Oprah Winfrey Opens Up About Her Decades-Long Weight Shaming in TV Special: ‘I Was Ridiculed’

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Oprah Winfrey takes center stage in her new TV special about weight loss, and addresses how she’s been the victim of public shaming and humiliation for decades.

An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame, and the Weight Loss Revolution aired Monday night, and kicked off with a stark and powerful reflection on Winfrey’s own weight loss journey, including the highs and lows of which have been fodder for tabloids and comedians for years.

“I have to say that I took on the shame that the world gave to me,” Winfrey shared, speaking in front of a live studio audience. “For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport.”

Winfrey recalled one particularly painful day in 1990, when she saw herself on the cover of TV Guide for the magazine’s “Best and Worst Dressed” list.

“I remember thinking, at first, ‘Oh, look! There I am on the cover.’ And then, I read the headline, that Mr. Blackwell – the tastemaker of the time — called me ‘Bumpy, lumpy, and downright dumpy,'” Winfrey recounted. “I was ridiculed on every late-night talk show for 25 years and tabloid covers for 25 years.”

Winfrey then read just a handful of the mean, hurtful and downright cruel tabloid headlines that have been published over the past two decades, which mocked her weight and speculated on her health.

The hurtful spotlight led her to obsess over her appearance, and to go to extreme and unhealthy lengths to shed weight.

“In an effort to combat all the shame, I starved myself for nearly five months, and then, wheeled out that wagon of fat that the internet will never let me forget,” Winfrey said, recalling a particularly infamous episode of her talk show. “And after losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet, the next day, y’all, the very next day, I started to gain it back.”

The special itself featured interviews with several medical experts, as well as people who have struggled with their weight for years, in an effort to combat the stigma over the increasing use of weight loss medications.

Leading up to Monday’s special, 70-year-old Winfrey spoke with ET at the 55th NAACP Image Awards about the TV special.

“I am so excited about this show that I am doing… on shame and blame and the weight loss revolution,” Winfrey shared. “I am so excited about it because, as you know, I’ve spent years in this business and been shamed myself. And I just want people to be liberated, and know that, for so many people in this country who are suffering from weight and obesity, it’s really not your fault — it’s your brain.”

“So once you figure that out, you can begin to get help to help you manage it, however you choose to do that,” Winfrey added. “So I want people to stop being blamed for the choices that they make about their health.”

“We had to break it down,” Winfrey told ET about having medical experts weigh in on the conversation regarding the medications. “They’ve had these medications for the past 20 years. I didn’t know that. They’ve been having this medication for 20 years and we’re just now hearing about it.”

The special comes shortly after Winfrey stepped back from serving on the Weight Watchers board of directors for a decade after she disclosed her recent use of weight-loss medication – which has had a remarkable impact on her own health and figure.

“I’m really excited about it,” Winfrey said of the availability of medicine designed to treat obesity and promote increased weight loss. “Because I’ve suffered for so long and struggled so much and did all the things.”

An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution aired March 18 on ABC and will be available the next day on Hulu.


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