Oprah You Are Killing Me

So I heard that adding to your list of yo-yo dieting, waffling between yelling “DON’T SPEND ANOTHER SUMMER FAT” and sheepishly admitting “I guess I was talking the talk but not walking the walk”, and creating fad diets out of materials that are meant to be health at every size, you and your television network are now planning a reality show in which you’ll go inside an eating disorder treatment facility.

Lady, you have got to be kidding me.

First let’s talk about the show:

I have some perspective here, as I have been in eating disorder rehab and I now teach Body Positive Dance at several rehab facilities.  I cannot for the life of me imagine why a rehab facility would consent to this.  I can only guess that you gave the participants free admission to the facility (which is a huge deal since lots of times insurance won’t cover it – or will throw people out before their treatment is over against the advice of mental health professionals but don’t get me started on that).  If you want to help people get treatment, use some of your money to lobby the government on behalf of patients, or just help send people to eating disorder clinics without an opportunity to make a profit.  I just can’t fathom who thought that this was a good idea.  These people are mentally ill and in a fight for their lives and you’re going to make TV out of it?  And please, don’t give me any “this will bring an important issue to light” bullshit.  There are lots of ways to bring this important issue to light without showing mentally ill people struggling to recover.  To the best of our knowledge about eating disorders, genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger.  Is there anything that could be more triggering to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder (and pretty likely to watch this show)  than watching people who go into recovery gain weight?  What about these patients whose before and after bodies will be on display and accessible, possibly forever?  I heard from several sources that there is going to be a “vote for your favorite patient” segment.  I have to believe that it’s an untrue rumor because I can’t imagine that anybody could be so unbelievably stupid as to pit people with eating disorders – who are struggling with self-hatred, often feel unworthy of love, and who are often naturally competitive type A personalities-into a contest for people’s approval.

Now let’s talk about you. You could do amazing things as a role model for health if you could just get past this obsession with weight.  We know that yo-you dieting is much worse for your body than simply being overweight but there you are, up and down like the yo-yo I used to get in my stocking every Christmas.  Did you know that when I give talks to young girls they point at you as a role model for the yo-yo dieting that they are doing?  “Oprah does it”. Did you know that when I got into eating disorder facilities your magazine is almost always banned because its contents are so triggering?  Is that really who you want to be?

Oprah, don’t think that I don’t feel any sympathy for your plight, I do .  In fact,  I was talking about this with the brilliant CJ Legare (a plus-sized model, business owner, writer, speaker, and and all-around amazing woman whose website you should check out if you haven’t already:  www.powerpinc.com) and she said “If Oprah, with all of her money and power isn’t immune to the ridiculousness of the diet industry, who among us can be?”. CJ makes an excellent point, but then again  I know people who have used some common sense to get out of the dieting cycle and  I would love to see you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and become a successful role model for health instead of a failed role model for thinness.

I’ll admit that I’m not an adamant watcher of the show, so maybe I’m just missing something, but I can’t find a single example where you talked about your true health markers (blood pressure, triglycerides, glucose etc.).  I just see you talk about your weight.   I did see you talk about how you had hyperthyroidism and even though most people lose weight with this condition you didn’t.  That didn’t give you a clue that maybe your natural size is bigger than you think it should be?  How many diet books have you made best-sellers even though you didn’t achieve long term results?  With access to any eating plan, any doctor, any private chef, any fitness coach, you have not been able to attain long-term thinness.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result and your behavior when it comes to your weight is insane. And unfortunately because of who you are in the world, you are becoming a role-model of insanity for the men, women, girls and boys who are your fans.  You, and they, deserve better.

