Oprah – It’s Time to Turn Around

I don’t have strong feelings for Oprah one way or the other as a TV personality.  But I was sent an article from her website today called “Weight Loss Advice You Haven’t Heard Before” (Spoiler Alert – you’ve totally heard it before) and that created some strong feelings.

I would give almost anything to have an hour to sit down and really talk to Oprah.  I would ask how she can constantly encourage her fans to keep trying to lose weight when she has made a series of diet gurus and their ensuing books rich and famous (Bob Greene, Geneen Roth, Dr. Oz, Rosie Daley, Kathy Freston, Dr. Katz, Dr. Phil, Optifast, Carbohydrate Addicts Diet, and more) without ever achieving permanent thinness.  She has hired personal trainers, personal chefs, and has near infinite resources and yet has not been able to obtain permanent thinness.

If Oprah wants to keep dieting that’s absolutely her right, but I would ask her if she knows that the evidence shows that most people (about 95% of those who diet) have the exact same result as she had and that there are physiological changes that the body makes for the specific purpose of regaining weight.  I would ask if she would stop saying that she knows the weight regain is all her fault and that despite her experiences to the absolute contrary, anybody can lose weight permanently if they try hard enough.  I would ask if sh would stop saying  she’ll “never diet again” when what she means is “I’m totally dieting again.”  I would ask if she would stop posting “easy ways to lose weight” on her website when she more than anyone should know that it’s not “easy”, and as far as her experience shows it’s not even possible.

So now she’s giving us tips we’ve “never heard before” like

  • Don’t eat in front of the computer (Is there anyone who hasn’t heard this?)
  • Don’t trust yourself  – in fact you should tell your wife that if you eat a dried mango she should donate $1,000 to the Nazi party (ok, I’ll admit I haven’t heard the second part before, but I’m going to say it’s because it’s freaking stupid.)
  • Check the serving sizes on labels – a 1/4 second spray of Pam might be fat free, but a 1 second spray probably isn’t blah blah blah (This is oft-repeated and obvious to anyone who ate their fat-free No Shit Sherlock Flakes this morning)
  • BEWARE THE EVIL TRIGGER FOODS (Dude, you’re seriously pedaling this as new?  Fun fact: this one is credited to the President and CEO of Weight Watchers, a company that has been successfully sued for deceptive trade practices so often that they are required to give a disclaimer any time they suggest that their product might work.)

Oh joy, that article links to Dr. Oz’s Diet Tips.  Dr. Oz is a cardiologist who has admitted to having almost no knowledge of the research in the fields of weight and health, so I don’t know where he gets off giving diet tips, except that Oprah keeps giving him a forum. (In fact, the “Health” page of her website includes articles about Dr. Oz’s cleanse, diet, and 20 minute workout.  What the… The man is a cardiologist - when I want tips on performing heart surgery he’ll be the first to know.)  His tips are the same tired thing that we’ve been hearing – but don’t take my word for it when you can buy yet another diet book that has absolutely no research to back up that it works – or even that it won’t do the dieters harm.

What in fat hell Oprah? Millions of people go out and buy what you tell them to buy, eat what you tell them to eat, listen to the “diet gurus” and “diet tips” that you publish. What if you decided that it was your responsibility to investigate the long-term efficacy of these things that you are recommending and be honest about what you find out?

Please consider giving up being a failed role model for thinness, and choosing instead to be a successful role model for access to health for every body.  Based on the evidence that exists on weight and health the only evidence-based, responsible course is to focus on healthy behaviors for our healthiest body and let our weight take care of itself.  How about you say that you’re “never dieting again” and this time you mean it. There’s a whole community of experts to support you.

Finally!  My Book is Available for Pre-Order – get an autographed copy and free shipping!

My book Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   You won’t find any new diet tips, you won’t find any diet tips at all.  Just  a book about living life in the body that you have now, and making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book provides the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Join the Club, Support My Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, please consider a paid subscription (it works like a fan club – you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 8:16 am  Comments (30)  

30 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ordered!!!

