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Oprah Winfrey fights back tears as she makes emotional confession on lifelong battle

The talk show host opened up in a heartfelt conversation on Jamie Kern Lima's podcast

Faye James
Senior Editor
June 27, 2024
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Oprah Winfrey has always been an open book when it comes to her journey. In a heartfelt conversation on Jamie Kern Lima's podcast, the 70-year-old media mogul shared the emotional struggles she has faced and the pivotal moment that changed her perspective on weight loss.

Fighting back tears, Oprah revealed that her lifelong battle with weight has been filled with moments of despair and self-blame. 

"I was like, whoa, it's not even my fault," she recounted. "All these years, all those diets, all those times I tried, I came back, and I tried again, and I lost it. I'm climbing up the mountain, I'm suffering, I'm starving." 

This revelation, she said, came in 2023 when she finally understood that her struggle wasn't due to a lack of willpower.

For Oprah, the turning point came during a series of discussions with medical professionals who reframed obesity as a disease. 

"I've done hundreds of shows about weight loss and had countless conversations about it, but still carried my own shame," she admitted. "I had a big revelation on that State of Weight on Oprah Daily when one doctor after another said obesity is a disease. I was like, 'I didn't get that memo.'"

oprah winfrey the color purple premiere purple dress© Getty Images
Oprah spoke about her lifelong battle with weight loss

The realization that her weight issues were not purely a matter of willpower was transformative. "What I understood from the State of Weight discussion that I had not understood for the past 48 years of battling my weight, is that there's something in the brain that allows people like myself to metabolize fat differently than others," she explained. "No matter what I do, I'm always going to go back to the set point that my brain thinks it needs to hold the weight."

Oprah candidly shared the extreme measures she took in her quest to lose weight, including her infamous 1988 segment where she paraded around with a cart full of 67 pounds of fat. 

Oprah's famous moment in 1988© ABC
Oprah's famous moment in 1988

She revealed that she didn't eat a morsel of food for five months while using Optifast, only to see the weight quickly return. 

"Three days after the show, I was five pounds heavier, and a week later, I was 10 pounds heavier," she recalled. "In just two and a half weeks, I had gained over 10 pounds and was too embarrassed to attend holiday parties."

Oprah said her weight loss journey has been filled with moments of despair
Oprah said her weight loss journey has been filled with moments of despair

Another devastating moment for Oprah was landing on the bottom of a worst-dressed list in TV Guide, with a headline that read: "Bumpy, lumpy, and downright dumpy." She was crushed. "I was so proud of myself because I'd won the Bob Hope Award, and they took the picture from that event. It was 'bumpy, lumpy, and downright dumpy' on the cover of all the magazines," she remembered.

Despite the public ridicule, Oprah endured. "I accepted that this thing that people labeled me with—being fat, being overweight, being unable to control my willpower—was my identity," she said. 

Oprah Winfrey during 9th Annual National Conference For Women at New York Hilton Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)© Ron Galella, Ltd.
Oprah's brother died in 1989

"For 25 years, making fun of my weight was a national sport. Comedians did it, the best comedians did it, the highest comedians did it—people with their shows did it. It was just accepted."

When Oprah turned 70, she made a significant decision. She resolved not to carry the burden of everyone making fun of her weight into her next decade. 

She also spoke about the pressure she faced not to use weight loss drugs, feeling she had to prove she could lose weight through diet and exercise alone. "I was judgmental about people using weight loss drugs because I have been so judged," she admitted.

Now, Oprah uses medication to maintain her weight, though she doesn't disclose which one. She feels liberated by this decision. 

oprah in the color purple 1985© Getty Images
Oprah was nominated for an Oscar for The Color Purple

"The bottom line is we don't know what the medications do in the long term, but we do know what obesity does in the long term," she pointed out. "Yes, so the damage to your body versus taking the risk of 'I'm going to control the weight and manage the weight to the best of my ability.'"

Oprah's use of weight loss drugs has brought her a sense of relief. "I feel a sense of liberation about it. I feel a sense of relief knowing that when I was sitting there, eight pounds heavier than I was a month before, knowing that I don't know what I'm going to do because I cannot hike any higher, I cannot run any faster," she explained.

In her special, "Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution," Oprah shared how weight loss medications have eased her constant preoccupation with food. 

Along with messages of support online, some viewers criticized her, accusing her of promoting big pharma and pushing drugs like Ozempic after years of endorsing Weight Watchers. The show was released days after Oprah resigned from her Weight Watchers board role, citing a potential conflict of interest.

Oprah looks incredible in purple gown© Instagram
Oprah looks incredible in purple gown

At her heaviest, Oprah weighed 237 pounds. Undergoing knee surgery in 2021 sparked a journey to improve her health and live a more vibrant life. She now eats her last meal at 4 pm, drinks a gallon of water daily, and follows Weight Watchers principles, along with regular hikes.

 "It's everything," she said. "I know everybody thought I was on it, but I worked so damn hard. I know that if I'm not also working out and vigilant about all the other things, it doesn't work for me."

Oprah concluded by saying that her awareness of weight-loss medications has evolved. "I had an awareness of [weight-loss] medications, but felt I had to prove I had the willpower to do it. I now no longer feel that way."

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