Dear Oprah

DearOprahDear Oprah,

Why did you invest in that diet company? I just heard the news about you buying 10% stock. You have given me so much that has brought me meaning and self acceptance. I’m finding a disconnect between the value you’ve brought to me and your public and the message you’re now sending with this investment.

In this moment, I want to give you the one thing I have:

Compassion for body hate.

Ever since you started Super Soul Sunday, I have felt more connected to my religion, my family, and myself. Your experts, facilitated by your poignant questions, deliver sound bites like no other. I will keep both Thich Nhat Hanh (video link here) and Brené Brown (video link here) episodes on my DVR for eternity. These episodes felt like they were written just for me and my struggles with suffering and vulnerability. I am forever grateful.

I value connection and reconnection and I think you do too. Valuing connection provides passion for my work. I help reconnect men and women to their body’s innate wisdom for eating decisions. This provides health, self-respect, and positive body image.

The alternative eating advice focuses on diets and all its money-making yet powerful chaos. These diet plans are the great disconnectors and source of disease and body hate.

Why did you invest in that diet company?

I appreciate your business skills and can see where investing in this business appears to be a wise money making move. The diet industry does make $60 billion from us each year. This venture will help you make more money.

But will it help us connect to our spirit? our family? ourselves?

I learned you chose this investment because your friend has been “successful” with using its weight loss system. A quick Google search let me know she started the system September 14, 2015; that’s 38 days from when I am writing this post.

Although her weight is down, please consider an alternative measure of success that looks at least two years out. Diets promise weight loss. Yet I challenge you to find one weight loss study with a low drop-out rate and weight maintenance lasting for more than two years. Most research stops by one year, because after that, weight starts to be regained. Instead of calling it the “weight loss industry”, we need to rename it the “weight cycling industry”. My frustration: we give this industry our hard-earned money and it doesn’t even work.

Do you know how many people are able to keep the weight off after following a diet? Looking at the 2 to 5 year mark, it is 3 to 5%.

Many people think this particular weight-loss company is not a diet. It’s a part of their tagline, so it’s true, right? Here’s a definition of a weight-loss diet that research has already proven does not work long term: a product that focuses on weight loss or tells you to eat according to their rules instead of according to your hunger and fullness.

No matter how we spin it, this weight-loss company counts points based on an arbitrary system that one must follow instead of hunger and fullness in order to succeed. Yes, hunger and fullness are discussed. Yet, not trusted.

Do you remember its hunger monster from years ago?

This diet company was teaching body mistrust and disconnection. Hunger was set up as a maneuverable enemy. Silly, really, because hunger is just a biological process communicating a physiological need. It would be like tricking yourself to not need to urinate. (You know that doesn’t work!) You can’t trick hunger.

When you try to deprive yourself, the body finds ways to communicate the missed opportunity. You end up thinking, obsessing, and dreaming about food and, often times, bingeing.

And bingeing leads to weight gain.

You know something the diet company didn’t tell you? The more one diets, the higher his or her weight. Dieting predicts weight gain. Here’s a quick video by Evelyn Tribole, RD, with research behind these statements.

A beautiful part of hunger: it doesn’t lie. When you experience physical hunger, your body needs food. Hunger speaks for primal needs, not frivolous wants. Don’t run from, meddle with, or try to trick hunger. It doesn’t go away, only subsides for a bit.

Manipulating hunger is the main reason a person experiences a binge. Every binge starts with not eating enough earlier in the day.

When this happens, it isn’t the food’s fault. It is just your body trying to save you.

Oprah, I am concerned how your investment will further perpetuate a culture stuck in self distrust and body hate.

You have immense influence on generations, and choosing to invest in The Body Positive or The Association of Size Diversity and Health or The Binge Eating Disorder Association would promote health and connection. It wouldn’t bring the income, yet it would pay you so much more.

I think it would connect you to body respect and self trust.

You have been frank about your struggles with food and body image. I worry about your connection with this company for many reasons:

  • Since we know it doesn’t work for more than 3-5% of members long term, what will you experience when this diet doesn’t work for you? I think this will further promote body shame. And shame never promotes health.
  • Because of your eating disorder history, dieting will set up your brain to go further into this eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. Someone with an eating disorder history going on a diet is like someone with an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts eating a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich — deadly.
  • Dieting will only disconnect you from your health. Remember, diets are a weight cycling industry not a weight loss industry. We know weight cycling hurts insulin levels, blood pressure, mood, and quality of life. You have brought me more quality to my life and I want the same for you, Oprah!
  • Dieting distracts us from what is most important: family, friends and faith. Further, it distracts us from our true gifts. You positively affect so many and dieting is holding you back. Imagine the incredible change you could promote without the dieting distraction?

