Dieting/WLS, Fat, Food, Health at Every Size, Media, No Shit Sherlock, Pop Culture, Self-Image

Dear Oprah

Dear Oprah,

Please just stop. Please. And I don’t mean that in a nasty way (though some of my commenters will). I mean please, stop doing this to yourself.

I know saying that is pointless, because I’ve been there, and I know it’s hardly a matter of just telling yourself to get over it and accept that this is what your body always does, what your body always will do if you keep dieting. But gosh, it would be so nice if you stopped. 

A few months ago, I was on your show via Skype — as an average viewer, not a guest or an expert in anything — and we exchanged a little preliminary banter that was eventually cut from what aired. You said, “Kate, I understand you have a blog — tell us a little bit about it.” And I said, “I write about body image and self-acceptance.” That’s my stock answer for anyone who might not be prepared to hear the words “fat” and “acceptance” right next to each other. It’s a bit of a cop-out, frankly, but the fact is, no matter how proud I am of what I do here, I’m not always in a mood to explain or defend it. I don’t feel perfectly strong and righteous and ready for battle every day. That doesn’t mean I back down from my principles, it just means that sometimes — like when I’m freaking out because I’m on national TV, and Oprah just asked me a question, and the topic of the day is not anything fat-related — taking the path of least resistance is the best way to protect my own sanity. So that’s what I said to you. 

Unfortunately, the sound was still buggy on the Skype connection at that point, so I could barely hear what you said back. It took me a moment to process your reply, during which time I was all, “Holy crap, Oprah just said something, and I don’t know what it was, and now I have to attempt to respond without sounding like an idiot.” But then, your words finally arranged themselves properly in my mind. 

What you said was, “I’m still working on that.” 

And what I said — because I was still panicky and felt like you’d been waiting a day and a half for a response from me already — was, “Well… uh… um… good luck!”

I beat myself up for that answer for days, until the show aired and I learned that that part was gone anyway. As soon as you turned away from the screen with my head on it and started the show, I started running through all the better answers I could have given you. “Well, have me back in May 2009, when my book comes out!” was one obvious response, but really, here’s what I would say if I had that moment to do over: “We all are.” 

We are all still working on it. Even me, even people who have been waving the fat acceptance banner for decades longer than I have. We’re all still working on it, because the messages are relentless — the messages that tell us we should hate ourselves, starve ourselves, make dieting at least a part-time job (for our health!), the messages that tell us we will never be loved if we “let ourselves go,” the messages that tell us there is only one acceptable female body type, and you and I are both too fat for it, and you’re too black for it, and millions of women — the majority of us, actually — are too something (even too skinny) for it. Those messages never, ever let up, and rejecting them involves a conscious choice, every dingdang day. And some days, like I said, you don’t feel perfectly strong and righteous and ready for battle.

Some days, you feel like it would be so much easier to take on that old part-time job again — especially when you’ve done it so many times, for so many years, you could do it in your sleep. All you have to do is carve out three or four hours a day to exercise more vigorously, obsess about what you’re going to eat next, and prepare it; stop listening to your body and only pay attention to your food plan and workout schedule; cut out some hobbies and social time to make room for the job; recall all the tips and tricks for not eating at holiday gatherings, at restaurants, at your dear friends’ houses, at your own birthday party; retrain yourself to believe that salad dressing — let alone artisanal bacon, creme brulee, whatever — doesn’t taste good enough to warrant its negative effects on your job performance; talk constantly about what you’re not eating and how great it makes you feel, in hopes that some of your friends will join you at this lonely little workplace; and — most importantly — continue to believe with a religious fervor that your body is an ugly, hateful thing that must be punished and diminished. As long as you really believe that, the rest isn’t so hard to keep up, once you get used to it (again). 

Some days, all that sounds a hell of a lot easier than resisting the messages — especially when you think of all the praise you’ll get once you’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight, or how good it will feel when you get to put on a smaller dress (though that feeling goes away quickly, as it must, or else you might lose your motivation to keep going). How proud and in control you’ll feel — again, for a few minutes at a time, for as long as it’s working. How much better people will treat you, as long as there’s less and less of you. I totally get that. 

But I stopped giving in to it. And boy, I wish you would, too — because you’re way too smart to take that sucker bet yet again. 

It kills me to hear you say things like, “”I can’t believe that after all these years, all the things I know how to do, I’m still talking about my weight. I look at my thinner self and think, `How did I let this happen again?'” Honey, you didn’t “let it” happen again. Your body made it happen again, because your body does not freakin’ want to be thin. And every time you quit the part-time job of dieting — or even just cut back your hours — your body goes, “Thank god!” and starts storing fat hand over fist. It happens to nearly all of us. I know you’re a woman who’s used to defying odds by quite a lot, but there is no shame in having a body that responds to dieting in exactly the same way as pretty much everyone else’s. 

You say you’ve been eating too much and not exercising enough. Maybe that’s even true. But defining “too much” and “enough” is tricky business, and when you’re trying to do that in the context of shame and self-loathing, chances are, you’re going to come up with values that represent punishment, not healthy moderation. When I see you say things like, “I was so frustrated I started eating whatever I wanted — and that’s never good,” I just… Gah. Oprah, we’ve been over this. Grown women are allowed to eat whatever we want. More to the point, we are allowed to want, period. The fact that so many of us have come to believe “whatever we want” equals “never good” is heartbreaking and infuriating in equal measure. 

You also say, apologetically, “I definitely wasn’t setting an example.” Well, you were, actually — just not the example you wanted to set. You’re not an ideal role model for either dieting or self-acceptance, but in terms of the latter, you are — forgive me if this comes off as harsh — an ideal object lesson. One of the Shapelings (hi, Rebecca!) who sent me a link to the Yahoo article this morning also offered her response to it:

I guess the main thought I had was, “Thank you, Oprah, for showing me that my struggle to give up dieting is the right struggle.”  I have been fighting the diet demons this week, but reading this article was a nice shake-up.  I don’t want to look back at my life at her age and see the same story and body hatred.  It’s nice to see confirmation that I am doing the right thing for myself, despite the cacophany of voices telling me I’m not!

In that respect, to my mind, you’re setting a terrific example — you’re showing the world that no amount of money, or hard work, or discipline (whatever guilt you feel over easing out of that part-time job, come on, don’t even try to tell me that Oprah Winfrey lacks self-discipline and determination!) can make a stubbornly fat body remain thin for long. I just wish, for your sake as well as for the millions of women who look up to you, you could find a way to reframe your struggles with your weight, to practice and promote Health at Every Size, to believe that you are a beautiful woman — you so are! — who does not need to keep apologizing for what she eats or what dress size she wears. I wish you would choose to be the role model you’re perfectly suited to be, instead of trying to be one you’re not — and instead being an object lesson. 

I’ll tell you a secret, Oprah — I also hit what you call “the dreaded 2-0-0” this year. At least, I think I did. The last time I weighed myself was on a dog scale at the vet’s office, and I was about 185 lbs. I’m pretty sure I’ve gained about 15 since then. Why? Well, there are a zillion possible explanations and contributing factors, but the simplest one is this: My last diet ended in 2003, which you’ll note was 5 years ago. When I started that diet, I weighed about 190. The vast majority of people who deliberately lose weight gain it all back within 5 years, and a huge chunk of those gain an extra 10 lbs. or so, to boot.  And I do seem to have plateaued at this weight after gaining steadily for quite a while, so… I could sit here and tell you how I went on Lexapro, and I started eating out more and resumed putting the dressing directly on my salads and slacked somewhat on exercise — in a nutshell, how I gave up dieting as a part-time job and relegated food and exercise back to the category of  “things I think about, just not to the exclusion of having a life” — but the real reason for the weight gain is, I’m just not that special. I do not have magic powers that allow me to transcend my genetic predisposition to fatness, and I was not so much more committed or determined or desirous of thinness than everyone else who diets that I could somehow, through sheer will, overcome the massive odds against keeping it off for more than five years. I’m just not that special.

