How Ireland is hooked on Gerry's weight loss show
TRANSFORMATION: Shedding pounds and racking up an audience
RTE has scored a sweet success when it comes to this year's Operation Transformation.
Irish TV viewers are gobbling down the latest installment of the RTE 1 programme, which profiles five people's attempts to shed the pounds.
According to figures supplied to the Herald, the three programmes to date have pulled in an average of 497,800 viewers.
This equals an average audience share of 30.97pc -- which is a huge coup for the Wednesday night programme fronted by Gerry Ryan and running until March.
And the fact that members of the public can also join in the weight loss programme has led to the show's website pulling in over a million hits over the past month.
"Last year, the website attracted just over two million hits over the eight weeks so at this stage, it looks like that figure will be surpassed," said a spokeswoman.
The interactive programme follows the fortunes of five members of the public as they endeavour to slim down in 2010.
This year's participants include Ciara Dunne, Amanda Casey, Conor O'Connor, Anna Naughton and Penny Dwyer -- who are all hoping to shed some significant weight over the coming months.
And it's not just the contenders themselves whose lives have been changed by the programme.
RTE reporter Darren Kennedy, who's filling in for Evelyn O'Rourke while she's on maternity leave, has revealed how the healthy lifestyle has definitely rubbed off on him.
"I have been involved in this since series one and you do become very conscious of the food that you're eating and the calorie-content of everything," he told the Herald.
"When you go to pick up that double-chocolate chip muffin for lunch, you do think maybe you're better off skipping it and having some dark chocolate instead."
He explained how he used to be a little heavier himself and knows how careful you have to be when it comes to following a healthy diet.
"I'm quite trim now but when I was in my teens, I would have been about a stone or two heavier. I was in college and eating a lot more and not really looking after myself as much.
"Now I go to the gym a lot and play sport and have a sensible diet," he continued.
He also revealed that the participants may be starting to realise just how difficult the battle is going to be.
"They are doing really well but the initial euphoria is probably starting to wear off and it's starting to get very intense," he added.
"At this stage, they'll see the results won't come as easily to them. The realisation that this is a whole new lifestyle will start to sink in and that's when it's going to start getting tough."