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HomeLifestyleOprah Winfrey opens up about her weight loss journey in new special

Oprah Winfrey opens up about her weight loss journey in new special

Oprah Winfrey has had a very public discourse when it comes to her weight over the course of her career as a television host, producer, actress and author. In a new special airing on ABC on Monday night, Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution, the 70-year-old star opens up about her weight loss journey — from the body shaming she’s encountered to her decision to take weight loss medication and the impact it’s had on her.

“I took on the shame that the world gave to me,” Winfrey — who last month announced that she’s stepping down from the WeightWatchers board — shares in the special. “For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport.”

One incident in particular stung. “I’ll never forget a day in 1990 I saw myself on the cover of TV Guide’s best and worst dressed list,” Winfrey recounts. “I read the headline that Mr. Blackwell, the tastemaker of the time, called me ‘bumpy, lumpy and downright dumpy.’ I was ridiculed on every late night talk show for 25 years and tabloid covers for 25 years.” Headlines called her “fatter than ever,” she adds in the special.

The comments about her weight pushed her to slim down, Winfrey says. “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,” she says in reference to the November 1988 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show in which the host proudly announced that she fit into size 10 Calvin Klein jeans for the first time in seven years. Her triumph was short-lived, however. “After losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet, the next day, y’all, the very next day, I started to gain it back.”

In the decades since, Winfrey hasn’t shied from discussing her figure, whether it’s meant teaming up with WeightWatchers or getting frank about gaining weight back in articles like the 2009 O cover story “How did I let this happen again?” Her motivation for hosting tonight’s special, she says, is to address the impact of weight loss medications like Ozempic and Wegovy and acknowledge that obesity is “a disease, not a character flaw.” Destigmatizing people’s bodies — and what they do with them — is paramount.

“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,” she says. “And more importantly, to stop shaming ourselves.”

Read on to see what else Winfrey reveals about her personal journey in the special — and why experts think it’s important that she’s sharing her story.

What does Winfrey say about using weight loss medication?

For the first time since revealing to People that she’s taking a weight loss medication (she hasn’t named which one) to maintain her weight, Winfrey gives some insight into her experience in Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution. The special also features experts weighing in on these medications’ popularity.

“I use it as a tool, also combined with hiking three to five miles a day or running,” she says, noting that a combination of interventions has worked best for her. “It’s also weight resistance training and all the things that go along with eating a healthy diet.”

The medication has also helped her experience fewer intrusive thoughts about food, aka “food noise.” “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 says. “And now I realize, y’all weren’t even thinking about the food. You weren’t obsessing about it. That is the big thing I learned.”

Prior to using the medication, Winfrey says, she would think about what she was eating for lunch while eating breakfast, and would stress about food leading up to holiday celebrations. “Now I can eat a half a bagel and be fine,” she says. “I have blamed myself because you think, I’m smart enough to figure this out. And then to hear all along that it’s you fighting your brain. … There is now a sense of hope.”

What experts say

Winfrey says that she wanted to create this special in an effort to provide “hope for people like me, who have struggled for years with being overweight or with obesity.” Experts in the field believe she’s on the right track.

“By sharing her story about living with obesity and accessing care, Oprah is helping lead an important conversation about obesity as a chronic disease and women’s health issue, and the importance of removing the shame and stigma around obesity,” Kristal Hartman, national board chair of the Obesity Action Coalition, tells Yahoo Life.

Dr. Katherine Saunders, obesity medicine physician at Weill Cornell Medicine and co-founder of Intellihealth for metabolic health, says Winfrey’s experience alone provides valuable insight. “If Oprah, who has all the resources in the world for chefs, trainers, etc., requires anti-obesity medication to manage her obesity, what does that tell you? It’s clearly not just about diet and exercise.”

“Oprah has the credibility, the platform and the ability to get the message out that obesity is something that is not an individual’s fault and that it’s something that can be treated if people want it to be treated,” Dr. Melanie Jay, director of NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Program on Obesity, told Yahoo Life following Winfrey’s “State of Weight” conversation for Oprah Daily last fall.

Most importantly, Winfrey says she is leaving space for all points of view. “For people who feel happy and healthy and celebrating life in a bigger body and don’t want the medications, I say, bless you,” she says at the end of Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution. “And for all the people who believe diet and exercise is the best and only way to lose excess weight, bless you too, if that works for you. And for the people who think [medication] could be the relief and support and freedom … that you’ve been looking for your whole life, bless you.”

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