, call the National Smokers' Quitline on 1850 201 203
See Anna Nolan, Page 29