Oprah Winfrey apologizes for being 'major contributor' to diet culture

ByAngeline Jane Bernabe ABCNews logo
Friday, May 10, 2024

Oprah Winfrey is apologizing for being a "major contributor" to diet culture.

While hosting the WeightWatchers live special, "Making the Shift," on Thursday, the talk show host acknowledged her role in diet culture and how she is "done with the shaming."

"I've been a steadfast participant in this diet culture," Winfrey said. "Through my platforms, through the magazine, through the talk show for 25 years, through 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."

During the special, which aimed to "catalyze a new wave of change in how we collectively redefine the cultural and personal relationships between our weight, our health and each other," according to a description of the program, Winfrey recalled the famous "wagon of fat" moment that took place on her talk show, which she said was "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," she said. "And I've said this before, the very next day, I began to gain the weight back."

She also shared her experience with yo-yo dieting, which happened after a 1985 interview with Joan Rivers on "The Tonight Show," when she and Rivers made a pact to lose weight together. During the interview at the time, Winfrey also tells Rivers the different diets she's tried.

"I was so embarrassed," Winfrey said about that moment. "That was the start of a vicious cycle of yo-yoing that ended up with that liquid diet where I literally starved myself for months. And the result was that now famous wagon of fat moment."

Winfrey continued and said, "It's really hard to love your own body when the whole world is telling you it wasn't worth loving."

Before bringing on the first guests of the show, WeightWatchers CEO Sima Sistani and body acceptance advocate Katie Sturino, Winfrey shared that weight loss journeys are personal and implored others to "stop the shaming."

"Whether you choose to start moving more, whether you want to eat differently, whether you want to change your lifestyle, whether you want to take the medications or whether you choose to do absolutely nothing -- that you are satisfied exactly the way you are where you are," Winfrey said. "That's up to you, whatever your path, this has been a watershed moment for many people."

The special comes almost five months after she shared that she is using medication to help her maintain her weight loss, which she said has been a work in progress for the past two years. Winfrey didn't name the type of medication she is taking.

In March, after Winfrey decided not to stand for reelection as a member of WeightWatchers' board of directors, the talk show host opened up about weight loss in the ABC special, "An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution," which focused on her weight ups and downs documented publicly over the past several decades.

In the special, she revealed that she wanted viewers to learn about weight and obesity and had a conversation with ABC News chief medical correspondent and obesity medicine physician Dr. Jen Ashton.

Winfrey's WeightWatchers special also included conversations with Rebel Wison, Amber Riley, Busy Philipps and more.

"Everybody is just doing the best we can," Winfrey added. "And if they are happy with the choices that they are making, you ought to be happy with it too."

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