  2. “What in fat hell Oprah? Millions of people go out and buy what you tell them to buy, eat what you tell them to eat, listen to the “diet gurus” and “diet tips” that you publish. ”

    And herein lies the problem. I am just cynical enough to believe that Oprah doesn’t give a flying fart about her own weight or anyone else’s, what she cares about is sales. What other topic has been so good for her business? Indeed, what other topic has she supported that has spawned that many spin offs, additional “experts” etc. She has been behind many good things, but nothing has been the cash cow that ZMGOBEEEEESITY has been.

    And that is what pisses me off the most. She is willing to pander her body and continue to spew the misinformation….for a buck or two.

    • I’m with you. I think the biggest reason Oprah does it is because it generates a lot of income for her.

      I wonder, has Oprah ever done a true body acceptance episode or article? Not one of those “love yourself while dieting/restricting at the same time” or “love yourself then change” articles, I mean a true body acceptance. I don’t think she has.

    • I disagree that she doesn’t care about her own weight as she has faced a good amount of body hatred when she was heavy though I don’t discount that money plays a role in her airing her difficulties to the world.

      With that said when I saw ZOMGOBESITY all I could think was sure why wouldn’t far people get blame for any upcoming zombie apocalypse? But that was just my brain!

  3. Actually I HAVE heard the second one (donate $1,000). A few years back, I recall seeing advice about setting yourself a goal with consequences for not reaching it. You were supposed to pick some cause you thought was despicable, and if you failed at your goal, you were to write a big stinkin’ check to the cause you hated. It was supposed to be motivational.

    • I don’t get how this is supposed to work. It has always just backfired on me because when it comes right down to it, I refuse to punish myself like that. Doesn’t matter what the punishment was or what it was punishment FOR, I just simply…didn’t do it.

      Then again I will admit that I also seem impervious to the motivational powers of things like to-do lists as well, so maybe it’s just me.

      • The this is that it seems like, from the perspective of the person doing it, it just compounds a “bad thing”. If you think that eating a dried Mango is a “bad thing” and then you eat one, then why would you compound that by adding another “bad thing” like giving money to the Nazi Party? At the very least he could add that if he succeeds at the goal then, since he obviously has $1,000 just lying around, he could give it to a charity or political party that he supports.

        At the end of the day though I think that maybe if you can’t motivate yourself to not eat dried mangoes without the threat of giving a ton of money to a group that you find utterly despicable, then maybe not eating dried mangoes is either not that important, or it’s something for which you should seek professional help.

        ~Ragen

        ________________________________

      • … I refuse to punish myself like that.

        I think this is what makes you different than the people for whom it works. I’ve never punished myself financially for diet, exercise, or weight-related behaviors (aside from denying myself necessities or wanted items), but I’ve definitely played the “punishment/reward” game in several different flavors.

  4. I’ve been saying for years that Oprah would do the biggest service to her fans/audience by saying, “know what? I’m fat and it’s ok. Let’s focus on being healthy.”

    Imagine how the diet industry would crash and burn the day that happened!

  5. I’ve been saying for a while that we need to find a way to get to Oprah. Whatever your opinion of her is, she holds a lot of power. A LOT of women listen to her, and things she champions tend to become big issues. Imagine how many women might stop hating themselves if she was to say “You know what, it’s ok to be fat. It’s ok to look however you look. You don’t have to change that to be healthy.”

    She could still push healthy diets and medical professionals that touted them, but if the focus moved toward health instead of weight loss, she might actually be able to say that “This works, and it works long-term!”

    I’d love to see her sit down with you, or with any of the other wonderful body-positive women out there, and really talk about what Heath at Every Size means.

    I’ll be writing her today… Maybe if enough of us do so, it might just happen. Couldn’t hurt to try, right?

  6. I remember reading this a week or two ago–I think mentioned with disdain from another blogger. I found the Nazi one pretty obnoxious too. Not only the part where you’re donating money to something you hate (who has $1000 bucks to plunk down to do that anyway??), but because you ate a DRIED PIECE OF FRUIT. Are you kidding me? And the guy in the example purposefully kept them in the cupboard just to torture himself, and then punish himself if he caved in to the MANGO. No one should be punished for feel like they’re caving in to fruit. It’s not even like it was crystallized-coated-in-sugary-goodness dried fruit. Just dehydrated mango. I don’t like it how the world has turned on the most wonderful tasting things that are actually healthy. Is it just because it tastes good? We don’t deserve it? I need someone to explain this to me!
    I just have the strongest urge to kick someone after reading something like that!

