Oprah Speaks Out on Her Role in Perpetuating Diet Culture: “When You Know Better, You Do Better”

Oprah Speaks Out on Her Role in Perpetuating Diet Culture: “When You Know Better, You Do Better” featured image
Michael Kovac / Getty Images

While we like to think that we’re moving forward as a society, it feels like women’s bodies are scrutinized now more than ever. With weight loss drugs like Ozempic on the rise, all eyes are on the ladies of Hollywood, and even the slightest difference in one’s appearance can spark major backlash and unwarranted criticism. While it feels like everyone has had their figure nitpicked by the public lately, one of the first celebrities to really be put under the microscope when it comes to weight is Oprah Winfrey.

We all know and love Oprah for her heartfelt advice and endless generosity, but even Oprah herself has made some missteps in her career, as she openly admitted during a live panel with Weight Watchers last week. Overcome with the scrutiny she faced about her own weight, Oprah fell and fed into the cycle of diet culture, perpetuating harmful ideas about weight to her audience. In an effort to do better, Oprah hosted a star- and expert-studded panel and got real about the mistakes she’s made and what she, and all of us, can do to rid ourselves of body shame in the future.

Oprah On Diet Culture: “It is one of my biggest regrets”

If you’ve been a fan of Oprah since the beginning, you definitely remember the day she rolled in a wagon of fat onto the stage of her show in an attempt to motivate viewers to jumpstart their weight loss journeys. So you may be thinking, after doing something like that, why would Oprah be leading a panel on the dangers of weight loss and diet culture? As the talk-show host said it herself, “Maya Angelou always said, ‘when you know better, you do better.'”

Throughout the three-hour long panel, Oprah brought up celebrities like Busy Phillips and Rebel Wilson who have faced their own share of body shaming throughout their career as well as health experts and body acceptance advocates, all with the goal of ridding us all of the “one size fits all” approach to weight and health and ending the shame and scrutiny surrounding our bodies. Before she could get into that, though, Winfrey made a brave and poignant statement of acknowledging her past mistakes when it comes to weight loss and diet culture.

“I want to acknowledge that I have been a steadfast participant in this diet culture through my platforms, through the magazine, through the talk show for 25 years, online, I’ve been a major contributor to it,” Winfrey began. “I cannot tell you how many weight loss shows and makeovers I have done, and they have been a staple since I have been working in television. I shared that famous wagon of fat moment on The Oprah Show, and it is one of my biggest regrets. It sent a message about starving yourself with a liquid diet and set a standard for people watching that I nor anybody else could uphold. The very next day, I began gaining the weight back.”

Bravely and candidly acknowledging her role in perpetuating harmful standards of beauty, Oprah went on for the hours that followed with a mission to open up the conversation about weight health, regardless of what side you’re on. “We have this incredible opportunity to begin to understand the impact of everything that so many of us have internalized about diet culture and the body standards that have caused us so much shame,” Winfrey said. “We’ve been criticized, we’ve been scrutinized, we’ve been shamed, and we’ve been told that unless we meet a certain standard of size, that we didn’t deserve to be accepted or even to be loved. And what I know for sure is that I am done with it!” Watch the event for yourself below.

YouTube: WeightWatchers

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