Oprah: Science Says It Won’t Be Different This Time

Dear Oprah Science

Oprah got me. She seduced me. Her words, the rhythm, the soothing tones.

I felt the surge of empowerment and everlasting change.

But just as I was being swept up by her promises, I woke up out of my reverie.  Before I knew it, I was throwing my remote across the room, *thankfully* just missing the TV.

I rewound the Oprah Weight Watcher commercial and listened to her words and now I am pissed. You should be too. She is selling us a fantasy.

Each weight loss quest gives us hope. We feel ⎯ this time for sure.  As we make our rigid food lists of “eat this not that“, our minds may feel clearer. Safer. The start of a diet engages our minds in a seductive fantasy of a new day involving happiness, acceptance, and peace.


Oprah speaks about fellow fat women as the target for her campaign because, paraphrasing here: fat women cannot be enough and true to themselves until there is less of them. I disagree: you are enough today, just as you are and at your current weight.

Here’s a dose of reality.

Like this post? Read my reaction to Oprah Winfrey buying into Weight Watchers.

Some are not meant to live in a body with a body mass index (BMI) of 20 to 25

Your body prefers that you weigh a certain amount. It may or may not fit within that narrow BMI weight range. Fighting your genetics and set point sets you up to eat for weight loss, NOT health. Eating for health includes variety, moderation and balance, as well as following hunger and fullness cues. Many Weight Watcher dropouts share they were told NOT to follow hunger cues;  rather, follow the points.Weight Watchers would have you believe that their point system isn’t a diet, just a way of life.  Yet, if it isn’t a diet, then why do they need any points? Why the need to check weight at all? Pursuing weight loss and ignoring hunger cues means you’re  eating for weight loss, not eating for health.

Dieting predicts weight gain

In her weight loss commercial, Oprah mentions “trying and failing, trying again, and again, and again”. I know that many can relate to this; yet why will this time be different? Researchers have long known that diets don’t work, and it’s only a matter of time how quickly the weight comes back on. Reviewing research, we find those who focus on weight loss dieting weigh more. Crazy, right?!?

Considering this information, Oprah didn’t fail. Nor did you. The diet did. Would you buy a product or service that fails over and over? Let’s not let the diet industry get away with this. Here’s fabulous content from Evelyn Tribole RD, explaining why dieting predicts weight gain.

No diet keeps weight off more than a year or two

There’s no research to date that shows any diet, no matter how wildly popular it is, actually keeps the weight off for more than one year. Not one. Most scholarly journals publishing articles on dieting stop at one year or earlier. Articles that look further out than a year have incredibly high dropout rates.

You can live without dieting. Here’s how and why.

Not dieting will make you healthier

Taking time away from diets will help your body stop weight cycling. The yo-yo effect negatively impacts insulin levels, inflammation, and blood pressure. Selecting foods with their sole purpose of losing weight can hurt your health over time instead of improving it. Even if your weight is higher than your body prefers (which it may not be!), ending the yo-yo dieting and weight cycling will be the best investment in your health.

Stop dieting to stop bingeing

Lastly, stepping away from weight loss pursuits will give you the opportunity to feel less craving to binge. Do you feel chaos around food when not dieting? Don’t blame yourself or the food — blame the dieting. Within my clinical work with bingeing behavior, my clients stop bingeing only after they stop dieting.

This January, our eyeballs will be saturated with Before-and-After pictures. They will be amazing. Some unbelievable. Before you let yourself get seduced, remember that it is just a fantasy. Those pictures make it seem like anyone can lose weight permanently when that is possible for just 3% of those who diet.

Remember to ask, what happens after after?

Will you stop the diet cycle? If not now, when?

9 thoughts on “Oprah: Science Says It Won’t Be Different This Time

  1. Absolutely brilliant! Thank you so much for saying what I feel. When I saw Oprah on TV saying she was going on Wright Watchers with her dulcit tones and reassuring voice I knew it was going to spell trouble for legions of her fans trying to.lose weight. And I hate weight watchers. I was so hungry all the time. I texted my friend who was on it and she said I had to wait until my stomach shrunk before the hunger would dissipate. Thank you Julie.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to write this Julie! This is wonderful. I hope that this goes viral. Moms of kids with eating disorders on Debra Schlesinger’s MAED (Mothers Against Eating Disorders) Advocacy Group are ready and willing to help in any and all efforts to help educate Oprah on how dangerous dieting is.

    I’ll share your post on this group MAED Advocacy on FB. Weight Watchers and Oprah could all help change the course of history by shifting to an intuitive eating approach.
    Becky Henry
    Hope Network, LLC

  3. After finding out Oprah bought a share in Weight Watchers, I was prepared for a barrage of commercials and ads. What I wasn’t prepared for was how seeing those would make me feel.

    Honestly, there was shock, lots of sadness, and some disappointment and anger.

    I am a fan of Super Soul Sunday. The guests Oprah selects, the topics discussed, have a way of making me feel there is something more to life than I have experienced thus far. There is a sense of hope and optimism I feel while watching which aren’t typical for me. It makes me want to be a better person, to grow and to really explore who I am. It is really inspirational.

    I looked admiringly at Oprah because she seems to be really connected with who she is and the world around her. So for her to look into the camera and say those things, especially implying looking in the mirror and not recognizing the person she sees staring back at her — well, that is upsetting to me.

    As a person who is battling an eating disorder currently, I can share from personal experience that losing weight did NOT make me happy or make me more in tune with who I am. I thought losing weight would solve my problems, improve my self-esteem and confidence. I thought I would feel worthy of love and acceptance. Well, none of that happened. Instead I ended up wanting to lose more and was getting sicker and sicker.

    So, for her to say those things triggers my ED into saying “see, I am right — even Oprah says so.”

    I’m supposed to be working on loving and accepting myself but is it okay for me to do that if I am classified as overweight by a few pounds? Apparently not according to Oprah! Really?

    Julie, I really appreciated this blog post. I believe in what you are saying and will live by your words when it comes to weight, food, and nutrition — not hers.

    While Oprah is dieting, I will be honoring my body’s hunger cues not ignoring those cues because I have used up all my points for the day or week. I will be eating foods I like and desire not counting points. I will be paying attention to what my body needs and how it feels instead of weight loss and being disconnected from my body to focus on the rules of a diet that will fail. And while Oprah is weighing herself, hoping so desperately to see the number decreasing so she can see her true self in her reflection, I will never step on the scale again. Already took a hammer to my scale, seriously.

    1. Jen thank you! You’re so brave and I’m hopeful one day Oprah will experience this too. Until then, let’s stick together and help others appreciate how awesome food and body peace is for the world!

  4. Sorry but I had to say something here…I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. Your comment, “NO DIET KEEPS WEIGHT OFF MORE THAN A YEAR OR TWO” is just wrong. 7 years ago I was 219 pounds and joined weight watchers. It took me a year to get down to 122 and I have stayed there since then. Weight Watchers does work. It may not work for everyone but it worked for me and it certainly has lasted more than a year or two. I do not work for weight watchers and am in no way endorsing them. I am only saying it worked for me.

    1. Thank you for your comment and input. What I’m referencing is the research rather than individual experiences. 3-5% of folks do maintain weight loss for more than 2 years yet those are the exception not typical. Something described as so successful needs to be for most not just a minority to earn that label.

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