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Oprah Winfrey Discusses Being a “Major Contributor” to Diet Culture: “I Own What I’ve Done”

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Oprah Winfrey said that she owns the “major role” she played in modern diet culture, saying she has taken time to process her own shame and now wants to support her audience in their own shift toward healthier mindsets.

“I wanted to gather all of us together because I believe that we have reached a pivotal moment in the way we talk about and the way we think about our bodies,” Winfrey told her in-person and virtual audience during Thursday’s Weight Watcher YouTube live special.

The talk show host went on to say that she acknowledges “that 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.”

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Winfrey’s comments come less than two months after her televised special, Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution, in which she discussed the growing popularity of weight loss drugs such as Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy. A month before that, Winfrey stepped down from the board of Weight Watchers following her reveal that she began using weight loss medication. The media mogul had previously been the face of the brand for nearly a decade and donated her shares in Weight Watchers to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture.

“We’ve been criticized. We’ve been scrutinized. We’ve been shamed,” Winfrey said on Thursday. “And we’ve been told that unless we meet a certain standard of size, that we didn’t deserve to be accepted or even to be loved.”

Now, Winfrey told the audience, she is working to shift the conversation toward self-acceptance. “I’ve shared how that famous wagon of fat on The Oprah Show is one of my biggest regrets,” she said, referencing the 1988 incident in which she pulled a wagon holding 67 pounds of animal fat onstage to represent the weight she had lost on a liquid diet.

Looking back, Winfrey said she sees how that moment “set a standard for people watching that I nor anybody else could uphold. The very next day, I began to gain the weight back.”

Though the wagon incident is well-known, Winfrey took a moment to share what pushed her to lose the 67 pounds in the first place, saying Joan Rivers once asked her during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, “How did you gain the weight?”

“I didn’t know what to say,” Winfrey said, noting it was her first-ever experience with national television (Rivers was filling in for Carson as host that night). “I just said, ‘I ate a lot… ‘ And she said, ‘No, no, no, no, no — I don’t want to hear it. You’re a pretty girl, and you must lose the weight.’”

“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,” Winfrey said. “And the result was that now-famous wagon a fat moment.”

Winfrey went on to explain that the on-air moment with Rivers continues to affect her. “Even until last week, somebody brought it up. They said, ‘Oh, you must have been so angry.’ And I will tell you, it never occurred to me to be angry,” she said. “Because I thought I deserved it… It’s really hard to love your own body when the whole world is telling you it wasn’t worth loving.”

Winfrey told her audience that this mindset “changes tonight.”

“Whatever your path, let’s stop the shaming, allowing people to process what they too have been internalizing for years,” she said. “That’s what this conversation is about.”

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