Is Oprah a Big Fat Hypocrite?

oprah-cover-january-2009-how-did-i-let-this-happen-again

Forget about the war in Iraq, or that the world’s economy is imploding, or the fact that Heroes has totally sucked this year, the big news the last couple of days is:

Oprah went and got fat again.

Think about it.

This is a big deal.

If Oprah can’t keep the weight off, who can.

Oprah has:

  • Access to the best trainers in the world
  • Access to the best nutritional gurus in the world
  • Access to America’s doctor, Dr. Oz
  • A fully equipped home gym(s)
  • A personal chef
  • Access to the best selling spiritual gurus
  • Access to the most popular personal coaches
  • Access to the psychiatrists who have devoted their practices to weight loss
  • Access to the President-Elect, and
  • More money than God

With all of this equipment and money and advice and healthy eatin’ and healthy livin’, how could she gain 40 lbs. in one year?

Well, according to Ms. Winfrey herself:

emotional_eatingWhat I’ve learned this year is that my weight issue isn’t about eating less or working out harder, or even about a malfunctioning thyroid. It’s about my life being out of balance, with too much work and not enough play, not enough time to calm down. I let the well run dry.

Here’s another thing this past year has been trying to teach me: I don’t have a weight problem—I have a self-care problem that manifests through weight.

As my friend Marianne Williamson shared with me, “Your overweight self doesn’t stand before you craving food. She’s craving love.”

Falling off the wagon isn’t a weight issue; it’s a love issue.

It’s a love issue?

Oprah isn’t loved?

Have you ever seen those women in her audience?

They loooooooovvvvvvve Oprah.

And what about Stedman?

Okay, seriously – Oprah contines:

When I stop and ask myself, “What am I really hungry for?” the answer is always “I’m hungry for balance, I’m hungry to do something other than work.” If you look at your overscheduled routine and realize, like I did, that you’re just going and going and that your work and obligations have become a substitute for life, then you have no one else to blame.

Only you can take the reins back.

That’s what I’m doing. These days I’ve put myself back on my own priority list; I try to do at least one hour of exercise five or six days a week.

As I work out, eat healthfully, and reorder my life so there’s time to replenish my energy, I continue to do the spiritual and emotional work to conquer this battle once and for all.

My goal isn’t to be thin. My goal is for my body to be the weight it can hold—to be strong and healthy and fit, to be itself. My goal is to learn to embrace this body and to be grateful every day for what it has given me.

To be strong and healthy and fit.

Sounds good to me.

But how is she going to do it?

Once again, here’s Oprah:

In July I was able to take a break. I went to sleep and woke up whenever I pleased. I sipped soy milk, downed vitamins, snacked on flaxseed, and allowed my body to restore itself. Some days I exercised by walking with my dogs in the hills of Maui; gradually I started working out on the treadmill, at first with a heart monitor to make sure there were no palpitations (it was a black box smaller than a BlackBerry, which I wore on my belt). By the end of the summer, I felt I could do a full hour of cardio without dropping dead.

Next I tackled the food addiction, which is ongoing. As far as my daily food choices go, I’m not on any particular program. I’ve gone back to the commonsense basics we all know: eating less sugar and fewer refined carbs and more fresh, whole foods like fish, spinach, and fruit. But in order not to abuse food, I have to stay fully conscious and aware, of every bite, of taking time and chewing slowly. I have to focus on being fully alive, awake, present, and engaged, connected in every area of my life. Right now.

Let’s recap:

  • Slow things down – Life isn’t a sprint
  • Sleep
  • Walking in nature with someone (her dogs) she loves
  • Gradually increasing exercise demand
  • Not following a “DIET”
  • Eating the foods, we know are healthy
  • Be aware – stop and observe your life

So What Do You Think?

  • Is Oprah fooling herself?
  • Is this just a big load of new agey, sell another self-help book B.S.?
  • Or is Oprah on to something?
  • Is Oprah going to drive her considerable audience away from diets and being perfect and having perfect kids and a perfect job and towards a life focused on health & happiness?

What Do I Think?

I think that we are at a very unique period in history.

  • We are entering / have entered a worldwide recession
  • A lot of people / cultures around the world really hate each other and are willing to fly planes into buildings full of other people
  • A good portion of the world’s population is starving and unhealthy
  • A larger portion of the world’s population is fat and unhealthy
  • Apparently, we are running out of oil – the lifeblood of our society
  • Apparently, the environment is screwed unless I start walking to work and slap some solar panels on my roof
  • And according to the nightly news, 95% of the newsworthy events really, really suck.

However, because of all of these things, we have the opportunity to make massive changes.

And while Oprah (and me) probably won’t have a huge impact on turning around the economy or world peace or global warming, we can have an effect on people’s health.

