Oprah Apologizes for Being a ‘Major Contributor’ to Toxic Diet Culture

Oprah Winfrey apologized for her role in promoting diet culture over the years, but her message and its framing were far from straightforward. The talk show host and mogul, who has recently lost a significant amount of weight thanks in large part to a drug she declined to specify, wanted to make sure viewers knew that crash diets are not a good thing.

“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,” she said.

“I’ve shared how that famous wagon of fat moment on the Oprah show is one of my biggest regrets,” she added. “It sent a message that starving yourself with a liquid diet—it set a standard for people watching that I nor anybody else could uphold.” Winfrey has been as much a victim of diet culture as she has been a proponent, subjecting herself to extreme diets and facing a great deal of criticism for her body size in the media.

But complicating her sentiment is the fact that she made these statements during a three-hour live town hall event for WeightWatchers (also known as WW following a 2018 rebrand). In recent years the company has shifted from promoting weight loss to a loosely defined goal of “weight health” and also offers drugs like the one Oprah used as part of its program. During the event Winfrey spoke with company CEO Sima Sistani and medical experts to discuss a range of topics, focusing on a nonjudgmental approach to weight management and removing stigmas around the topic, especially the weight bias that many people face. Others sharing their stories included Rebel Wilson, Amber Riley, and Busy Phillipps.

The (mostly female) audience seemed to be genuinely engaged and educated, and the comments on the YouTube recording of the event are overwhelmingly positive. “So moving and so empowering! As a woman in my early 40s, I have struggled all my life with my weight + the shame and stigma that goes along with it, even being dismissed by my GP or medical specialists because of it! This is such an amazing thing that Oprah is doing, and I’m so grateful for her!” reads one. Another wrote, “Real talk, when this video first started and I heard Oprah’s monologue, I was worried that this was going to be a lecture. But this was a nice discussion and I’m happy to see WW owning up to their mistakes.”

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