Oprah, Weight Watchers and Loving Our Bodies

Weight Watchers website screen shot 1-27-2016In the past few years, I’ve thought more than a couple times, “I’m so glad Oprah isn’t talking about her latest diet anymore.”

I assumed she had learned to love her curvy figure. She always looks happy and confident on the cover of her magazine when I’m in the line at the grocery store. I was so glad that my daughter wouldn’t grow up with the fat wagon episode I had. Emmeline would grow up with all the best things about Oprah (and there are so many).

However, at the beginning of the new year, I noticed an Oprah commercial about Weigh Watchers. I later learned that in October, Oprah took a 10% stake in Weight Watchers. On Tuesday, she tweeted a video ad about how she lost 26 pounds using the program, and the company’s share price surged by almost 20 %. Oprah is also a savvy business woman, and I love to watch her break glass ceilings, particularly as a woman of color.

I don’t want to belittle Oprah’s choice to join Weight Watchers. But, this endorsement makes me sad. If Oprah, a brilliant woman with billions of dollars and directing teams of people, feels unsatisfied with her body and chooses to publicly participate in a weight loss program, the message is clear…our accomplishments do not matter unless we are also thin. And, I feel a little more deflated as I continue my quest to love my body as it is because if I can’t love my body, how can I hope that my beautiful 5-year-old daughter who loves her “cute round booty” and her “tall strong legs” will continue to feel confident in her skin?

How pernicious is our weigh-obsessed culture?

I watch Young Women I love pin inspirational memes about thinness and eating plans that they should not worry about, and I wonder how to stem this tide.

What do you do to change this culture when even our most savvy celebrities are not immune? What role models have you found who have embraced body acceptance? How do you help the next generation do better than we have?

*Also, don’t miss Alysa Auriemma’s excellent post on The Mary Sue, “What Oprah is Getting (Dangerously) Wrong About the Fat Experience in Weight Watchers Messaging.”

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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6 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    I worry about this for my daughter too. Body image issues can be so debilitating — I know I didn’t go swimming through most of my teen years because I was ashamed that I didn’t have a hard toned body. That means I lost out on a lot of opportunities to make friends, have fun, and be active. I don’t want my daughter similarly overly concerned about not having the idealized super thin/toned body. One thing I want to do to help combat this is have my daughter be a swimmer. We did swim team last summer, and it was hard work for my 5 year old. But I loved that swim team has girls of all shapes and sizes walking around in high cut swimsuits with seemingly little self-consciousness. I wish I had been exposed to this as a kid. Another thing I do is let my daughter see what a real woman’s body looks like. So if she’s in my bedroom when I’m changing, I don’t kick her out. Let her realize that reality does not match up to what she sees on the cover of magazines.

  2. spunky says:

    I confess that as soon as I saw the title of this post, I rolled my eyes. Then I thought about my weight and body, then questioned if I should read it….because I never felt good about myself after watching any TV program, attending any relief society activity, or reading any magazine that focused on weight loss, body size or latest health craze….which is why this post is so important. (And I did read it! Twice!)

    As a mother and a woman, I am not doing a very good job at modeling positive body confidence to those around me. But I am trying. And I’m trying to do right by my daughters. I read this just a few days ago on face book and am opting to use these phrases with my daughters – “you are strong”, “you are glowing”, etc. Its made *me* feel better about myself to focus on these things, and I hope it makes a difference with my daughters. https://m.facebook.com/lovewhatreallymatters/photos/a.710462625642805.1073741828.691679627521105/1050392618316469/?type=3

    Thank you for writing about this! I don’t have the answers, but I love the questions you’ve posted here. I hope we do better by our daughters. They deserve it.

  3. Jenny says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately too. I like to talk to my kids about the anatomy and function of their bodies. We talk about different muscles they use and how those muscles grow healthy and strong. I really want my kids to view their bodies as a tool to help them move and do the things they want to do and to experience pleasure and pain. I don’t want them to worry about what they look like or what other people think. That’s hard though, when you grew up being so self conscious of your own body. I love your thoughts on needing to love our own bodies of we want our daughters and the next generation of women to love themselves. A little while ago I heard a lady speaking about self love and how we should all spend time sitting in front of a mirror naked, appreciating our own bodies. I thought that was a beautiful idea, but not easy to do. Great post EmilyCC!

  4. Kaylene says:

    The message is loud and clear… Our accomplishments are nothing if we are not thin.

    That wasn’t the message that I got when I read about Oprah wanting to lose weight. I assumed she wants to do it so that she has better health. I’ll bet she even wants to live longer so that she can enjoy all that money!

  5. EFH says:

    Well, this is a topic where most of us can never stop talking about.

    About Oprah’s message, I am disappointing that the message was simply framed as “how great to loose weight and look at me how beautiful I look in my 26 lbs less body”. Very shallow and
    un-Oprah message indeed. But it is a reality check for all of us to see that even a woman who has proved herself over and over again to herself and the world that she is smart, pretty, successful and loved falls for this definition of beauty and happiness.

    I personally don’t mind that she tries to loose weight. It is important to be healthy and strong especially at her age where she might be prone to high cholesterol, diabetes and so on. Loosing weight in order to be stronger and healthier is a great cause. But she lost control of the message with this ad.

    American culture is obsessed with thinnest. I am so surprised in this country how fast women that just give birth loose weight. Now, definitely this is also about genetics but it also shows to me that women are super concerned about it even at a time when they shouldn’t.

    I am usually immune to this but there are stages in life when it gets to me and I simply remind myself of the strength that I have acquired now that I did not have 10 years ago. So, it is very important for me to do physical activities and sports to understand my age, my strength and that even though I do not fit the body type that is idealized in magazines and showed off in red carpets, I do have a body that allows me to travel the world and live without limitations. And this is what I try to remind myself above all – to live without limitations.

  6. Jacqueline says:

    Have you heard of Beauty Redefined? They are a voice of reason and clarity on this topic, check them out. I have read many of their blog posts to change my thought process and give me the words to explain why any focus on body=worth is dangerous.

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