Oprah Winfrey apologizes for her role in toxic diet culture

By , K24 Digital
On Sat, 11 May, 2024 11:04 | 5 mins read
Oprah Winfrey. PHOTO/Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey has apologized for her role in promoting toxic diet culture - months after finally admitting she used weight loss drugs to shed more than 40lbs/18kgs.

The host, 70, opened up about her regrets around discussing dieting and body image in a three hour WeightWatchers special.

She said on Thursday: 'I have been a steadfast participant in this diet culture. 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.'

In March Oprah revealed she starved herself for 'nearly five months' on a liquid diet back in 1988 - before quickly regaining the weight after proclaiming victory on television.

The TV host recounted her weight loss efforts on An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution - and how decades earlier she wheeled out 67 pounds of fat onto her talk show.

But just one day after she displayed her results on television, she started to put the weight back on.

'In an effort to combat all the shame, I starved myself for nearly five months and then wheeled out that wagon of fat that the internet will never forget,' she said.

'After losing 67 pounds on [a] liquid diet, the next day, the very next day, I started to gain it back. Feeling the shame of fighting a losing battle with weight, is a story all too familiar.'

Oprah previously called the wheel moment a huge 'mistake.'

'Big, big, big, big, big, big, big mistake!' she told Entertainment Tonight back in 2011. 'When I look at that show, I think it was one of the biggest ego trips of my life.'

During Monday's special, Oprah opened up about her battle with obesity and how food took over her life during her weight loss special - but viewers flocked online to slam her for 'promoting' the drugs.

Speaking in An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution, the star fought back tears as she revealed how the drugs had meant she was no longer 'constantly thinking about what the next meal is going to be'.
Throughout her decades-long weight-loss journey, Oprah has never shied away from discussing her problems in public. Pictured: In 1988

Throughout her decades-long weight-loss journey, Oprah has never shied away from discussing her problems in public. Pictured: In 1992

Throughout her decades-long weight-loss journey, Oprah has never shied away from discussing her problems in public. Pictured in 1988 (left) and 1992 (right)

She said 'for 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport' and that over the years she had 'lost some weight' and 'put back on some weight' but since starting to take medication she had stopped 'obsessing' about food.

Along with messages of support online, some viewers slammed Oprah, accusing her of 'promoting big pharma and pushing Ozempic' and criticizing her for taking the drugs after spending nine years promoting Weight Watchers.

The show was released days after Oprah quit her Weight Watchers board role, citing a potential 'conflict of interest' with the show, which heavily featured weight loss drug brands.

Her exit caused Weight Watchers shares to crash 20 percent.

Rumors that she was taking Ozempic started to circulate last year, until she admitted she had started taking an unnamed weight loss drug in December.

She said in the special: 'The number one thing I hope people come away with is knowing that [obesity] is a disease, and it's in the brain.'

The special also features obesity medicine physician Dr. Jen Ashton, who was shown having a discussion with Oprah during the teaser.

Dr. Jen explained: 'It is conclusively known that the conditions of overweight and obesity are complex, chronic disease states, not character flaws… so they should be managed accordingly. '

Oprah replied: 'Oh, I love that so much, Dr. Jen. It's a disease, not a character flaw.'

Last week, the TV mogul shared why she was stepping down from Weight Watchers, opening up about her reasons for quitting during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

She explained: 'I decided that because this special was really important to me and I wanted to be able to talk about whatever I wanted to talk about, and Weight Watchers is now in the business of being a weight health company that also administers drug medications for weight.

'I did not want to have the appearance of any conflict of interest,' said Oprah, who announced last month that she was not going to stand for re-election at the next Weight Watchers shareholder meeting in May.

'So I resigned from the board and donated all of my shares to the National Museum of African American History and Culture,' Oprah added.

'So nobody can say, ''Oh, she's doing that special, she's making money, promoting''. No, you cannot say that,' she said.

'Did people at Weight Watchers cry when you left?,' Jimmy asked. 'They almost did,' Oprah replied.

'Yeah, I would imagine they wouldn't be that happy about it,' Jimmy said. 'They almost did,' Oprah said.

Oprah was on the talk show to promote the ABC program An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution.

In December, the TV mogul confessed to using the drug as a 'tool' to stop her yo-yoing weight issues.

At the time, she told People: 'I now use it as I feel I need it, as a tool to manage not yo-yoing' - but did not name the drug that she uses.

'The fact that there's a medically approved prescription for managing weight and staying healthier, in my lifetime, feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for.

'I'm absolutely done with the shaming from other people and particularly myself' and added she had actively recommended the weight loss aid to other people before deciding to take it herself.'

Over the decades of her superstardom, Oprah has been candid with her fans about the various steps she has taken to lose weight.

Last year she was dogged by rumors she was on Ozempic, the diabetes medicine that has become a Hollywood fad among those attempting to slim down.

As the speculation mounted, Oprah finally confessed that she had relented and started taking weight loss medication - after previously feeling that she had to rely on her own 'willpower' to achieve the figure she wanted.

'It is a very personal topic for me,' said Oprah in a press statement quoted by BET: 'and for the hundreds of millions of people impacted around the globe who have for years struggled with weight and obesity.'

When she underwent knee surgery in 2021, her physical rehabilitation helped her develop a number of healthy habits that helped her burn fat.

Oprah weighed 237lbs (107.5kg) at her heaviest, she has previously revealed.

She said undergoing knee surgery in 2021 kickstarted a journey for her to improve her health and live a 'more vital and vibrant life.'

The broadcast icon said she now eats her last meal at 4pm, drinks a gallon of water a day and uses Weight Watchers principles of counting points, along with regular hikes.

She added that her fitness and health routine are integral to maintaining her weight loss saying: 'It's everything. I know everybody thought I was on it, but I worked so damn hard. I know that if I'm not also working out and vigilant about all the other things, it doesn't work for me.'

She said: 'I had an awareness of [weight-loss] medications, but felt I had to prove I had the willpower to do it. I now no longer feel that way.'

In the documentary, Oprah will also interview people who have used popular weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, as well as professionals with experience in the field.

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