Neither are you, in that regard. We’re both plenty special in other ways — I mean, love you or hate you, I don’t think there’s anyone who would argue that you’re not an extraordinary woman — but just not that way. In that way, we’re both just normal fat women who dieted and gained it back and dieted and gained it back and dieted and gained it back, as normal fat women do. But here’s the difference between you and me, when it comes to that. You hit 200 and sent out a press release detailing your shame, embarrassment, and anger at yourself. I hit 200 and shrugged. Because it’s not any different than being 199, and not really any different from being 185, and when it comes down to it, not all that much different than being 115. I can’t shop at as many stores, I don’t get hit on quite as often (though I still do, as recently as Sunday night), some people aren’t as friendly to me, and some people are downright hateful in ways they wouldn’t have been when I was thin. But as trite as it may sound, this is the damned truth: I’m still the same person I was when I was thin — and when I was in-between, and the day before I cracked 200, and the day after. Cracking 300 or 400 or any other arbitrary number would not change who I am, either.

The weight regain did not make me bad or lazy or ugly or sick or stupid or broken. It just made me fatter. 

That’s all that happened here. You got fatter. You’re still one of the most accomplished women on the planet. You’ve still got more money than god. You still give away a lot of that money and do real things that help real people. I know there are people around here who can’t stand you precisely because your refusal to stop believing you can and should be a thin person too often manifests as yet more heartbreaking, infuriating, wounding messages about how fat people are bad and thin people are good. But I can’t help admiring you anyway. And I can’t help feeling for you when I read about your shame, embarrassment, and anger at yourself. I know exactly how that goes — hence my last diet. I still get twinges of all those feelings and have to work my butt off to resist them. As I should have told you during that brief moment when we talked, we are all still working on it.

I admit I’m tempted to get angry at you for wasting your phenomenally powerful bullhorn on promoting body shame instead of telling other fat women that they’re not bad, undisciplined people. But I can’t, because I know just how loud and demanding those voices in your head are, the ones that say, “It doesn’t matter that you’re one of the most accomplished women on the planet, because you let yourself get fat again!” I know the pure, unfettered irrationality of that train of thought isn’t obvious when you’re in the grip of hating your body. The voices are too insistent.

So I guess all I have left to say to you is what I already told you in person: Good luck. I so hope that one of these days, you manage to make peace with your body. And man, when that day comes, I sure hope you go on the air and tell your millions of viewers you’ve discovered that not hating yourself is about a bazillion times more rewarding than mortifying yourself, literally and figuratively. That right there is what I know for sure.

All best,


163 thoughts on “Dear Oprah”

  1. Kate, I really hope you print that out and send it to her. She may not ever get to read it, but it’s worth a try.

  2. Absolutely spot on, Kate. I would love it if someone sat Oprah down in front of a computer and showed her around all kinds of FA sites. Starting with this post. Some people never get it. For her sake, I hope Oprah is one of the ones who does.

  3. Oh man, lead that horse to water, baby. She may not drink it, but I wish she could see it. I wish there were a way to plop this whole manifesto down on her breakfast plate. Rock on.

  4. Kate,
    I love you so said what needed to be said and I respect you for this. I think each one of us should print this post and mail it out to Oprah. She NEEDS to see this.

    Kate you are a briliant woman. Thank you for being a champion for all of us.


  5. What if we all write our version of this story, because we all have one, and mail them to her? Together we might be able to get her attention.

    Harpo Productions
    PO Box 909715
    Chicago, IL 60607

  6. Excellent, excellent post. I love it. Oprah is one of the people I wish would get her mind and hands around the concept of FA. It hurts that someone as successful as her can be so self-hating.

    Just as a general comment, I really hate how some people think being fat is a sign that your entire life is out of control. There is more to me than the number on the scale.

  7. My endo swears that Oprah Winfrey has PCOS – she would bet money on it, which is kind of silly for a long distance diagnosis. Here’s the thing, though, my endo also wants me to lose weight, but hell, if Oprah, who has a trainer and a chef and 1000 times the willpower and energy that I have can’t do it, why the fuck should I even try?

    Oh, yeah, for my health.

    Rolls eyes

  8. Kate, I am so thrilled that you wrote this reply to Oprah. I saw the article from the AP talking about her concern over being the big two-oh-oh and I was pacing about wishing I had my own blog to spew my frustration…

    The thing that got me deep in my gut is just how much self-loathing is present in her words. Not just loathing her body but straight up self-loathing.

    It made me sad.

    One other thing I would add is that not only is she fat and in the limelight but she is black. I don’t have time to go into what this might mean to her and heck , I am not her so I don’t know but…I think it matters…so I am putting it out there.

    Thanks for putting words to my thoughts. You have a knack for doing that :-) You rock!

  9. Kate, that was brilliant. And I hope she reads it. I hope it gets through whatever filters and barricades, on however many levels, and somehow she reads it.

    ” I know there are people around here who can’t stand you precisely because your refusal to stop believing you can and should be a thin person too often manifests as yet more heartbreaking, infuriating, wounding messages about how fat people are bad and thin people are good.”

    When I first saw Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple, Sophia was a hero to me. She was BIG and BEAUTIFUL and SASSY and strong and a force of nature-a gorgeous, confident woman who needed no man, no diet, no personal trainer, no millions of acolytes hanging on her every word. She was bent, through the course of the movie, but she was never broken, and during that dinner where she spoke, finally “Sophia’s back! Things about to change around here!” that was as much a joy to me as Celie’s liberation or Shug’s reconciliation with her father. Probably more, to tell the truth.

    And all these years later, Oprah (and Ricki Lake too) sits and tells us all she lied. She lied that Sophia was just fine the way she was. She lied that it was all right to be big and confident and fat and sassy and above all strong. Oprah tells us that all that matters is to be thin.

    (Her vulgar spending on her birthday put me the rest of the way off of her. Seeing the photos from that was like seeing some ancient Roman orgy of excess. )

    Before that, I was mostly just sad that she could not be happy with all that she’d worked for, with all that she’d earned, and that the one thing she could not buy for herself, self-worth, was all she really wanted.

    Mostly, I’m just disappointed that someone who shone out at me as a role model for someone like me, stands before the world and all her devoted fans and tells them that it’s still not enough. I’m glad I know better. I’m poor, but I am smarter than Oprah.

  10. Absolutely we’re all still working on it. Compared to most women I know, I’m pretty comfortable in my body (which I realize is made easier by being pretty close to socially acceptable — though God knows there are a lot of thin women with body insecurities). Even so, I had some mixed feelings recently when an old friend noted that I’d gained weight and looked “better than she’d ever seen me look” because I also looked healthy and happy. Despite this being a freaking compliment, it was still an acknowledgement that my body was noticeably, publicly different, and this made me at least briefly anxious.

  11. My endo swears that Oprah Winfrey has PCOS – she would bet money on it, which is kind of silly for a long distance diagnosis. Here’s the thing, though, my endo also wants me to lose weight…

    Sniper — see any connection there? Oprah couldn’t just be a naturally fat woman, she must have some sort of disorder that’s MAKING HER BE FAT. In fact, it’s so obvious, it can be diagnosed at a distance! Me, I’d get some distance, between me and that ‘doctor.’

  12. Did you see the photo of her, the one that accompanied the article where she’s worrying about her weight? She looks absolutely radiant. Actually, it’s surprising to me that she hasn’t done a HAES show yet.

  13. I am having a severely self-loathing day, which, by the way, is very difficult for me to admit in public as I am the happy, confident, together person everyone counts on. I have struggled with bulimia for 20+ years, I also *do* in fact have PCOS.

    Thank you Kate for saying it. “we all do”.

  14. I feel similarly that Oprah is such an amazing woman, that this just seems to be a folly to match her outstanding qualities in other more positive areas.

    The hook for her is the hook for many, it’s what you described in the fantasy of being thin. It’s not just a fantasy, it’s rather more like a tumour that is so sizeable and well supplied that removal itself could compromise life.

    I no longer believe that everyone can just stop anymore. Some will need some kind of specialized therapy to be able to get out of this trap.

