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Oprah Shares Some Truly Annoying Remarks About Weight Loss

It seems Oprah Winfrey has entered a new phase of her on-going obsession with weight loss — and this one is especially disconcerting. 

The incredibly influential media mogul returned to her talk show host roots with a brand new ABC special on Monday night called, “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution” in which she promotes the use of expensive weight loss drugs like Wegovy and Zepbound.

In December, Winfrey confirmed that she takes a weight loss drug, but didn’t specify which one. In February, she announced her exit from the board of WeightWatchers after almost 10 years. 

In her special, Winfrey lambasts fat stigma by telling viewers to “stop shaming and blaming” individuals and themselves for weight gain because they are struggling with a “disease” akin to alcoholism. 

“The number one thing I hope people come away with is knowing that [obesity] is a disease, and it’s in the brain,” Winfrey said.

Dr. Jen Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent and obesity medicine physician, was also on hand to back up this claim.

“It is conclusively known that the conditions of overweight and obesity are complex, chronic disease states, not character flaws,” Ashton said. “So they should be managed accordingly.”

(It should be noted doctors are huge perpetuates of weight stigma, with research finding doctors are less likely to respect patients they deem overweight, which has caused many diagnoses to be overlooked.)

Winfrey’s special included interviews with people who had taken weight loss drugs as well. They spoke about how the drugs helped them with conditions like Type 2 diabetes, and how miserable their lives were when they were in larger bodies due to fat stigma.

Winfrey shared how sigma has deeply affected her as well. 

“I have to say that I took on the shame that the world gave to me,” Winfrey said in the special. “For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport.”

She admitted in her special that her infamous 1988 moment on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in which she rolled out a red wagon containing 67 pounds of animal fat — the amount of weight she’d then lost — was achieved through pretty unhealthy means. She said she “starved” herself for five months prior to the stunt. 

“After losing 67 pounds on liquid diet, the next day, the very next day, I started to gain it back,” Winfrey said. 

But now, Winfrey said she doesn’t have to engage in extreme dieting or deal with stigma due to weight loss drugs.

Oprah Winfrey speaks onstage during the 55th Annual NAACP Awards earlier this month.
Oprah Winfrey speaks onstage during the 55th Annual NAACP Awards earlier this month. Kevin Winter via Getty Images

“All these years, I thought all of the people who never had to diet were just using their willpower and they were for some reason stronger than me,” she said with the assumption that those with thinner bodies never think about their size or the food they eat. “But now I realize y’all weren’t even thinking about the food. It’s not that you had the willpower. You weren’t even thinking about it. You weren’t obsessing about it.”

The message of the special is undeniably appealing and seemingly inspirational. But it’s also hard to take Winfrey’s endorsement of weight loss drugs — which she delivers with as much passion as she did when she initially endorsed WeightWatchers with her “I love bread!” ad — at face value. 

Weight loss drugs are inaccessible to many people due to their high price point and are typically not covered by insurance. It is also unclear how long someone would have to take these drugs, and what the long term effects would entail. Studies have already found that they can cause significant side effects while one study found that those who use the weight loss drug, Zepbound,will need to stay on it if they want to keep the weight off and not gain it back.

And although the choice to take weight loss drugs is entirely up to an individual and certainly should not get the criticism they receive as a means of “cheating” one’s way into weight loss — endorsing these drugs is not pushing back against the larger societal issue of weight stigma. It is merely offering individuals a way to opt out of being shamed. 

It’s also hard to ignore Winfrey’s long history of endorsing junk science and promoting snake oil salesmen. In 2004, Winfrey introduced to her viewers Dr. Oz, and 10 years later, he was called before a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection for selling weight loss fixes that don’t actually work. Winfrey also gave Jenny McCarthy a platform to spread pseudoscience about vaccines on her talk show in 2007. 

It is also unclear if there is any financial incentive for Winfrey to endorse weight loss drugs. Winfrey began serving on WeightWatchers’ board in 2015 when she acquired a 10% stake in the company, and it is reported she made $221 million selling WeightWatchers’ stockover the years.

So, if Winfrey announces a partnership with an affordable weight loss drug in the near future with a name like Mighty Ozempic that you can never stop taking or you’ll gain the weight back, it may be wise to be a bit skeptical.