June 21, 2024

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Oprah Winfrey says she has released the shame of being ‘ridiculed’ for her weight for 25 years

4 min read

Just months after revealing publicly she uses a medication for weight loss, Oprah Winfrey returned to television to shine a spotlight on the topic.

Winfrey, 70, opened up in “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution” about what it has been like to have her own weight ups and downs documented publicly over the past several decades.

“I have to say that I took on the shame that the world gave to me,” Winfrey said in the special, which aired Monday night on ABC. “For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport.”

Winfrey recalled being “ridiculed” on tabloid covers and on late-night talk shows for over two decades, recalling that one headline she’ll never forget described her as “bumpy, lumpy and downright dumpy.”

At the height of her talk show fame, Winfrey recalled how she “starved” herself for several months on a liquid-only diet and then wheeled out a wagon of 67 pounds of fat on her show to display the weight she had lost. She said that by the next day, she had started to regain the weight.

On Monday night, Winfrey told viewers, “I come to this conversation with 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, and most importantly, to stop shaming ourselves.”

PHOTO: Oprah Winfrey hosts a sit-down conversation around the radical impact of prescription weight loss medications in the primetime event, “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution.”

Oprah Winfrey hosts a sit-down conversation around the radical impact of prescription weight loss medications in the primetime event, “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution,” airing March 18, 2024, on ABC and the next day on Hulu.

Eric McCandless/ABC

As part of that conversation, Winfrey spoke with some of the nation’s leading medical experts about the latest breakthroughs in obesity medicine research, specifically medications for weight loss that have spiked in popularity over the past year.

Winfrey confirmed in December that she uses a medication to help maintain her weight after losing weight steadily over the past two years with a combination of diet and exercise.

Winfrey has not named the type of medication she is taking.

“I now use it as I feel I need it, as a tool to manage not yo-yoing,” Winfrey told People . “The fact that there’s a medically approved prescription for managing weight and staying healthier in my lifetime feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for.”

She continued, “I’m absolutely done with the shaming from other people, and particularly myself.”

In her special on Monday, Winfrey revealed what she wanted viewers to learn about weight and obesity.

“The number one thing I hope people come away with is knowing that [obesity] is a disease, and it’s in the brain,” Winfrey said.

During the show, ABC News chief medical correspondent and obesity medicine physician Dr. Jen Ashton told Winfrey, “It is conclusively known that the conditions of overweight and obesity are complex, chronic disease states, not character flaws … so they should be managed accordingly.”

“Oh, I love that so much, Dr. Jen,” Winfrey said. “It’s a disease, not a character flaw.”

Obesity is a medical condition that affects nearly 42% of people in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health risks associated with obesity include everything from stroke and heart attack to hypertension, breathing difficulties, sleep apnea and an increased risk of death.

The landscape of obesity medicine has changed over the past year as medications that can lead to weight loss, including Ozempic, Zepbound, Wegovy and Mounjaro, have become more widely available and have skyrocketed in popularity.

Last year, weight-loss focused companies including Noom and WeightWatchers — Winfrey is a for the latter — jumped into the obesity drugs market as well.

Both Ozempic and Mounjaro are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat Type 2 diabetes, but some doctors prescribe the medication “off-label” for weight loss, as is permissible by the FDA.

Wegovy, a medication that contains the same main ingredient, semaglutide, as Ozempic, is FDA-approved for weight loss.

In November, the FDA approved Zepbound as a weight loss management treatment for people with obesity, or those who are overweight with at least one related underlying condition, such as high blood pressure — the same prescribing guidance as Wegovy. As a diabetes drug, Zepbound is sold under the brand name Mounjaro, as the two medications contain the same active ingredient, tirzepatide.

Winfrey has said previously that she had an “aha” moment about using medication for weight loss after moderating a panel on weight for her Oprah Daily outlet last summer.

PHOTO: Oprah Winfrey attends the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, CA, Jan. 07, 2024.

Oprah Winfrey attends the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, CA, Jan. 07, 2024.

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Winfrey said after the panel that she “released my own shame about it” and consulted with her doctor, who prescribed a medication for weight loss.

“I had the biggest ‘aha’ along with many people in that audience,” Winfrey told People magazine. “I realized I’d been blaming myself all these years for being overweight, and I have a predisposition that no amount of willpower is going to control. Obesity is a disease. It’s not about willpower — it’s about the brain.”

Winfrey’s new special, filmed in front of a live studio audience, is now streaming on Hulu.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News and Hulu.


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