    In a way, it is the true unspoken addiction (rather than food), because it can and does create complete psychological dependency to stop cold turkey will not work for as many as we would have a assumed.

    We are just beginning to learn exactly what this has cost us and it is more than a lot of us yet realize.

    We need to consider that maybe she’s going round and round because she can’t stop, not because she won’t.

  15. Thank you, Kate! What a wonderful letter.

    I considered posting Kate’s absolutely fabulous letter to the Living Oprah blog comments section, but I think it would invite too many trolls over here, and I’m too new to the party at SP to do something that ungracious.

  16. tg, for what it’s worth new posters get sent to moderation, so nobody would see the trolls but us. And you get the bonus of really, really frustrating a troll — they hate going unremarked upon!

  17. I just hope I don’t get a cease and desist letter (or worse), because I technically wasn’t supposed to blog about the experience. I sent an e-mail to the legal dept. asking if I could even mention that I was on the show and never heard back, (which is why I didn’t even put up a “Hey, watch me on Oprah!” post before it aired.)

    I’m pretty sure the spirit of that restriction was that I’m not supposed to A) reveal state secrets or B) promote myself “as seen on Oprah!” thereby implying that she endorses anything I say or do. And I don’t think I violated that. But technically, I have blogged about it and said I wouldn’t, so I feel a little oogy. It was just too good an anecdote to leave out of this. DEAR LAWYERS, IF IT’S A PROBLEM, I WILL SO HAPPILY CUT THAT PART OUT. PLEASE DON’T HURT ME. LOVE, KATE

  18. Ah, then in that case I will definitely hold off on posting to the LO blog and linking back here because she knows Oprah is aware of her project, so her staff people certainly read the blog.

  19. Good lord, what would I do with out this blog???

    I just got engaged about a week ago. Since then I’ve been pouring over pictures of beautiful svelt brides in magazines and wedding websites. I caught myself this morning in the shower secretly thinking, maybe if I diet for the wedding KNOWING that I’ll gain it all back, knowing that I’m putting my body through hell, knowing that I’m feeding money into the diet industry, it won’t be so bad. Like jumping out of a plane, just a silly little risk. I know better.

    You’re right. We’re all working on it. Every day. I needed a reminder.

    And now I’m reminded that beauty is all a mindset. After reading this post, I realize that I’ve also seen tons of pictures of beautiful fat brides and they’re stunning and magical. And I will be too.

    Thanks, as always for your words, your activism and your encouragement. I only hope Oprah gets as much out of them as I do.

  20. Wow.

    I’ve been mentally composing my own letter to Oprah since reading about her anger with herself this morning. But this is just brilliant.

    It’s a shame that instead of being angry at the society that makes her feel like a cow because she weighs 200 pounds, she gets mad at herself. And I wonder, what is “enough” exercise and how much is “too much” food? Seems to me that once you get to a weight whose maintenance requires more than an hour a day of exercise and eating fewer calories than the WHO’s starvation level, you’ve just pushed your body too far beyond the weight it’s meant to be.

    I wonder if Oprah ever stops to think about the impact of her words on the countless other women in this country who struggle with their own body image. “If Oprah thinks she’s a cow at 200, what am I at 200 + X?!”

    Anyway, if I could send a message to Oprah, it would be this:

    “You can’t measure your value as a human being with a scale.”

  21. Excellent response, Kate. A lot of what I was thinking when I originally read that article was right here in your post, beautifully articulated.

    And you know what drives me crazy? How powerful Oprah is. How many people will listen to her and will think, “Yeah, I’ve let myself go, too!” instead of “If Oprah has problems with her weight, maybe there’s more to this than just motivation and exercise and salads!” Think what an impact it would have if Oprah featured HAES on her show. If she really promoted it. Women all over this country would be listening, and some… would really open their eyes to it and hear her.

    What also drives me crazy is that Oprah, unlike many of us, has the money to buy new, fantastic looking clothes when she goes up a size or three. Damn, my jeans – which I used to absolutely love – are tight and uncomfortable, and I hate that I can’t really afford to buy a new wardrobe right now.

  22. I loved what you said about Oprah Winfrey not having enough strength to do something. I never thought about it that way. If someone that tough and strong who battled through poverty, sexism and racism only to rise to be one of the wealthiest and influential people around can’t do it, why the hell should I expect that I can? I quit smoking 4 1/2 years ago. I smoked two packs a day for over twelve years. They say cigarette are as addictive as heroin. To this day I still dream about cigarettes from time to time. But NOT ONCE have I had as much as a puff on a cigarette. Think about the strength that takes. But damnit. I couldn’t diet successfully. I couldn’t keep the weight off for more than a year or two. No. Matter. What. Did I want to lost weight? Probably at my age (mid thirties) more than I wanted to quit smoking. It isn’t a matter or will. When I want to diet (and believe me sometimes I really do). I remember it isn’t a case of starving myself for 6 months to a year until I am the weight I want. I would have to starve myself the rest of my life to stay there. It ain’t gonna happen. I am only human.

  23. Oh gods, this is beautiful and eloquent and wonderful and so, so sad.

    Also: I don’t get hit on quite as often (though I still do, as recently as Sunday night)

    I got hit on MORE at 195lbs than I ever did at 170. It’s because at 190lbs, I found an amazing community of women who are self-confident (most of the time :) and beautiful (all of the time). Women I admire who don’t define themselves by their weight. Women whom I try to emulate on a daily basis, and it mostly works.

    (It also could be the wedding ring – I don’t know what it is about being married that brings the cads out of the woodwork).

  24. My boyfriend just read the Oprah article out loud, while I fumed and interjected and exclaimed “For the love of Pete!” And then, I come over here, and see that Kate is already on top of it. Beautiful, beautiful post. I wish she would read it, for her own sanity. And because she’s such an influential person, I can hardly imagine what it would do for FA to have her endorsing it.

  25. 2-0-0 is dreaded? I haven’t seen that number since middle school. And I was a competitive dance for eight years. I’ve climbed Mt. Fuji and gotten lost in Venice. I’ve got two college degrees and a 401(k). I’ve lived and learned and loved and not been bothered too much when my weight fluctuates.

    Not going to lie and say I no never was bothered, but I let it go and got on with the important things.

    Maybe if she stopped dreading she could get on with living.

  26. What’s heartbreaking to me is the title “How did I let this happen?” Oh, Oprah, you didn’t let it happen, any more than you “let” yourself be female or “let” your eyes be brown – or let the sky be blue, for that matter. Along with the fantasy of being thin is the fantasy that everything is able to be controlled and if we’re just good enough or disciplined enough or simply enough period, we can change everything and anything. Except it doesn’t work that way.

  27. Wow. Darned true. My 12 year old daughter loves Oprah Magazine, and I am trying to stay calm about this being her one immediate, household entry point to popular culture. But between the botox adverts and the mixed messaging, I worry that she still looks in the mirror and says, as she did the other day, “I hate my thighs!” She is already rationing her beloved holiday eggnog, because an Oprah article suggested she do so. SHE IS ONLY 12. But, dear reader, from whom did she learn this, B4 she knew Oprah? Me.

  28. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. Probably your most beautiful and poignant and right-on-sister post ever.

  29. *bouncing excitedly because Divalh is one of my favorite real-life people and now Shapely Prose and real life are meeting HOORAY!*

  30. Oh Oprah…

    It is no one’s business what you weigh. And, if knowing your weight causes you to think you’re a fat cow… then it’s none of your business either.

    Your poor body isn’t broken. Your mind isn’t broken. Some people are just fat. I know your crack team of professionals might not tell you that, but that doesn’t mean they’re right.

    Imagine how much more you could accomplish if you stopped investing so much time and energy into weight obsession…

  31. Thank you for a bit of sanity for 2 reasons:

    1. I attended a party where a male guest, when finding out where I got the recipe for the pb/chocolate fudge I brought exclaimed, “Heh, This is why Rachael Ray is fat!”

    2. I may be pregnant (finding out officially soon) and I made the mistake of going on some pregnancy websites. Everything was about “gotta keep those pounds off” and “not letting your weight creep up”. and
    doing anything less than training for a 5K while pregnant was not worthwhile.

