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Oprah Winfrey apologizes for being 'major contributor' to shaming diet culture and the 'wagon of fat' moment

Eve Crosbie   

Oprah Winfrey apologizes for being 'major contributor' to shaming diet culture and the 'wagon of fat' moment
  • Oprah Winfrey said she regrets her role in promoting unhealthy and unrealistic diets.
  • The media mogul hosted a Weight Watchers live special which streamed on YouTube earlier this week.

Oprah Winfrey has reflected on her role in perpetuating unsustainable weight-loss methods.

While hosting a Weight Watchers YouTube live special on Thursday (May 9), the 70-year-old media mogul host acknowledged that she had been a "major contributor" to modern diet culture and stated that she is "done with the shaming."

"I wanted to gather all of us together because I believe that we have reached a pivotal moment in the way we talk about and the way we think about our bodies," Winfrey told the in-person and virtual audience.

"I've been a steadfast participant in this diet culture. Through my platforms, through the magazine, through the talk show for 25 years, through online —I've been a major contributor to it.

"I cannot tell you how many weight loss shows and makeovers I have done," she continued, adding that the famous "wagon of fat" moment on her talk show was "one of my biggest regrets."

On an episode of her namesake talk show in 1988, Winfrey wheeled out a red wagon containing 67 pounds of animal fat to show her audience how much weight she had lost after going on a crash diet that saw her replace meals with shakes for four months.

The episode drew 62 million viewers, meaning one in four Americans sat down and watched it.

"The very next day, I began to gain the weight back," Winfrey said of the stunt.

"That wagon of fat moment was set into motion after years and years of thinking that my struggle with my weight was my fault, and it has taken me even up until last week to process the shame I felt privately as my very public yo-yo diet moments became a national joke."

Now, Winfrey told the audience that she wants to support them in their shift toward self-acceptance and healthier mindsets.

"Whatever your path, let's stop the shaming," she said. "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."

Winfreys' comments come two months after she announced that she would be stepping down from her position at WW International, known as WeightWatchers, after almost a decade on its board of directors. Shares for the company plummeted 25% after the news broke.

At the time, she said in a statement that she would be donating her shares to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and would continue to "advise and collaborate with WeightWatchers and CEO Sima Sistani in elevating the conversation around recognizing obesity as a chronic condition, working to reduce stigma, and advocating for health equity."

Shortly after, the Oscar winner helmed the ABC televised special "Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution," which saw her discuss the growing popularity of weight loss drugs such as Ozempic, Mounjaro, and Wegovy.

Winfrey revealed last year that she uses weight-loss medications to maintain her weight, declining to say which specific drug she takes.

"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," Winfrey said.