Inspiring Cork couple on Operation Transformation are already down 41lbs

CHRIS DUNNE catches up with Cork couple Barry and Andrea Rea as they continue their Operation Transformation TV weight loss and fitness journey
Inspiring Cork couple on Operation Transformation are already down 41lbs
The show features a married couple for the first time. Andrea started at 21st 2lbs while Barry kicked of Operation Transformation 29st 4lbs. They have lost 41lbs between them.

THEY say two heads are better than one — but in the case of Cork couple, Barry and Andrea Rea, who are the first married duo heading up the strong Cork contingent on this year’s Operation Transformation — two bodies are better than one.

“We were both thrilled with our impressive weight-loss for week one,” says Andrea, 31, who is a senior assistant scientist in BioMarin, Ringaskiddy, who lost 12lbs in the first week.

Barry, 39, who is a physiotherapist, lost a whopping 14lbs. Their weight-loss targets were four and five pounds respectively, so they both blew way past those numbers.

“We were always hungry, but never starving!” says Barry.

Now into the groove on week two, at 20 stone four pounds, Andrea, the tallest woman ever on the programme at 6ft, dropped a further 5lbs, and now weighs 19 stone 13 lbs.

While Barry, the tallest man ever on the programme at 6 feet 7in, never doing things by halves, dropped a massive 10lbs on week two, and now weighs 27 stone 8lbs.

“We’re thrilled,” says Andrea. “It gets easier week-by-week. Our appetite changes. And we are getting more organised.”

And clearly getting even more motivated.

“People are stopping us in the street wishing us well,” says Andrea.

A dose of the sniffles didn’t deter Barry from his weight-loss mission or from leading the 5km walk from CIT on a cold Saturday morning last weekend, when it would have been easier to snuggle up in bed under the duvet.

“I’m signed up for this, come hell or high water,” says Barry.

A big crowd gathered last Saturday morning at the athletics track at CIT despite the icy frost. With fire in their bellies the Leeside gang lined out for a bracing 5km walk to support Barry, Andrea, and also Tanya Carroll, from Glanmire, who is the third leader from Cork on Operation Transformation this year. Tanya lost 9lbs last week and is walking on air.

“It’s great to see so many people, young and old, joining us on the walk,” says Andrea.

“There’s a real buzz here and a wonderful sense of camaraderie.

“Everyone is coming up to us to get pictures with us and to offer us kind words of encouragement.

“People who don’t even know us are supporting us all the way. And the support from our families and from our friends is fantastic.”

The couple who get fit together, are getting their act together, both intent on starting a new lease of life and, eventually, a new family.

Andrea and Barry Rae, Cork participants in Operation Transformation, 2020, with presenter Kathryn Thomas
Andrea and Barry Rae, Cork participants in Operation Transformation, 2020, with presenter Kathryn Thomas

“We’re currently building our new house in Lehenaghmore,” says Andrea.

“We hope to move in May or June. So yes, down the line it would be nice for us to start a family together. I’d like to be able to run around with the kids; with Barry’s two boys, William and Oran, without any knee joint or ankle problems.

“I have a bit of trouble with my feet, and with my gait, but losing the weight will definitely help that. I really want to get healthy so that I can keep up with the kids!”

The couple who are on the weight loss programme together, after making the joint decision together to sign up for Operation Transformation, have started new healthy eating habits.

“Portion control was always a problem for us,” says Andrea.

“Our main meal would look like our starter! Chocolate was always on the menu. We’d share a big bar of Fruit and Nut most evenings while watching telly.”

Andrea is fortunate that her husband is a good cook. And he’s also handy for the odd rub down after a work-out!

“I say to people, Barry does the cooking and I do the cleaning!”

So it’s a win-win situation?

“Yes. We’re in it together. It is easier to shop, prepare, cook, and eat our food when we’re both in it together. Barry cooks from scratch, ditching the butter and cream he was so fond of. It’s about being organised and it’s about being disciplined,” says Andrea.

“With two snacks each to choose from every day, our sweet cravings are lessened.”

They are true to each other.

“We never weigh ourselves at home and we never cheat!” says Andrea.

But Barry has been smitten by another influence, hasn’t he?

Andrea laughs.

“He’s having a ‘bromance’ with the camera man who films us at home in Ballinlough!”