  32. I was wondering when the fatosphere would start blogging about Oprah’s rinse and repeat cycle of gaining weight, gettting sad, then the inevitable pity party show where she brings on her personal trainer and chef and declares yet another new diet to finally get her “back into shape.” Then she’ll lose weight, keep it off for a while, and then probably go back to *teh HORROR!* 200 lbs, and the vicious cycle starts all over again.

    Oprah’s a smart woman. Why can’t she wake up and realize this carousel ride of dieting and self-hate won’t stop unless she actually stops dieting and doesn’t base her self-worth on weight? It’s only human to feel like you’re unattactive and hate your body, but she makes a career out of it. And when you make a career out of it plus have millions of women who follow your every word, you add more riders to the carousel of discontent. This is one ride that needs to shut down.

  33. Wonderful post. I saw this article on E! Online right before I came here, and I thought, “I hope Kate writes about this.” It makes me so sad that she’s so successful and still so immersed in this ongoing battle with herself. You’d think if any woman in the world had enough power of her own to say, “Screw it!” to society and its demands on women, it would be Oprah. I would love to see her throw her weight (bad pun) behind the cause of fat acceptance.

  34. GREAT writing, Kate. If Oprah would only realize that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. That’s what she’s doing by going on these crazy diet plans and expecting to STAY THIN. We’ve all been there, done that, got the t-shirt and got it autographed.
    Thing is, I realized this when I was 16 and on the Beverly Hills Diet. It’s so sad that a woman of Oprah’s age who’s achieved as much as she has can’t realize the SAME THING.

  35. Ha, yeah, I was so distracted by Blago, I’d completely forgotten about the bankruptcy. Now is totally the best time to contact the Trib about TEH AWESUM BLOG I RITE!

  36. “I felt like a fat cow,” Winfrey writes. “I wanted to disappear.”

    That for me just made my face fall. I have never been part of either side of the Opera bandwagon fence; never felt strongly that she’s anything but a very powerful figure that I don’t happen to watch. But my goodness. To think that with all that she’s done in and with her life it only took reaching some scale’s arbitrary number of 200 for her to feel like she wanted to disappear?!??! What should I do then at between 250 and 300 then? Crawl into a hole and create a sucking black hole in the world into which I can suck other fatties seeking to disappear from the world??? And isn’t it that same mentality that also makes women DIET in the first place? That desire to become smaller, take up less space, DISAPPEAR??

    I was about to blog it and saw this brilliantly worked post and just had to add my bit here rather than detract from such awesome phrasing.

    We all still work on it every day; but it is good to get such great reminders of that fact from writers like Kate, thanks! :)

  37. This pretty much said everything I’ve ever thought about Oprah better than I ever could have said it.

  38. I was hoping you would write something about this. I knew you would have a much better and more thoughtful reaction than I did – which was just to be furiously angry with Oprah. Thanks for this!

  39. Kate, thinking about dieting as a part-time job is a really helpful metaphor for me. Thank you. Because you’re right, it takes easily as much energy and time as a part-time job except you don’t get paid AND IT SUCKS. That’s the thing, isn’t it? Dieting is really boring, energy-sapping, physically unpleasant, and discouraging. It’s like the WORST of the part-time jobs, the kind of part-time jobs that people hope they never have to take. And then there’s like a three percent chance of getting a “promotion” (lasting weight loss), but THE PROMOTION ALSO SUCKS. It gives you a few social perks… but those are way offset by the sheer unpleasantness and monotony of the job that you have to then keep doing until you die. Screw that. Nothing looks as bad as dieting feels.

  40. Once again, for the record — Kate Harding rocks my socks.

    “Heh, This is why Rachael Ray is fat!”

    WTF!? Please tell me he got smacked in the head by someone.

  41. Thanks for this, reading it as I just finish my meal before which I measure it all including my lettuce to record my calories. I live half in this world and half in Oprahs, trying so hard to be full time in yours.

  42. Bravo, Kate. I wondered if you’d see the Oprah thing.

    Personally, I’m not a huge fan of hers, but I do (normally) admire her immensely as a strong woman who overcame a lot and now runs a powerful business and entertainment empire.

    This? This message of self hatred and shame that women who slavishly adore her are also going to buy into? It’s disappointing and it’s sad and what’s worse is…she really believes it herself. When I saw the picture accompanying the article I thought she looked wonderful; she sees herself as a disgusting failure? Jesus. Kill me now, then. I must be an amoeba.

    I hope she reads this. Oprah, come over to the Sane Side. We’re waiting for you with open arms.

  43. Oh I am so glad to see you writing these sort of wonderful posts again. This was incredible. It’s been too quiet here lately with open posts and short messages–I hope this is a sign that things will once more return to the fabulous days of posts like the Fantasy of Being Thin which brought me to you, FA, and HAES.

    Like the “Fantasy” post, this spoke to my heart. It needed to be said, not just to Oprah (and boy do I agree with you there! there is a woman who could be a fabulous role model and whose own hatred of herself leads her to be a different sort of role model) but to all of us out there who are still trying.

    Thank you for this post!

  44. Late to the party as always, (damn this crazy UK time difference!), but just wanted to say what a brilliant piece this was. Vintage Shapely Prose at its finest.

    And Sue?

    And you know what drives me crazy? How powerful Oprah is. How many people will listen to her and will think, “Yeah, I’ve let myself go, too!” instead of “If Oprah has problems with her weight, maybe there’s more to this than just motivation and exercise and salads!” Think what an impact it would have if Oprah featured HAES on her show. If she really promoted it. Women all over this country would be listening, and some… would really open their eyes to it and hear her.

    WORD. And thanks for saving me the hours it would have no doubt taken me to say the same thing only far more long-windedly.

  45. Am I being totally cynical here? I am neither pro Oprah, nor anti Oprah, but I read her “confession” as manipulation, pure and simple. I don’t know if she really feels the things she said; I do know she is a savvy businessperson who knows exactly what to say to sound like she is channeling EveryWoman.

    I wish she would use her powers for good :), and I wished that about Queen Latifah and some other celebrities as well. But the bottom line is the bottom line, and Oprah did not get to have “more money than god” by spouting heresy (which is what FA would be to most people).

    I am angry at her but not sad for her “feelings.” I doubt they are her feelings at all.

    Gad, I *am* cynical today.

  46. BRILLIANT. You put into words what I’ve been trying to explain to others forever about Miss Oprah Winfrey. I hope she gets it – she could literally transform how people think about this stuff. I’ll always love her either way though.

  47. Nothing looks as bad as dieting feels.


    Also, I made my sister read this . . . she said that at first, she was offended, but then realized that Kate was describing the same dieting/body-hating behaviors that she has been going through for the past two years. Hooray for teachable moments.

  48. It’s been too quiet here lately with open posts and short messages

    Hey, y’all, we know you like the big meaty posts, and we are so happy you’re reading, and we’re happy when you’re happy… But you know we do this for free, right? We do our best but sometimes life gets in the way of this, our (to use the terms of the post) unpaid part-time job (that enriches rather than destroys our souls!).

  49. I love this. Best thing I’ve read in a long time, and I read FA blogs regularly. I hope you don’t mind, but I posted the link to my Facebook page.

    I’ve been trying to explain FA to my dieting friends. They don’t get it. And I get that they don’t get it, but I sure hope they read this.

    Thank you.

  50. When I was in the thick of dieting, I watched the Oprah show about dedicating yourself to health and fitness. She had staff members sign a contract to adhere to a plan she endorsed by Bob Greene.

    I kid you not, Oprah said she was able to maintain her weight by getting vigorous exercise EIGHT TIMES A WEEK.

    She explained that she exercises every day of the week (at the time) and that one of those days, she worked out TWICE.

    I don’t know that I’d call that over-exercising, but I do think it’s unrealistic to expect a person to keep that up to maintain a weight under 200 pounds. And my personal experience with exercise is that, once my body gets used to what I’m doing, I start to gain weight. That means I either have to restrict more calories or exercise harder, more often.

