Is anyone surprised Oprah had a little help from her friends?
Every time she’s debuted her “new” body, we’ve fallen for the diet. What if this time we tried something different?
The Queen of Daytime TV is hawking diet injectables, and people are acting surprised. I’m surprised it’s taken her this long.
Weight Watchers, along with pretty much every other diet company still in business, announced that it was getting into the diet prescription game back in March with the acquisition of a subscription service that prescribes weight loss. Last week, Weight Watchers opened that clinic for business.
Oprah owns a significant stake in Weight Watchers and is a member of its board, so it makes sense that she would be the face of this new venture. Of course, she’s still attributing her weight loss to her healthy diet and exercise and drinking “a gallon of water a day”—she just had a little extra help from her friends.
Doesn’t she look amazing?
She does, and she did. Every single time she’s debuted her “new” body, we’ve fallen for the promise of the diet. And with diet season just around the corner, the timing of Oprah’s latest announcement couldn’t be better. How many millions of us will see the new Oprah, hear that she had a “change of heart” about using the diet injectables and say, “If it works for Oprah who's struggled with her weight as much as I have, maybe it’ll work for me.”
I’ve written a few times about falling for Oprah’s weight loss back when I was in college. Back then, she was hawking her personal chef’s “healthy versions of comfort foods” as the solution for weight loss. And who can forget Oprah in skintight jeans pulling a wagon carrying 67 pounds of fat after her liquid diet transformation in 1988? As a teen, I remember watching that episode and wanting to believe, for her sake as well as mine. That one didn’t work, either.
Throughout her ups and downs all these years, Oprah’s never stopped selling weight loss, because she’s no fool when it comes to business, and thinness is the one thing we’ll pay any amount of money to obtain.
The New York Times “covered” the announcement with bits from Oprah’s interview that appeared in People Magazine (she declined to comment for the NYT piece), including her willingness to embrace injectibles because she’s finally realized her weight struggles aren’t her fault or because of a lack of willpower (this is the new pharma/diet industry sales strategy). This newfound wisdom has finally given her the courage to stop her own body shaming.
The only problem is she only preaches empowerment and body acceptance when she’s skinny. What message does this send?
A guest opinion essay in the New York Times a few days after the Weight Watchers announcement and big reveal painted Oprah as both a victim of diet culture and a perpetuator of it. (“Oprah proves diet culture spares no one”)
“...I also believe that Ms. Winfrey was part of the problem, even as she sought to find a solution for herself — that she both suffered under diet culture and paid her suffering forward, profiting from the idea that all of us had to be thin and that all of us could be, if we just tried hard enough.”
“Ms. Winfrey made money when Weight Watchers preached the gospel of points and self-control. She will likely make money now that Weight Watchers has added medications to its arsenal, especially because her new-body reveal comes on the cusp of New Year’s resolution season.”
Many of you are looking at these injectibles right now and thinking they could be the solution to all your problems, and I completely empathize with this perspective. I still want weight loss, too. I wish my body could conform to society’s standards of beauty naturally.
But it can’t, and I won’t do it anymore.
Way back in February I wrote about the call of the “magic pills,” and I still feel the lure every now and again.
I don’t believe these new drugs will be a long-term solution to weight loss. And I believe many will suffer horrendous side effects from them, but my bigger concern is that many more people will suffer eating disorders and disordered eating because of this continued narrative that there is only one acceptable size.
Oprah could be shifting that narrative. Instead, she’s drinking her gallon of water, eating right and exercising, because—spoiler alert if you haven’t read the full interview—she’s still seven pounds away from her goal weight.
What are we supposed to do?
We all share the aspiration for positive transformations, both in terms of health and self-image, but we all have the power to shift the focus from a predetermined goal weight to a more inclusive and balanced perspective that promotes overall well-being.
We can bring inclusion and empathy to those who are still seeking quick fixes and external solutions to what they see as personal failings, and we can work toward defining health beyond body size and cultivating a more compassionate relationship with ourselves.
For those of us who have been watching Oprah for years, yet another weight loss reveal can bring up a lot of conflicting emotions. I’d love to hear what you think.
More morsels this Monday
I’m light on reads this week, but I don’t want folks to miss these gems.
My friend non-diet nutritionistexplores why we often overindulge during the holidays and how we can stop it.
From her sick bed,brings us wisdom. I especially related to her thoughts about boundaries and how they should be a tool for empowerment versus controlling other people.
Last but not least,who writes about self-care for us working moms, shares her self-care assessment, which any of us might need.
Flesché also shared with me a fun take on tackling diet talk, and we can all play along at our upcoming holiday gatherings. I had sought suggestions ahead of a public radio interview I did last week for The Texas Standard, which will be part of an upcoming article on how to help eating disorder sufferers (and all of us) be less triggered by all the diet talk coming our way in January. In the spirit of fun ways to avoid being triggered, I welcome more suggestions!