In 1988 Oprah Winfrey pulled a red wagon full of 67 pounds of fat – the amount of weight she had recently lost – onto the stage in what would become the highest rated episode in the history of her talk show.
In addition to being a powerful woman and a role model and hero to millions, this would be the beginning of Oprah’s journey as what appeared to be one of the vast majority of people who simply cannot achieve long term weight loss, no matter their money, resources, access, or will-power.
From 1988 until 201,1 Oprah would have the experience of almost everyone who seeks long-term weight loss. She would lose weight, then gain it back in attempt after attempt, diet after diet. But because of who she was, she would have that experience publicly with all the stigma, shame, and mistreatment that comes with it. On the way she “introduced” us to all kinds of so-called health gurus (most unforgivably Drs. Oz and Phil,) making them millionaires while she lost weight, and letting each of them off the hook when she gained the weight back.
I can understand how this might happen. Oprah was facing tremendous pressure to fit the mold of how someone of her celebrity should look, and she was no doubt dealing with racism and sexism in addition to sizeism. And, like all of us, she was being misinformed about the relationship of weight and health. And, most importantly,it’s her body and her choice.
Oprah is allowed to believe whatever she wants about weight and health and to do whatever she chooses with her body. Now she’s putting her money where her yo-yo dieting is, choosing to be not just a Weight Watchers member, but also a spokesperson and 10% owner, investing $43.2 million for a 10 percent stake in the company, and Tweeting “I believe in the @weightwatchers program so much I decided to invest, join the Board, and partner in #wwfamily evolution.”
It’s a match made in heaven, if your concept of heaven is a place where people lose weight in the first year and then gain it all back. Remember that WW’s own numbers show that the average person loses 10 pounds, and has gained back half of that at year two when they stop studying them so that they don’t have to record the rest of the weight gain, having once told the FTC that they wouldn’t do longer term studies because it would be “too depressing for our clients.”
Remember that Weight Watchers is required to have a disclaimer that says their product doesn’t work, every time they advertise it, because the Federal Trade Commission successfully sued them for deceptive trade practices. Remember that Weight Watchers used body shaming to try to sell us a product that they know doesn’t work.
As usual, due to the genius of their scam, Weight Watchers has nothing to lose in this deal. They’ve managed to take a near biological certainty – that people will lose weight short term and then gain it back, often more than they lost, long term – and turn it into a incredibly profitable business model that relies on repeat customers. WW brazenly takes credit for the first part of the biological process (the weight loss) and blames their clients, and their failed spokespeople, for the second part (the almost inevitable weight regain) finally getting people to buy their product again and defend it, even thought it has failed them, often repeatedly.
So I say let’s celebrate the amazing person Oprah is, and the incredible things that she has done. And let’s condemn the part of our culture that suggests that she would be somehow “better” at a different size, and that twenty seven years after she hauled that wagon full of fat on stage, she should still be riding the diet roller coaster.
And let’s be honest that, while Oprah has every right to join Weight Watchers, be a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, buy stock in Weight Watchers, get “I Love Weight Watchers” tattooed on her ass or whatever, that doesn’t make long term weight loss any more likely, and it doesn’t make Weight Watchers any less of a scam.
Like the blog? More Cool Stuff!
Like my work? Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. Click here for details
Book and Dance Class Sale! I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!
I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com