    I always wondered if that meant I’d eventually be exercising 3 hours a day to stay in a size 12.

    Very demoralizing.

  51. frankie, you are good enough no matter how big or small your lunch was, or how good or bad of a fat-accepter you are!! Now if only I could believe that 100 percent about myself.

  52. It’s been too quiet here lately with open posts and short messages–I hope this is a sign that things will once more return to the fabulous days of posts…

    Kim, thanks very much for the kind words, but to be honest, I can’t say this signals a return to the way things used to be. A couple of important things have happened. 1) All three of us, at the same time, got a lot busier than we used to be — which doesn’t show any signs of letting up — and 2) After more than a year of posting heavily on the same basic topic, we all started to feel a bit like we’re just repeating ourselves. Even this post, as you can see from the number of links back to other SP posts, is all a rehash of stuff I’ve talked about ad nauseam.

    Today, I was inspired to put it all into new words, but to be perfectly honest, it gets harder and harder to look at articles saying the same damn things over and over and come up with something new or interesting to say about them. There’s already a few books’ worth of material on this blog, not to mention I just finished co-writing an actual book, so keeping things fresh is a struggle. Add that to a bunch of pressing demands on our time and energy, and the fact that this blog is a labor of love… we’re all pretty burnt out.

    We’re trying to keep things going as well as we can, considering how to move forward, and hoping the community site will give people a place to talk about stuff we haven’t gotten to here. We’re all just doing our best with the time and energy we have, and we can’t guarantee that there will be more frequent or longer posts on a regular basis any time soon.

  53. This post was just incredible. I know you think you’re repeating yourself but then again so do our internal voices, so repeat, repeat and rinse and repeat!

  54. @ A Sarah:
    Nothing looks as bad as dieting feels.

    I’m going to write that in giant calligraphy and frame it as wall art.

    I totally get the burnt out thing. Just please promise to leave the site up even if y’all never post again… I’m a relative newbie who has gleaned so much from the archives. This blog is a treasure trove.

  55. “Think what an impact it would have if Oprah featured HAES on her show. If she really promoted it. Women all over this country would be listening, and some… would really open their eyes to it and hear her.”

    InTheWild answered this, but I second it — Oprah is not about speaking truth to power. She is part of the machine.

    She can’t sell advertising time if her message undermines that advertising. Hence all the materialism, emotional decision-making, and fear and loathing of the natural self which drives mindless consumerism.

  56. Kate – I adore your response. Thank you for your eloquence!

    My response to that same article was a bunch of sputtering, and when I could finally vocalize a phrase, it was “Not cool”.

  57. Y’know, I normally “exercise” about 5-10 times a week. I don’t use cars, so if I go somewhere, I end up walking or biking. Which is exercise. I don’t treat a lot of it as if it counts as exercise, because my body considers biking 30 miles a week, and walking 5-10 miles a week perfectly normal, and What Bodies Do. Doesn’t make me thin, or obsessed with exercise… just a person who doesn’t use a car.

    I’m also grumbling a lot right now about not exercising enough. I banged my knee up about 3 weeks ago, and it needs rest to recover properly. It is *hard* to force myself to stay put on the couch with my knee up as much as it needs. I am used to my normal activity level, and cutting back isn’t fun… but I need to, or my knee won’t heal right. My bad leg now has a nice skinny thigh, and a lot of the “fat” has dropped off that hip. Except it isn’t skinny, and what is gone isn’t fat… I have lost my nice muscles that would carry me around for a 7 mile walk! Earlier in my recovery, I was getting exhausted walking just one block, between the pain and the amount of muscle I’ve lost.

    I want my fat thighs back. And the muscle that goes under the fat.

  58. That was absolutely amazing.

    Truth be told, I love Oprah and I love all that she represents, a black woman growing up poor who is now one of the most successful people in the world and the good she does with her money warms my heart but I had to stop watching the show because her body loathing wasn’t helping with my body acceptance.

    I hope she gets this message, soon. Life is too short to spend it hating your reflection and you put it so much better than I ever could have.

  59. Kate (et al), I would never begrudge you having busy lives, and I appreciate (so much!) all the unpaid effort that’s gone into this blog…but I will say that repetition is really, really important, for me, anyway.

    I struggle with the same issues again and again and hearing the same messages again and again seems to be the only cure. Kind of like muscle memory, but for the brain.

    Of course, I can always re-read things, but the actual repetition of the ideas seems to help me, too (not to mention that there are often turns of phrase or other small things that really speak to me even amidst very similar ideas).

    So my point is that, if you feel done writing “meaty” posts for the most part, that’s one thing…if you’re worried that your readers are feeling tired of hearing the same things rehashed, that’s another.

  60. Maybe the Shapelings should sponsor an open letter to Oprah to do a show on the HAES movement. We could have people add their signatures. If we got enough, it might make an impact. No one could write that letter but Kate Harding, of course.

    Hey it worked with the billboard the puppy mill put up to get her attention!

    I want her to hear our voices, I want her to know there is a different path. I want everyone to know.

  61. I only come here from time to time — I disagree with most Shapelings about practically everything not directly related to fat acceptance, and I don’t want to become a troll — but I did want to see what Kate had to say on this.

    This is a great post. Absolutely perfect. It actually brought tears to my eyes — I keep trying to explain these things to people, and I can’t make myself clear. I’ll be spreading this post around.


  62. I saw this article this afternoon and immediately thought of my fellow Shapelings.

    If anything, I felt 2 ‘things’ after reading her article. One was ‘poor Oprah’. The other was that I wish, oh how I wish she would embrace HAES and FA, because then she would surely promote it and then people would buy into it, and well . . . she could change the world.

    I also agree with other people who posted that this just shows those of us who are trying to embrace HAES and give up dieting that we’re doing the right thing.

  63. In my adult life, I don’t think I’ve been BELOW the “dreaded” 200.

    Me too, Liza. I spent most of high school between between 240 (dieting!) and 280 (not dieting!).

  64. Can I just add that Oprah looks FABULOUS these days? I was watching her show the other day and was struck by how radiant and lovely she looked. How sad that as I was thinking that about her, she was likely thinking that she looked disgusting.

  65. I left a comment on this subject on the TV Guide website (under the name AuburnQT, if anyone cares to look for it). I’m on Sanity Watchers, so I’m saving my points and not going back to counter the ignorant and fat-hating comments it has generated – “there’s no such thing as a naturally fat woman” and “it’s just an excuse to say ‘pass the gravy'” and blah, blah, blah. I’d link to this post, because Kate is 90 gazillion times more eloquent than I am, but nobody wants those dipshits over here.

  66. Amazing post, even as a woman with a strong sense of self and size acceptance, this post hit me straight to the core. I hope Oprah & all women we struggle with weight read this, its so necessary.

  67. Just chiming back in to say, yes, I know you guys feel like you repeat yourselves a lot but take it from me, it’s so needed. Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly bombarded from the endless repetition of obesity epipanic, childhood obeeeesity, it’s for your health, rachael ray is fat, world we live in, coming here and reading the archives or cruising for new comments or insights is a lifesaver.

    Like a little island of sanity. The fatosphere saves lives, don’t doubt it.

  68. Hey Kate,

    Well, it took Oprah getting to the dreaded 2-0-0 for me to discover this wonderful blog and your upcoming book! After thinking about this all day (seriously!), All I can say is that I, too, really hope Oprah doesn’t go back to the endless diet and exercise tricks and numbers obsession but decides instead to shine the spotlight on her HEALTH. Amateur opinion here, but I think her underlying problem isn’t “letting herself eat whatever she wanted” as O described, but an long standing hormonal imbalance. She has admitted problems with her thyroid and then does some vegan cleanse over the summer where she ate a very unbalanced diet (I don’t have a link, but google it to see what she was eating). Plus, at 54, she has either just gone through or is going through menopause, another jolt to her endocrine system. I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT HER DRESS SIZE. If she wants to, she can be a shining beacon to the rest of us of letting the weight obsession go and focus on what’s actually going on in her body. After what I’ve been reading today, I actually think if she just blindly steps back into the low-fat-low-carb-Bob-Greene-in-the-gym-at-4am-regime, she will end up really screwed. Here are some links if anyone else is as obsessed with this as I am!
    Thyroid and health:
    Hormonal imbalance quiz:

  69. Ok, that sounds wrong… of course you don’t need to post lengthy stuff all the time, what you do is appreciated and you shouldn’t feel that your needlessly repeating yourselves. I enjoy the “from the archives” stuff too. And the open threads.

