Oprah Winfrey on past weight shaming and starving herself for months | Ents & Arts News

Mar 19, 2024 | Uncategorized

Oprah Winfrey says she “starved herself” for months before wheeling out a “wagon of animal fat” to represent all the weight she’d lost on an episode of her talk show back in 1988, all in a bid to combat the “shame” she felt around her weight.

The 70-year-old star – who has been ranked among the most influential women in the world – described the criticism she had received over her weight during her career, saying that for more than two decades “making fun of my weight was a national sport”.

he spoke emotionally about the myths surrounding obesity and the growing trend of weight management medication in a TV special titled An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame And The Weight Loss Revolution on the American network ABC.

She also said she had quit the board of WeightWatchers ahead of the show because she did not want a “perceived conflict of interest,” and had donated “all of my shares at WeightWatchers to the Smithsonian Museum Of African American History And Culture”.

‘Medicine providing hope for people like me’

Opening the TV special, Winfrey said: “In my lifetime, I never dreamed that we would be talking about medicine that is providing hope for people like me who have struggled for years with being overweight or obesity.

“So, I come to this conversation in the hope that we can start releasing the stigma and the shame and the judgment to stop shaming other people for being overweight or how they choose to lose or not lose weight.

“And more importantly, to stop shaming ourselves.

“I have to say that I took on the shame that the world gave to me, for 25 years making fun of my weight was a national sport.”

She said she would “never forget” when she saw herself on the cover of TV Guides best and worst dressed in 1990, where she was described as “bumpy, lumpy, and downright dumpy”.

She went on: “I was ridiculed on every late-night talk show for 25 years, and tabloid covers for 25 years.”

Pic: AP
Oprah Winfrey, right, and Faye Dunaway arrive at the opening night party for "From the Mississippi Delta" in New York, Nov. 12, 1991. The autobiographical play, written by Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland, chronicles the playwright's life from prostitute to Ph. D. Winfrey is one of the show's producers and it marks her first time as a New York theater producer. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Winfrey (R) and actress Faye Dunaway in 1991. Pic: AP

‘Oprah: Fatter Than Ever’

She then read out a number of hurtful headlines about her, including “Oprah: Fatter Than Ever”, and “Oprah Warned ‘Diet Or Die’ “.

She said: “In an effort to combat all the shame, I starved myself for nearly five months and then wheeled out that wagon of fat that the internet will never let me forget.”

Pic: AP
FILE - In this Nov. 15, 1988 file photo,m talk-show host Oprah Winfrey shows off her new figure in Chicago after she lost 67 pounds following a liquid diet and exercise. On Friday, Nov. 20, 2009, Winfrey announced during a live breoadcast of "The Oprah Winfrey Show, in Chicago that her powerhouse daytime television show, the foundation of a multibillion-dollar media empire with legions of fans, will end its run in 2011 after 25 seasons on the air. (AP Photo/Charles Bennett, File)
In 1988 Winfrey lost 67 pounds following a liquid diet and exercise. Pic: AP

She was referencing her 1988 talk-show appearance during which she wheeled out a wagon on TV containing animal fat to the equivalent of the weight she had lost.

She went on: “And after losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet, the next day, the very next day, I started to gain it back.

“Feeling the shame of fighting a losing battle with weight is a story all too familiar.”

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey (L) and Kennedy Center 2005 Honoree Tina Turner walk together as they depart the gala dinner at the State Department in Washington December 3, 2005. The Kennedy Center award is given for a lifetime contribution to the arts and American culture. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
Winfrey (L) with Tina Turner in 2005. Pic: Reuters

In December 2023, during an interview with American celebrity magazine People, she admitted to using weight-loss medication but did not say which one.

‘Y’all weren’t even thinking about food’

Over the last six-months or so drugs including Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro have become widely discussed – not least of all in Hollywood and celebrity circles, with stars showing off rapid weight loss associated with the so-called miracle diet aids.

Winfrey told People: “The fact that there’s a medically approved prescription for managing weight and staying healthier, in my lifetime, feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for.

Oprah Winfrey (R) presents the Distinguished Career Achievement award to actress Cicely Tyson at the 2006 Black Movie Awards in Los Angeles
Winfrey (R) with actress Cicely Tyson in 2006 at the Black Movie Awards in Los Angeles. Pic: Reuters

“I’m absolutely done with the shaming from other people and particularly myself.”

Winfrey said during the ABC special that since taking weight-loss treatment she eats food in smaller portions, and combines it with hiking or running three to five miles a day, healthy diet and weight-resistance training.

“All these years I thought all of the people who never had to diet were just using their willpower and for some reason, stronger than me.

“And now I realise, y’all weren’t even thinking about the food. It’s not that you had the willpower, you weren’t obsessing over it – that’s the big thing I learned,” she said.

Winfrey became emotional when describing the medication as giving people a “sense of hope” as you “no longer blame yourself”.

Oprah Winfrey at Harry and Meghan's wedding in May 2018
Winfrey at Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May 2018. Pic: Reuters

‘Let’s stop the shaming and blaming’

“When I tell you how many times I have blamed myself because you think ‘I’m smart enough to figure this out’ and then to hear all along it’s you fighting your brain,” she said.

Winfrey ended the show saying: “Let’s stop the shaming and blaming, there is no place for it”.

In a rags-to-riches story, after being born to a single mother in Mississippi, Winfrey made her name hosting The Oprah Winfrey Show from 1986-2011 – which became one of the most successful TV shows in US TV history.

Some of her most notable interviews include speaking to Michael Jackson in 1993, an interview which was watched by 90 million viewers, and her now infamous chat with Tom Cruise in 2005, when he memorably jumped up and down on her couch to proclaim his love for actress Katie Holmes.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry speak in their interview with Oprah Winfrey
Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah. Pic: Reuters

More recently, Winfrey was among the guests at Harry and Meghan’s wedding at Windsor in 2018, and went on to interview them in 2021 in a revealing sit down that made global headlines after the couple accused an unnamed member of the royal family of raising concerns about how dark their son Archie’s skin tone would be before he was born.

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