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11 comments

  1. I think that because Oprah has quite the history when it comes to weight gain and loss, this shouldn’t be as big of a news item as it has turned into. I also think, after reading the full article, that I understand what she’s trying to say. Yes, she has access to all of the tools needed (and then some) to get fit and healthy…however, she is an extremely busy woman who has a big heart and as she said, she put herself low on the todem pole of priorities. It is just so EASY to let yourself go – sometimes what started as a break from working out, whether injury related or due to a vacation, can turn into months and possibly years of inactivity. And you know what? It’s HARD to get back on the wagon. I understand that it’s a lifestyle, but sometimes LIFE gets in the way of your LIFEstyle.

    I get what Oprah is saying – I like her new outlook. Sometimes its just as simple as flicking that switch in your head – turning off the ‘I need to be thin’ and turning on the ‘I need to be healthy’.

    I truly hope she figures it out – and if she inspires her millions of viewers in the process, then all the better!

  2. I think a huge piece of the puzzle is what dieting does to your brain — “starvation mode” leads to bingeing — it’s biology, though some are more susceptible than others. (My sister can diet off and on with no major backlash; I dieted once — albeit very strictly — and it had very negative consequences, ie, binge eating and subsequent diet/binge cycles.) Habit is a huge factor, too — once something becomes a habit, we have to unlearn it. So it goes with binge eating — not that I’m saying Oprah binge eats, but she admits to overeating in some regard. I think a major component of being healthy — for me, anyway — is doing away with rules and diets. And basically just not worrying too much about it — not worrying about weight, food, etc. The irony is I end up eating really healthily ANYway, and gravitate toward a healthier weight. So a big lesson for me was that my worrying is one of the main factors I need to keep an eye on. (Side note: Oprah should read “In Defense of Food” or some other non-diet book — with her history of dieting she could surely appreciate Michael Pollan’s take on “Our National Eating Disorder;” another side note: It drives me CRAZY if I watch “The Biggest Loser” and everything is about low-cal this and low-cal that. And chew gum to quell cravings, etc. To me it’s much healthier to, if you’re really craving cake or something, have some!)

    Sorry this is sooo long! I just have very strong opinions about American’s “health psychology,” if you will, and about dieting and what exactly eating “healthy” means.

    As always, I really enjoy reading your blog — so nice to have a real, legitimate health blog instead of one chock full of things like “10 ways to lose 10” pounds and so forth. Keep up the great work!

  3. It is great that she is willing to talk about it. For someone in the entertainment industry, it is refreshing to have someone admit that they struggle with their weight.

    What I do not like is how some celebrities seem to shrink overnight and then go on the camera claiming that they lost all that weight because they exercise and eat healthy. In situation like this, it makes normal people feel like we do not measure up somehow since we cannot drop 20 pounds in 2 months.

  4. As a health journalist and someone who’s seen up-and-down weight management over the years, I think Oprah illustrates what experts say is at the root of the obesity epidemic: a toxic environment. For every tool at her disposal, there’s a temptation. The finest foods, the softest sofas, etc. And whether you’re Oprah or an office worker, daily life is rich with calories and lacking in ways to burn them. I don’t fault her. In fact, I think her openness is key to busting open what health officials have said is one of the most problematic public health issues since smoking.

  5. Note to Oprah; The definition of insanity is…
    Oprah, when are you going to learn? We have long been told that the definition of insanity is “to keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome.”

    Oprah Winfrey is clearly NOT insane. She is one of the most successful women in the history of women; she is as well known (or better!) as Eve, Mary, Mother Theresa, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary, Madonna and Britney. Like many of them, she needs no last name to identify her and regardless of what she thinks; we don’t define her–or any of these women by the size or shape of their bodies but rather by their legacy of talent, brains and actions.

    And as for Oprah, ALL of hers have been top-notch.

    So why is she “so embarrassed” to have gained weight?

    Britney may have reason to be embarrassed but like all humans, she is proving we can change and put embarrassing moments behind us.

    Oprah Winfrey has spent MILLIONS of dollars of her own money to give girls who were total strangers to her a chance at a future with her school for girls in Africa. That is a noble act and one that will leave a lasting legacy of virtue and integrity.

    Oprah has opened the pages of books to millions who may not have learned the simple pleasure of reading if not for her sharing her love of it through her book club. (OK, I am a bit frustrated that my book hasn’t been on the show, but that is beside the point!)

    Oprah Winfrey is a good woman, a very good woman and I am mad as hell that her, or ANY woman would refer to herself as “A FAT COW” in public much less in her private thoughts. That is mean, negative and a nasty comment to make about anyone, and certainly not words that we should choose to describe ourselves!