    • There seems to be a definite war on fruit in the weight-conscious community. They’ll go with the “eat five fruits and vegetables a day” thing until someone admits that most of what they eat is fruit, and then it’s no longer good enough. You MUST eat less fruit because of the evil sugars. It’s just more proof (if we needed any) that it’s not about health or having a good life (seriously, if it WAS why would anybody be anti-fruit?), it’s about conforming to society’s norms.

      One of my best memories is of a lazy Saturday morning in Ireland one year, when I, my host-father, and another student they were also hosting sat around their kitchen table eating mangos and talking. The mangos weren’t what made the morning awesome, but i think it would have been a much different experience if we had been eating diet-approved celery sticks instead.

      • Not just fruit… I’ve seen diatribes against carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes too… all the sugar in the first two (well, tomatoes are actually fruit anyway, but everyone treats them like vegetables so…) and I guess it’s the starch in the potatoes. And white rice. Only reason brown rice gets a pass is it has fiber, which makes me wonder… if I sprinkled some of my cat’s fiber powder (it’s just benefiber lol, not cat specific) on white rice, would it magically be “healthy enough”?

  7. Agreed! As always, you amazing person! I blame Oprah for why my mother in-law makes comments about my weight and is “worried” about me all the time. My mother in-law regards Oprah as the highest power and always gives a “good for her” when she see someone has lost weight.

  8. The most ridiculous thing about Oprah’s insistence that re-gaining the weight she loses is her own fault is that she fairly recently found out she has hypothyroidism.

    I feel kind of bad for her, in a way. All that money, all that influence, all that success and admiration, and she still can’t seem to love her own body and measures her worth by it.

    • It’s also fairly possible that her thyroid problems are directly due to her weight loss and regain yo-yoing. Your endocrine system is surprisingly susceptible to problems when you abuse your body with the whole gain/starve/lose behavior.

      After having my daughter, my body attacked my thyroid and killed it because the hormonal changes were just too extreme.

      It really saddens me that extreme behaviors such as dieting- especially for weight loss- and exercise bullimia are FAR MORE directly related to illness, medical conditions and unhealthiness.

  9. So, um being fat ( eating dried fruit, I don’t even…) is worse then supporting nazis? What kind of people are these. Have they no idea what this says about the value of people. I mean his vanity is more important then other people’s lives?

    • This is also making me think of how often there “there were no fat people in the concentration camps” trope comes up from fat haters. What’s with the repetition of nazi themes?

      Though, to take it in another direction, when I was first starting to realize that fat hatred was messed up, I thought, hey, I’m being told that in order to be loveable I need to change my body. But Hitler had a girlfriend! Nobody told Hitler he had to change to find love! And I do? Because I’m fat? That’s f*&%ed up.

      Just had to share that. :-)

  10. Wait, is Geneen Roth considered a “diet guru”? Doesn’t she promote mindful eating and HAES-type principles?

    • I’ve not read her book but Oprah promoted her techniques as a way to lose weight – sort of like a HAES diet (ah, the oxymoronicness of it all)

      ~Ragen

      ________________________________

  11. My mom buys into all the Dr Oz nonsense… she bought a fancy blender to do a 2 week “smoothie cleanse” he came up with. She told me that, and I… well, I laughed at her and said, “Really, you’re not going to chew anything for 2 weeks?”

    You know, we could hold Oprah up as Exhibit A for “diets don’t work”. All that money, an army of minders, access to every expert on the planet, and yep, they still don’t work. (I don’t think it would be nice to use her personally as an example, though. Just theoretically.)

  12. I’m sick of hearing about Dr. Oz. The majority of his topics on his show is weight loss and he’s always quoted or on the cover of a magazine promoting this diet or that diet. The latest Womens’ World has him promoting an iced tea diet that apparently will lead to a 200 lb. weight loss. What do you do, drink enough tea and then you pee away the water weight gain? No thanks…I don’t know how anyone can take him seriously when he has like 25 fad weight loss tricks a month. Oprah, you royally screwed up when you forced him upon us!