  70. I second and third and so on the idea that repetition here is good. I bet you are never going to say a positive thing as often as my brain tells me a negative thing, and boy can my brain be repetitive! :) We need the repetition if we are to build new brain synapses and get off the wheel of shame.

    I feel sorry for Oprah, but like others stopped watching along time ago to save my sanity watcher’s points.

    Can I just thank all the commenters too? Reading your posts today really helped me, as they do often do.


  71. Brilliant, dahling, simply brilliant! I myself have been lavishly sized for years, and when I starved myself down to a “normal” (i.e. a few pounds short of gaunt) size, I was constantly hungry, dizzy, and extremely short-tempered. The only moments I felt good were when I bought a new dress, but those moments passed the moment the dress was brought home. Now I consider it a pleasure to inhabit my fleshly self, and Ms. Winfrey should let go of the pressure to be something one is not. Perhaps you can never be too rich, but you can definitely be too thin.

    Thank you for a marvelous read, dahling. Ciao!

  72. Oh, thank you, thank you. I came here with the express intent and hope that you would have covered this, Kate. I had penned my own “Dear Oprah” letter today, but, instead of speaking so eloquently and in such a heartfelt, truthful, honest and touching way, instead, my letter just had a whole bunch of angry expletives.

    I also am so angered by (? amused by the transparency of?) how this “confession” is so timed perfectly in the January/New Year’s Resolution/bombard everyone with shame so they buy the latest diet because “it’s that time of the year” issue. Boo, Oprah.

  73. On the positive side, one good thing that comes out of this is that there is a well-known, visible woman who has publicly said, in effect, “This is what 200 lbs looks like”. Hopefully, that will help to demystify the “OMG 200 LBS!!!!111!!!!” thing. Because my guess would be that the people who freak about round numbers like that would never in a million years guess that Oprah weighed 200 lbs if she hadn’t told them.

  74. Kate, I just wanted to thank you. The other day I needed to weigh a package and I was without a post office scale so I used the bathroom scale and weighed myself both with and without the package. And I’ve been feeling really bad about myself because I saw that I weighed 185 and I’ve never weighed that much before, and now I notice the rolls more and the way some of the pants I haven’t worn in a while no longer fit and I feel guilty for eating so much and not drinking enough water and everything else back into that old cycle of self-loathing and body hatred.

    So I came here, and I read this post, and I reread all of the links on this post, and I really do feel better. And again, I just wanted to thank you because I’m 24 years old and I have the option to come to places like this whenever I feel bad where there are people to remind me that it’s not a moral failing to gain weight sometimes. It’s hard now but maybe now when I’m a somewhat famous 30-something writer, it will be easier, and when I’m a 54-year-old billionaire, numbers on a scale won’t do this to me anymore.

  75. What I’m curious about in the Oprah 200 LBS Press Release, and that nobody has touched on directly yet, is her quote about not wanting to be thin any more, just “strong, healthy, and fit” (or whatever it was). Now, if all of this is tied to her big “Best Week Ever” show on January 5th, then I wonder if Oprah isn’t just about to jump on the HAES bandwagon by glomming onto the concept as if it is her own.

    She is a super smart businesswoman, so if all of this is meant to move product (and really, why else does any celebrity issue a press release about their weight?), and she says point blank “I don’t want to be thin,” then where else is she heading but to HAESLand?

    Think of the trajectory of the weight loss industry co-opting FA/HAES language: “Diets Don’t Work,” “A Size Healthy,” and so forth. How else would Oprah move weight loss product in the current marketplace if she didn’t also utilize HAES-style language? More importantly, since no one has really branded HAES and put a well-known face to a HAES-influenced approach to one’s health, Oprah would be a fool not to get in their and make herself the poster child for HAES.

    I don’t think Oprah will ever be 100% HAES (because then, how would one sell product?), but she is too savvy not to recognize that here is a great opportunity for her to commandeer a philosophy that hasn’t gone mainstream yet, but has the power to fully transform the health landscape. Does she really believe HAES principles? Who knows, but it is a goldmine waiting for someone with Oprah’s power and influence to exploit.

    As someone who has only recently begun to practice HAES principles (and not as a recovering dieter), I’ll be curious to see how she frames her “strong, healthy, fit” and not thin mantra against her own body self-loathing. I’m sure we won’t have the same perspectives, but it will be interesting to see how closely her show adheres to the HAES we all know and love.

  76. I wish Oprah could give up The Fantasy of Being Thin and focus on living The Reality of Being Oprah. I mean, Oprah can’t accept herself with all the blessings she has? Really?

    This goes well with the Ani Difranco post. Dear Oprah, there is nothing wrong with your body.

  77. Oh, Kate. Posts like this one remind me how lucky I am to have found Shapely Prose, and how much I owe the three of you.

    Yous have changed my life for the better forever even if you never write another word here. Thank you, so much, for all that you do.

    I wish Oprah could give up The Fantasy of Being Thin and focus on living The Reality of Being Oprah.

    I kind of want to marry this sentence.

  78. Great column. The whole thing about role models drives me up the wall. My favorite demotivation poster:

    Mistakes – It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

    I like that as a way of forcing myself to take a step back and wonder if I’m entirely wrong about something. If things aren’t working, you have to ask if you are asking the right questions, solving the correct problem.

    Interesting thing I learned knitting lace, almost every time you find a “mistake,” the actual problem with the knitting is usually a row back from visual error. Also as the great Sally Melville says – it’s only a mistake if you don’t fix it!

  79. Hmmm.

    Great, great post Kate – absolutely fantastic. Really needed this in the run up to the holidays.

    But, reading the comments, many of which are along the lines of, “Oprah is so smart, how many times will we see her put her self through this destructive lose-gain cycle?” makes me wonder something.

    Is it marketing? Are we being duped here?

    I mean, how many shows and magazines have been filled with Oprah’s latest dieting quest? How much money has been made from it? If Oprah were to lose and not gain back, or to gain back and say, “Meh, I am a fantastic and successful woman who will keep the extra poundage”, she would ailienate much of her audience.

    When Oprah is fat, women buy into it for the identification factor. When she is dieting, we again buy into it as inpiration; many women diet ‘with’ her on her latest quest.

    Like you all say, she is a smart woman with a freakin’ trainer and a chef…what’s really going on here? I am not saying she has deliberately gained the weight back (neccessarily), but it seems to me that she, and her team, are very much aware of the billion dollar industry that is weight loss…and they want in.

    Sorry if anyone has already said this, I have not read all of the many comments

  80. Oprah. Oy.
    Focus on all your amazing achievements. Everything good in your life. All the things you have overcome. Not only have you survived, you have THRIVED!!!!!!! Think about the good things you have brought to so many people.


  81. First…thanks Kate, et al. for writing so much positivity to ground and make all of us sane, and anything you find time to write is more than enough. And, I get what you’re saying about repeating, because over time, it’s just boring TO YOU to keep making yourself blue in the face with repetition.

    About Oprah. I kind of think it’s a good gimmick for her. She can make lots of money via people watching, ads, etc., by getting people worked up about losing weight because she wants to lose weight. And, it’s kind of that age old tool, if I point out that I’ve gained weight it takes the power of you pointing it out to me.

  82. Holy mackerel, that’s awesome! After hearing about Oprah, I checked your blog hoping you had written just such an excellent post. Thank you so much for writing this.

  83. I love how Oprah describes herself as “addicted to food.” I mean, we all are – otherwise how would we survive? What an unfortunate way to look at food, because it’s the negative views on body image and diet that are the problem, NOT the fact that every person has to eat to live.