I think I have said my piece. Or peace. I want food peace for you, Oprah, and everyone on this amazing planet.

This food peace won’t bring money, yet it will bring about two more valuable investments: freedom and health.

Whitney Way Thores's dietitian Julie Duffy Dillon.
Whitney Way Thores’s dietitian Julie Duffy Dillon.




14 thoughts on “Dear Oprah

  1. I too love Super Soul Sunday and make sure to catch it!! SSS feels like a breath of fresh air and a great way to start the week! I feel like this question “But will it help us connect to our spirit? our family? ourselves?” is one of my favorites. Does WW do this for us??? Does it push us towards connection? Thank you for writing this piece. <3

  2. I loved this especially: “A beautiful part of hunger: it doesn’t lie.” It doesn’t! Why do we all go around distrusting our hunger so damn much?

    Thank you for writing about this. I was so very upset that Oprah was reverting back to the diet world. A few years ago she was so into Geneen Roth and not dieting, but I’m guessing Oprah never got around to the body peace part of the puzzle that, if not solved, will probably lead us right back to dieting (“I don’t want to diet, but I hate my body, so I’m going to diet” mentality). What is most upsetting to me is that, if Oprah wants to diet, that’s fine, but she has such tremendous influence over the general public…they will do what she endorses. Imagine if Oprah decided to put her incredible influence around the body positive movement…that would be the end of diets, I’m sure. So sad.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts Glenys! I was so hopeful when Oprah found Geneen Roth’s work! Many of us thought her next show guests would be Eveyln Tribole and Elyse Resch authors of Intuitive Eating. Didn’t happen sadly…

      Have you noticed that Geneen Roth’s work still focuses on weight loss is important/good/expected with “success”? I’ve noticed this more in the last few years. Could be why Oprah never embraced body positive practices with food.

      1. Yes, I have noticed that and that’s why I stopped reading Geneen Roth myself. She seemed so focused on the weight as an outcome – and you just can’t reject a dieting mentality without that. You can’t love your body and want to change it at the same time.

  3. What a great article! So many disconnect from their own intuition and their body, me included. Through many attempts within the “diet” industry I have finally found a professional support team that support me to let go of the need to control my weight and instead to learn how to listen to my body and to use healthy food to nourish, comfort and support my own SELF. Physically, mentally and spiritually. Connecting these three parts of me have created a new me. It’s an ongoing, daily process, and it has freed my dependence on food for my emotional health. I’ve discovered my creativity and my spirit and my purpose in this life.

    Thank you for writing this,

    Ali 🙂

  4. Have you ever done Weight Watchers? If you went to a meeting or tried the plan, you would know that weight watchers is not just a paid diet plan. You learn about loving yourself. This is not just another diet. It’s a life style change. The first thing I learned is that spending time with family and friends doesn’t have to revolve around eating.

    This saddens me that you wrote this, but you have clearly never attended a weight watchers meeting or tried the plan.

    1. I’ve been to many Weight Watchers meetings. They are fun. There is a lot of camaraderie. Everyone is excited about their new bodies. It’s a lovely experience. But it IS a diet. When I showed up at a WW meeting to rejoin to lose 10 pounds from my completely normal weight (with a completely normal BMI), they didn’t say, “No, honey, you’re not overweight, you’re completely fine, don’t waste your money.” Nope, they said, “We’ll take your money!” When I was starving on only 23 points a day, out of extra points for the week, and terrified I was going to gain .2 lbs that week, that was certainly a lifestyle change – as in, my new lifestyle is to be on a diet forever.

      I get it, WW is a happy place, the meetings are fun, the people going and working there are lovely and supportive. But they do not teach you to love your fat body as it is, they tell you to love your body just enough to CHANGE it. And the worst part is, it has the same bleak statistics as any other diet, meaning 95% of people will gain back all or more of their weight in 3-5 years. WW will not study their participants longer than 2 years because they know this is true. When a company’s business plan is based on clients returning no less than 4 times, sorry, but that’s a diet.

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