Oprah Winfrey apologises for her ‘major’ role in ‘diet culture’

‘I want to acknowledge that I have been a steadfast participant in this diet culture,’ Winfrey says

Brittany Miller
New York
Friday 10 May 2024 22:04 BST
Oprah Winfrey apologises for her role in diet culture

Oprah Winfrey has been reflecting on her role in the weight-loss community.

On Thursday 9 May, the 70-year-old former talk show host starred in a three-hour special on YouTube with WeightWatchers called “Making the Shift,” where she discussed changing diet culture alongside actresses Rebel Wilson and Amber Riley. Winfrey specifically touched on the way she felt about herself and how the extreme lengths to lose weight ended up being projected onto others through her show.

“I want to acknowledge that I have been a steadfast participant in this diet culture,” she said in the special. “Through my platforms, through the magazine, through the talk show for 25 years and online, I’ve been a major contributor to it. I cannot tell you how many weight-loss shows and makeovers I have done and they have been a staple since I’ve been working in television.”

She reflected on one time during her talk show, when she’d brought out a red wagon that was filled with pounds of fat, an episode she said she regrets letting air. The fat represented the amount of weight she had lost while being on a liquids-only diet.

“I’ve shared how that famous wagon of fat on The Oprah Show is one of my biggest regrets. It sent a message that starving yourself with a liquid diet set a standard for people watching that I nor anybody else could uphold,” Winfrey said.

“The very next day I began to gain the weight back... That wagon of fat moment was set into motion after years and years of thinking that my struggle with my weight was my fault and it has taken me even up until last week to process the shame I felt privately as my very public yo-yo diet moments became a national joke.”

Earlier this year, Winfrey announced she was resigning from her position on the board of WeightWatchers after nearly a decade and would be donating her shares to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“I look forward to continuing to advise and collaborate with WeightWatchers and CEO Sima Sistani in elevating the conversation around recognising obesity as a chronic condition, working to reduce stigma, and advocating for health equity,” she said in the company’s press release.

“Weight Health is a critically important topic and one that needs to be addressed at a broader scale. I plan to participate in a number of public forums and events where I will be a vocal advocate in advancing this conversation,” Winfrey added.

The Oscar winner later revealed during an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live that she made the decision to resign because of her March TV special called ​​“An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution” which aired in March and in which she talked about prescription weight loss medications.

“I decided that, because this special was really important to me and I wanted to be able to talk about whatever I want to talk about, and WeightWatchers is now in the business of being a weight health company that also administers drug medications for weight,” Winfrey said on the show. “I did not want to have the appearance of any conflict of interest.”

Prior to her special, Winfrey admitted in an interview with People that she had used an unnamed weight loss medication and praised the medication for even being an option for those struggling with weight loss and obesity.

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