  84. I’m usually very skeptical of famous people, and I’m no big fan of Oprah’s or anything, but I just can’t believe this is a marketing ploy. Savvy businesswoman, absolutely, but I really believe she takes her social position seriously. Undoubtedly her weight struggle has been a part of why women identify with her and contributed to her popularity, but still, if she could wave a magic wand and be thin, she would have done it 20 years ago. I think she really believes those mainstream diet “experts” that she has access to. I mean, nothing would shock me these days, I guess, but say it ain’t so, Oprah! The timing seems suspect, but then maybe she just felt increasingly uncomfortable with being on TV-while-fat without apologizing for it and couldn’t take it anymore.

  85. I think Oprah’s reasons for constantly trying to lose weight aren’t as nefarious as some people suggest (it is certianly possible… but I have trouble ascribing that sort of badness to anyone)

    Here’s what I think: Oprah is Oprah (TM) because she has never been satisfied with doing enough or having enough. If she were she would have the same show she had in the ’80s, it would have fizzled out and she would never have started a media empire. If Oprah were not Oprah (TM) she would not have had the drive and motivation to kick it up a notch, she would just be another also-ran talk show host. It’s not a bad quality, it just means that she is the sort of person who is hard wired to always be acheiving more.

    That’s what is at the heart of this weight loss stuff isn’t it? I mean if you were Oprah had never considered that it is simply not possible to lose weight and keep it off for your body, then wouldn’t you say “I’m FUCKING OPRAH, if I want to lose weight I’ll lose weight by SHEER FORCE OF PERSONALITY”. Even the argument that the vast majority of people cannot lose weight and keep it off would hold little sway over somebody who is so not like the vast majority of people, right?

    My $.02

  86. Gretchen, yes, maybe this will demystify what 200lbs looks like :)

    Sgabto, Linda Bacon’s last email to her mailing list stated that her book Health At Every Size will be in O Magazine (Oprah’s). If so then Oprah may indeed be moving more toward HAES-land, or at least giving HAES a foothold.

  87. Not only does she make herself feel bad….

    Thanks to Oprah for indicating to the whole world that the big 200 is just too much for anybody to have to deal with….

    …and for indicating to me- and every other person (esp.women) out there- that I must really be a fat cow, AND out of touch with reality- because I’ve been over 200 for years now, and never once thought of myself as FATTER THAN OPRAH…I guess now I know!

    So, “thanks Oprah, for helping me to understand what a true cow I really am”.

    (That’s sarcasm folks, for those who don’t know me).

    I can’t believe she (Oprah) fell into that trap of broadcasting her supposed weight. I know from experience that it is not tasteful to do such a thing, for fear of insult to others. There are SO MANY people out there weighing much more than that- What was she thinking?

    Let’s just please not throw our $$$ into any new diet program she’s going to sell for the NEW YEAR- we all know that’s what’s coming next.

  88. Excellent post, Kate. I hope Oprah sees it and allows it to change her life. It certainly has the potential. Your words have changed mine.

  89. Man, I am just not there yet. I tell and tell and tell myself to love myself and accept that I’m fat. But I don’t like being this heavy. I don’t like getting winded going up the stairs. I don’t like having dangerously high cholesterol and blood pressure on the edge — and stroke and heart attack do run in my family. I don’t like not being able to: bend over, fit into places easily, squeeze past people, climb up and visit my son in his bunkbed. I am sad and sorry because I used to be thin. (Didn’t many of us?) I don’t want to be as thin as I was; for one thing I’m older and for another, I have 2 kids now. But I am physically uncomfortable being this fat.

    So how does one “accept” without “giving up”? And is there a downside to wanting or trying to lose weight? Am I just going to be 245 lbs or higher forever? I’m just not getting it yet. UGH. I will definitely read your book!!

  90. This comment is not really about Oprah.

    I’m active on a small parenting message board. Someone posted the Oprah story there, and people were posted just tragic stuff about how they think about how much they hate their bodies every hour of every day. So I took a deep breath and posted about HAES. I got a whole lot of “Don’t take my hope away” and some really nasty comments, but I kept at it, and I got some people asking me thoughtful questions. Then someone asked why I was so passionate about this, and I posted the whole sordid eating-disordered story. I don’t know if I’ve actually convinced anyone of anything, but at least they all heard it, and some were interested enough to ask questions. I feel a lot more power in my own belief in fat acceptance (even though it is still pretty fragile for me).

    I just had to post and say that I feel like I took a real step on the path to living this, instead of just thinking it. I’m no Kate Harding, but I did what I could do, and I’m proud of it.

  91. Oh my, this was the most beautiful and amazing thing I have read all day.

    I have lost 75 pounds over the course of two years (slow!) and have over 100 to go to get to my ideal weight. I feel terrible about that, and I feel really panicky in that I have plateaued over the past couple of months and even gained six pounds, and I’m beating myself up over it.

    I’m doing the lowfat, low glycemic index, vegan diet for diabetics, and yet sometimes I just crave sugar, and I go to the grocery store, and I look at labels and find out that licorice or Oreos are vegan so I mindlessly buy them, but I’m the only one in the family who loves licorice and I eat all the Oreos before anyone else knows they are there, and my blood sugar goes up, and I feel terrible, and I gain weight. Oh well, I’m sorry body.

    It scares me, because I was doing so well and my sugar was under control. So yeah, there’s a little more of an edge on this than just being thin and beautiful. In fact, I rather wish I could lose weight without looking different, because it embarrasses me when people start gushing about how much better I look now.

  92. Once more, you hit it right on the nail. It always makes me feel better, reading one of your posts; if only to remind me that my value isn’t mesured by my weight. Seeing those kind of stories can easily throw you back in a loop of self-hating; seeing your kind of post have just the other effect.
    Especially as today I was shopping for christmas, trying to find a skirt that fitted me, and finally finding one… and nearly crying over the fact that I am, once more, back in plus size. I’m working on body acceptance; and your words, feels right to me.

  93. I’m not a big Oprah fan (though mostly don’t care either way) but from my vantage point, it’s hard to see this as anything but evidence that not everyone is meant to be the same size. Others have said the same, but it just seems freaking obvious to me. If someone who has almost unlimited money, an ability to carve out hours a day for exercise, personal trainers, private chefs, etc as well as a public persona in which her appearance is seen and judged by millions cannot manage to maintain weight loss? Then occam’s razor would indicate that her body is adjusting its internal mechanisms and resetting to its natural size, as starvation studies have shown that bodies are want to do.

    Stating the obvious is a lot more satisfying than diet food, too.

  94. Gah! What-ever, Oprah.

    Do you see that pic in the second link, in that awesome orange dress? She looks great, “obese” or not. It just fucking galls me that this incredibly successful, wealthy, beautiful woman apparently has nothing better to do with her time than worry about the size of her ass.

    She’s built a media empire, has legions of people who adore her no matter her size, she single handedly established a school for girls in Africa, for fuck’s sake, and she’s mad at herself that she’s fat!? Where are our priorities in this culture? AAAAAAAAACK!

  95. You go Elizabeth! You know–the first thing I did when I read her statement was to send a letter directly to Harpo, Inc. through her website. It wasn’t as fully fleshed out (ha–get it) as yours, but we’re on the same wavelength. I’m glad to have found your blog as a result of this whole thing, though. Personally, I recommended that Oprah be reminded that she’d had the authors of When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies and Overcoming Overeating on her show when the books came out years ago. There’s a thriving number of us who are living by those books these days. You can check us out in Yahoo! Groups by searching for “overcoming overeating” and “oofriends”. The latter is a brand new, tiny but growing splinter group with fewer rules and regs, and is a little less rigid about postings than the former.

    Anyway. This has to be nipped in the bud. I’m wondering how much this was influenced by Oprah’s friend (and mine) Barack Obama, who has more than hinted that he wants to see fat Americans shape up. I heard something about linking gym memberships to health insurance in a way that makes the “patient” feel a little more pressure to go? Hope I’m not starting an off the charts rumor here. If that’s so I certainly hope that our friends at NAAFA and the ACLU are alredy on it.