  13. “Don’t trust yourself – in fact you should tell your wife that if you eat a dried mango she should donate $1,000 to the Nazi party (ok, I’ll admit I haven’t heard the second part before, but I’m going to say it’s because it’s freaking stupid.)”

    I first heard that concept in a Behavioral Psychology Class. You give the check to someone because you might not have the strength to send the check when the time comes. The example in class was with a black man that wanted to stop smoking.

  14. I have often thought the same thing about Oprah. She is one of the most powerful, respected women in the Western world and yet she suffers from such a lack of self-esteem that she always feel she lives in the “wrong” body and that she is somehow responsible for her gazillion failed weight loss attempts. SIGH.

    Not to mention my anger at Geneen Roth for taking something as wonderful as intuitive eating, making it restrictive in a whole new way and tacking promises of weight loss onto it. Bleh.

  15. The thing I always have to wonder is whether or not Oprah would buy into this crap if it was from a “black shaming” angle. I mean, look at her hair- she has it straightened and as anglicized as possible, and her skin color has progressively lightened as she’s been on TV for longer (but I’m not sure if this is due to age or actual treatments to make her look “whiter”).

    Many of her biggest fans are white, and she plays to white interests a lot, which really worries me because she uses her position as a highly influential person of color to generally ignore the African American community except for various token issues or charities.

    And considering that the so-called “obesity rates” of those in the African American community are much higher than in any other demographic, you would think that she could take one moment to look at the fact that race, socio-economic status and body size are not just PERSONAL CHOICES, but they are political and social ISSUES that have many “popular beliefs” attached to them that are SIMPLY NOT TRUE.

    The shame that Oprah carries is not just the shame of her “larger body” (which, honestly, has never really seemed all that large to me), but also this shame of not being that perfect, white, blond, thin Aryan princess that people seem to tout on TV as being “good enough” or “perfect enough” to be allowed to be considered beautiful.

    I honestly think that Oprah (and a good number of all women) need to be told that they are fine and lovely just the way they are a comparable amount of times (or even more) than they get from all the hateful and hurtful messages minimizing their bodies, their racial identities, and their sense of Self. And unfortunately, the hate has a head start.

    The thing we hate is not ourselves. The thing that we compare ourselves to does not exist.

    And yet we keep trying to become something imaginary and hate someone who is perfectly fine to begin with.

    All that money, power and influence, and even the mighty Oprah is just as much a victim to the merry-go-round of crazy body expectations as the rest of us.

  16. I’m glad someone mentioned Dr. Oz. Every other day he has a “new” diet plan. My question to him is, why do we need a new diet every other day, when, the first one he touted should have worked? It’s like when someone wants to lose weight and tells me “Weight Watchers has always worked for me.” If it works for you then……wait for it…why are you still fat? Just sayin’…….

    • Jackie,

      Absolutely! More than once a fat person has come up to me after a talk and said “I don’t know what you mean about weight watchers not working, I’ve done it six times and it worked every time.” At that point all I can do is look at them and blink slowly.

      ~Ragen

      ________________________________

      • Or they try some new “diet clense” thing and continually complain about how hungry and how much weight they’re losing and stuff (like the good suffering martyr they are, amirite?) and then I look at them and think to myself “You really don’t look all that different at all- I think it might all be in your head.” But if you say things like that, people act like all their suffering and self-torturing is for nothing and they get really, really angry.

        *sigh* Luckily the coworker who is doing the above-mentioned things is moving to another department at the end of the week. She’s a really nice person but I don’t think I can stand the weight talk any longer- it’s like she’s made this shield of fat hate that even the most sensitive and HAES comments cannot penetrate.

  17. I would love to be there when you talk to her! It perplexes me that she can be powerful enough to achieve all she has, but is so persistent in being the affect of main stream marketing.

  18. Actually, Oprah has helped in a reverse psychological way.

    When I’m so angry with my inability to eat less or exercise more, I look to the Oprah look; she has EVERY POSSIBLE DIET AID AVAILABLE TO MAN. Trainers, chefs, home gyms, support by the boatload . Yet, she is still unable to lose the weight.

    If she can’t do it with all her resources, why should we be so hard on ourselves?


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