I understand the pressure to be a “good fatty”.  I know that people treat you better if you say that you are on a diet, talk about your weight as a “struggle”,  berate your own body, self-deprecate, say that you lack willpower and self-control,  dare not be seen eating in public unless it’s a small salad with fat free creamy bacon dressing. (How is ‘creamy bacon dressing’ fat free? What the crap is in there?), act like you don’t deserve respect because of your lack of responsibility, and say that nobody will find you attractive until you’re thin.   I know the difficult life of a bad fatty.  I know how poorly you get treated when you dare to make healthy choices, have high self-esteem, insist upon being treated with respect, and reject the utterly broken system of dieting, but I think that you have the strength to be a bad fatty.  Would you please consider making healthy behaviors your goal instead of weight loss, even if it means that you don’t get the sympathy vote from people who want you to believe that your health is determined based on your size and that you aren’t a good person unless you’re thin or trying to be?

We all feel the pressure to attain our cultural “ideal body” and be thin (especially when it’s wrapped up, however falsely, in the guise of health).  I’m sure that you feel it more than most because of your stardom,  but sometime, some of us have to stand up and say “No.  No more.”

That could be you. It would be such an incredibly powerful statement if you stood up in front of the world and said “I’m going to pursue healthy habits as a goal and my weight will be what it is”.  Can you imagine how many people could be liberated from their obsession with their weight and unhealthy yo-yo dieting.  It would be an act of extraordinary courage from an extraordinary woman.  You can do it, we all believe in you.

There is a Facebook community dedicated to helping stop the Reality show from happening.  You can check it out here:

Published in: on May 21, 2010 at 11:05 pm  Comments (11)  

11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention Ragen. I had not heard about this yet. I too do not watch Oprah as I do not agree with most things she promotes. Loved this especially the last paragraph and “I’m going to pursue healthy habits as a goal and my weight will be what it is.”

  2. Thank you! I really needed to hear this today.

  3. Actually, Oprah *has* done a show where more traditional markers of her health were the topic. It was several years ago w/Dr. Oz. Not surprisingly, she is in perfect health! Has the heart of a much younger woman, low-normal cholesterol, etc.

    So, not only is the dieting promotion insane, it’s also doing absolutely nothing to benefit her health. Bleh.

  4. I think you are brilliant young woman. I just found your website tonight. I have said on various forums online the same thing you have and have gotten clobbered. I have been saying what a disservice Oprah has been doing to herself and her millions of followers of using weight as a criteria to have self esteem.
    Your dancing is also beautiful. I think its wonderful everything you have accomplished so far and am excited to see what is yet to come. Sincerely, Lisa

    • Thank you so much! I really appreciate your kind words and I’m so glad that you liked the blog. I’m so sorry that the internet has not treated you kindly – we just have to keep on plugging!

  5. Thanks for alerting readers about this travesty of an exploitation (or TV shows as some might call it). I am a psychologist teaching at a university, and I have already gone off to my students about what is wrong with Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab show. This strikes me as even worse because the girls are not already in the public eye. Being made an instant celebrity is the LAST thing someone with an ED needs to recover!

  6. I love this post. I’ve often said the same thing about Oprah: imagine the good she could do for all women by saying, “yeah, I’m fat and that’s ok.” Then she could move on to different topics that might get me to watch her show!

    Good on you!

    Susie
    http://www.motherhoot.com

  7. I agree with what you’re saying to an extent. Every plus size woman has to decide for herself where she fits and what she thinks when it comes to weight loss and accepting her body. No matter what we may think about how Oprah approaches health and wellness, the point is she wants to be thin and she’s struggling to figure out how to accomplish it and why she wasn’t able to keep the weight off after a long run of being the size she wanted to be. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    People want Oprah to be all things to all people and that’s just not possible.

    • I see what you are saying. If it really was just her trying to lose weight I would have no problem with it – it’s very important to me that all women’s choices about their bodies are respected. However, she is using her status as a role model to actively sell weight loss to her viewers and making a tidy profit doing it. My point is that she may want to really consider the effect that preaching and encouraging weight loss is having on the young girls and women who she is purporting to help, especially in light of the fact that she has not succeeded herself.

  8. This is so beautifully written; it makes my day!

    xoxo from the Netherlands.

    • Wow, thank you so much! I’m glad that you liked it. I have a friend who just got back from the Netherlands and said that it was fabulous there.


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