    I’ll be checking in with great frequency. Your new friend,

  96. Oprah looks healthy and amazing *right now*. I wish she’d talk about healthy eating and exercise, for the enjoyment of life and good health, not weight loss.

    I wish Oprah would read this blog because then I could tell her I was 295lbs the week I began yet another diet. And I was hating on myself again.

    Once I decided to just focus on healthy eating and exercise, I weighed at the doctor’s office the other day at 280lbs. It’s like my body said “Oh, she’s not gonna diet?” and decided to relax.

    And I do have days where I have what I want. I’m not in this life to punish myself, or hate myself.

    Oprah does not need to apologize for her body. I don’t need to apologize for mine either.

    I would absolutely love it if she did a program that focused specifically on healthy eating and exercise, and drop the whole diet talk, and skip the self degradation.

    She’s in a position where she has an affect on many women, and what she is teaching everyone is, “I hate myself, I’m not good enough”.

    I cannot completely admonish her for how she feels about herself, since I’ve been there too. She just hasn’t gotten to that place yet… where she can say “screw diets”.

  97. Awesome, Kate. So eloquent.

    Ironic that she will be writing about her struggles in her January issue of O Magazine. I wonder if she’s aware that her editors will also have a blurb promoting my book: Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. (They haven’t promised it will be in the Jan issue, but it’s going to be in the mag at some point.)

    Perhaps her pain will push people to considering HAES?


  98. Diana, that article is great.

    I love this line: It’s the nature of hearts to break. It’s in their job description. When a heart is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, it holds nothing back. And sometimes it gets broken.

    I would put that up in my Facebook profile, but I don’t want to make any certain people uncomfortable. Even though I’d love that line and have wanted to put it up before.

  99. Dear Kate,

    You are the bees knees! (What does that mean, anyway?)

    This letter is a keeper, whether Oprah reads/heeds it or not. So many others will.

    Are you on Twitter? I just tweeted a link to this post:

    Amazing letter 2 Oprah re stoppng body hatred & self-abuse. Dieting sucks; Kate Harding ROCKS!

    With AmpleThanks for all you do,

  100. I saw a picture of Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine coming off the boat in New York. The young girls were petite and slim but their mothers were heavy set and chunky in the middle. And I thought to myself, “Those mothers weren’t eating and letting their daughters starve. They’d starve first. So why are they as fat and I am?” That’s the day I saw the proof that everything we are being told is a total lie. My second day of freedom came when I went shopping with my size 2 sister-in-law and, holding the shoulders of a dress up to my shoulders, realized that MY SKELETON is a size 14. Skin and bones, I will never fit into anything smaller. How I wish I had known that when I *was* a size 14 in my 20s. The last 20 years would not have been spent trying to be what I’m not; the size 10 doctors and life insurance compnaies have decided for me.

  101. Kate,
    This is an amazing post – I’ve been sending Oprah’s article and your post around to our group of therapists at The Women’s Therapy Centre Institute where we have a method of working and a way of thinking about all of these complicated issues. We do work as therapists every day with women’s relationship to food and bodies. We ALL ARE working on this every day, within ourselves and with our patients. Thanks for being a strong voice. Oprah should put you on the show!! Imagine what it would do for women if she could embrace her size and her self? You said it best.
    Check out our website for events in New York,

  102. Kate,
    I found this article thru one of the bloggers at bitch magazine. They linked to it, and I’m so glad! You are so articulate and well written! I’m really curious about if you mailed/emailed/communicated this to Oprah at all? I know, the likelihood of it actually reaching HER isnt too fantastic, but it’s worth a shot, right? Because if it ever did make it to her, IT COULD DO SO MUCH GOOD! (maybe even inspire an “a-ha! moment”.. isnt that what she calls them?). I also have to say that O.C.’s comment about everyone writing their own version, their own story, and mailing them to her sounds like a fantastic idea.


  103. Amazing. I’ve read about a hundred blogs on the fact, and even blogged on it myself. And you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for making me tear up at work and I sincerely hope Oprah gets a change to read it. Thanks.

  104. Great! I’ve been thinking about this since I picked up the last issue of her magazine. The woman has changed the world and is still worried about her weight? Get. Over. It.

  105. Thank you for making this blog entry and I truly hope Oprah will read it and get over the pityful fat shame promotion. I just don’t want people to promote the idea of fat people being lesser people than those who are thin.

    I am over 200 pounds and when I hear someone like Oprah promote her shame on gaining weight to that point, I can’t help but to feel a bit hurt. I work hard on accepting my weight and just as I felt a bit better about it I actually hear Oprah declare shame, like it had undone all the things she has done in life, on weight that is less than I weigh…well it made me shake my head in disappointment.

    Respect people’s minds, respect what they have done, don’t whipe off your mind and deeds with your outer shell. In ideal world this would happen. People wouldn’t treat each other like crap just because of how they look, they wouldn’t hurt each other etc…but we are not living in a perfect world so…don’t make it worse by actually sounding like you were a lesser person because some people can’t handle normal weight gain and body fat. Just, not the way to go. Especially when you are a great influence on sooo many people.

  106. Thank you.
    I may not really look up to Opera, but I look up to my mom, and she’s been going on and off diets for as long as I can remember. I’m 17, which is a tough time for body image, no matter who you are, or what you look like. I’m always saying I’m ok with what I look like, but your letter to Opera (and I’m not sure how I stumbled across it as this point, it was open on my computer, I’m sure I clicked on it at some point) has put me one step closer to actually excepting that I’m beautiful.
    So just thanks, I thought you might like to know you helped me.

  107. Just Another Teenage Girl –

    I hope you’ll come back and visit often. Shapely Prose is a wonderful, supportive community of people who will help you on your journey to knowing you’re truly beautiful and fabulous, EXACTLY as you are.

  108. There is a paragraph in an article in Aphrodite Women’s Health ( that made me think of your article and I wanted to share:

    “…researchers noted that it is the norm for American women to be dissatisfied with the parts of their bodies which are affected by weight gain as they age. The percentage of body fat generally doubles by the time women reach age 50. Weight also tends to be redistributed so that breasts become larger, waists thicken and fat increases on their upper back. While it is natural for midlife women to change shape in these ways, the U.S. standard of attractiveness remains a youthful and slender body which creates anxiety about aging and pressure for older women to disguise what are otherwise normal changes.”

    I have come across two articles on body image recently that, like this one, were unfortunately illustrated with standard issue, airbrushed, slim, young models in a complete contradiction to the text. Even when mainstream publications write in a reasonable way on the issue, the art department never gets on board.

    Which made me think when reading this line: “With the media constantly portraying young, thin, beautiful women as the ‘ideal’ and with growing pressure on aging women to remain youthful, regular women are pushing themselves to achieve the unrealistic goal of holding on to their youth, in the belief that youth equals beauty.”

    We always say that media portrays young, thin women as “ideal.” (The word “beautiful” that they put here is fairly loaded as I don’t think beauty as an ideal is a problem if the concept of beauty is wider and more inclusive) But I think this is actually not the problem. It’s not that they portray an ideal, it is that it is all they portray. Looking at television and women’s magazines you would be hard pressed to see a woman who seems to be over 30 or more than a size 10. It is as if they do not exist at all. It makes the normal seem absolutely freakish. If, at 200 pounds, Oprah is one of the largest people on tv, then there is something wrong with the tv! The set needs adjustment.

  109. A) Fantastic post.

    B) There is a small, cyncial side of me that does wonder if weight struggle is part of Ms. Winfrey’s product. We are discussing an incredibly intelligent, and people-savvy woman.

  110. I just watched a clip of yesterday’s Oprah, where she had Kirstie Alley talking about her weight regain. It made me remember this post.

    Damnit, Oprah. I used to really admire her, but the more publicity she gives to weight loss, the more I find myself losing respect for her.

  111. Even though I’m just getting around to reading it 2 1/2 months later, Newsweek has a great article about Oprah and her insanity in their June 8th issue.

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