Is it like a Big Brother scenario?

“Ah no,” says Andrea. “The film-crew who are out with us a lot don’t intrude on our privacy too much if they can help it. We’re all good pals now.”

Two weeks in, Andrea and Barry are embracing the OT team, who are giving them expert advice and urging them on to reach the magic numbers on the weighing scales.

What about the portion control that used to be an issue for both of them?

“Instead of having four scrambled eggs and two slices of bread, we now have two scrambled eggs and one slice of bread for breakfast.

We don’t get hungry any more on the food plan. There is a fantastic canteen at work,” says Andrea.

“The staff have an ‘Andrea’ meal once a week, so everyone can get on the bandwagon!”

Do they ever get ‘hangry?’

Barry laughs.

“I get ‘hangry’ when I want a takeaway! But I won’t give in because it wouldn’t be fair to Andrea. If I had a takeaway, then of course, she’d be tempted to have one too.

“It’s about appetite control, not about will-power. I gave up alcohol because I was

Participants doing the warm-up before the Operation Transformation walk at Cork IT, in dry frosty conditions on Saturday morning.Pic; Larry Cummins.
Participants doing the warm-up before the Operation Transformation walk at Cork IT, in dry frosty conditions on Saturday morning.Pic; Larry Cummins.

getting too fond of it.”

Barry doesn’t have a thick skin, despite his height, and is only human.

“People often stopped and stared when I walked down the street because I am so tall,” he says.

“People would point and kind of grab someone’s hand and go, ‘look at the size of him’. There’s been incidents when Andrea and I have been out for a meal and others took photos of us without us even knowing. I didn’t choose to be tall, but other people think that they can walk up to me and say, ‘Oh, it’s great to be tall.”

Now, Barry doesn’t choose to be over-weight any more.

But it takes one step at a time, one day at a time to change tack.

“Yes. I often get a ‘F---k it day; but I take it in my stride,” says Barry. “And get over it.”

It was hard for Barry to get into the stride of cooking for one instead of for four when his first marriage broke down.

“When I got divorced, my wife was gone, my home was gone and my kids were gone,” says Barry.

“I was depressed, blaming myself for everything even though it wasn’t all my fault. Cooking for one was just too much trouble.

“I relied on takeaways seven nights a week and I drank gallons of Coke, two litres a day. I had no motivation to exercise. My self-esteem was ripped apart.”

And his rugby career was ripped apart too, after a serious injury.

“I was eating four or five thousand calories day previously and then burning them off. And then all of a sudden, zero.

“I was sitting in bed with a stomach and a body demanding that I fed it because I was naive about what had happened.”

It was a tough time for the young man, who he says, gets his inspiration from the elderly patients he treats in his practice, who offer him support and encouragement.

“That was a tough time,” agrees Barry of his injury.

“But it could have been worse. I could have ended up a paraplegic in a wheelchair.”

Instead, he ended up meeting Andrea on ‘Plenty of Fish’ in 2017. The couple had plenty in common.

“We had an engagement party, which really was a surprise wedding,” says Andrea. “It was fabulous, despite the hassle of getting into a wedding dress that I really liked.”

Do the couple like being in the limelight, baring all to the nation every week?

“You know, it is what it is,” says Barry.

“And we are what we are, where we are. And we are so fortunate having the best experts in our corner; a dietician, a fitness expert, a GP, and a psychologist to help us in every way that they can.”

Barry has no qualms about baring his soul and his body on live TV.

“If I can help just one person, then it is worth it.”

Barry has got his mojo back and his motivation for a new healthy lifestyle as he approaches his 40th birthday.

“I want to be a good role model for my sons, showing them that being fit and healthy is the way to go.”

Children, William and Oran, are having great fun joining in doing the OT ad break exercise challenge with Barry and Andrea.

Barry has good advice to offer the nation.

“The smallest changes have the biggest effects,” he says.

“There is no miracle cure to losing weight. Lifestyle change is the way to go.”

Barry, along with his wife, is putting himself out there, committed to taking the best, most healthy route to a new lease of life for himself and for his loved ones. Because he is the bigger man.

Operation Transformation airs on Wednesday nights at 9.35pm on RTÉ 1 and is repeated on Sunday nights at 10.30pm on RTÉ 1.

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