    What makes me really sad for Oprah, and EVERY woman who defines themself by their body’s appearance is that they don’t realize that action of self-deprecation is exactly what keeps them on the diet yo-yo roller coaster and finds them going up and down in weight year after year.

    Allow me to explain.

    Oprah has the input of Maya Angelou, Depak Choprah, Bob Greene, Mehmet Oz–a longer list of the gurus at her disposal; simply put the BEST of the BEST at what they do, and she takes their advice and does what they tell her and loses weight but here is where something goes wrong, once she is “done” with their plans or stops taking their advice, or life simply takes over with it’s crazy ups and downs; bills, family issues, school problems, elections, aging parents, worries, stress or physical things like thyroid problems (see, Oprah is just like us, despite having zillions in the bank–life is in many ways the same for all of us)–we slip back to our old habits or as I call them “vices”.

    I really wish that Oprah would have read my book and listened to my CDs (NOT because I know she would love them, mention them on air and we would sell gozillions of them and live next door to her and we would be BFFs!) because I sincerely believe she would NOT have to say she is EMBARRASSED for simply being human nor would she beat herself up in such a negative manner as to call herself a cow!

    Those are fundemental differences between the Vice Busting way and every other “diet” out there.

    Yet on January 5th, Oprah is about to do what she has always done; lock arms with Bob Green and profess that she is going to “Make the Connection” in 2009 and “Live her Best Life” in 2009 and “Lose weight” in 2009 as they have the annual “Best Life Now” week of shows.

    Oprah, and every woman reading this, the defintion of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome!

    Oprah did not gain weight back because she was deficient of a particular diet. She gained it back because she reverted to old vices:

    1. Lack of regular exercise

    2. “comfort” foods (mine was ice cream; haven’t had it in 13 years and coincidentally lost and have kept off over 100 pounds in that time–sure, fluctuating some as I am human but keeping 100 of the 130 OFF for all this time should convince people I know what I am talking about!)

    3. Thinking that FAT is a personality trait rather than a physical condition.

    Oprah, please girlfriend, listen to me this time!

    YOU loved Christopher Reeves. I don’t think you ever ridiculed him for his physical condition in the last years of his life, rather you celebrated his great resolve and determination, strength of character and faith–none of which are contingent on the appearance nor functionality of the body!

    YOU are NOT a “fat cow”. You are talented, smart, generous, loyal, shrewd, determined, compassionate, …you tell me!

    On day one of my program, I ask my readers to choose 10 adjectives that they would use to describe themself. It has saddened me through the years to read the responses. 9-10 women use the word FAT in their list, same as Oprah did when she called herself “a fat cow”; women wanting to lose as little as 10 pounds or women needing to lose 100 or more–they see themselves as FAT and it defines them.

    But, I didn’t ask them to describe what they LOOK like, but most defer to their body rather then their SOUL and that is sad.

    A woman in NYC once sent me her 10 adjectives; FAT, FAT, FAT, FAT, FAT, FAT, FAT, FAT, FAT, FAT, FAT!!!!!

    The word FAT 10 times in capital letters w/ exclaimation points. All she saw herself as was FAT. I sent her an email saying that I couldn’t accept those words and she needed to do them over again telling me about WHO she was not WHAT her body looked like. She was furious with me, told me off and I didn’t hear from her again…for a few weeks! When she responded again she apologized for being so harsh with me and explained that she was an actress and in a play off Broadway, and long story short, her butt was the punch line that made the entire audience laugh. Night after night she had to endure people laughing AT her because of her weight. Easy to see why she was stuck on only seeing herself as being FAT. But, she said that each time she tried to redo the list for me she cried and had to stop, but finally, she got a list on paper: Magical, gifted, spiritual, talented, loving, kind, determined, empowered, faithful, thankful.

    WOW! She was still overweight but finally she realized that FAT is NOT a personality trait and took a much needed inventory on all that is wonderful and uniquely HER! She went on to lose her weight and based on what I see in the tabloids about her, she is keeping it off just fine!

    Oprah, stop doing what you always do and try something different, please! I think it’s time you bust your vices before they bust you! And hey, if you don’t believe me, just ask Dr. Oz and Dr. David Katz; they both endorse my book The Vice Busting Diet!

    http://juliahavey.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/12/note-to-oprah-the-definition-of-insanity-is.html

  6. Opra, all this time as Tony Robbins she was skinny when she worked out every day of the week, but now with the coming to an end of the TV show added stress, she is probably letting her self-go and not taking the time to exercise walk , and not eating properly perhaps this is the end of Opra’s up and down up and down or perhaps just waiting for that slimfast commercial just like Kristy Alley.
    You are right she does have an impact on people’s health one good thing for her now that the TV show will no longer be airing would be to start taking care of herself, mentally , physically, emotionally.
    We all hope she is slim again as she is a role model for millions of people.
    Regards
    Steve

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