Oprah, Your Weight Watchers Commercial is Bullshit

An open letter to Oprah Winfrey

Dear Oprah,

I too have had a lifelong struggle with my weight but almost five years ago I was able to tackle it and am near the five year mark in keeping it off. That is the point when I am 96% likely to maintain that weight for life.

One of the key reasons I was able to do so is precisely the opposite of what your Weight Watchers commercial insinuates. I accepted myself, wholly and without reservation. As-is. I let myself off the hook for whatever qualities I supposedly didn’t have to be a healthy weight person. Instead, I examined how I lived day to day and made incremental changes.

In your commercial you look into the camera and say “it isn’t just about the weight.” That’s true, but not in the way you intend. Your meaning has the subtext that some internal deficiency needs to be identified and tackled to have lasting weight loss.

Oprah, that’s bullshit. This idea will sell memberships and products, and most certainly make you more rich but it won’t fix the problem of how to lose weight and keep it off. Let me also take a moment to say how much I dislike the constant barrage of “fix yourself” women have to listen to over their lifetimes. It’s suffocating and wildly unhelpful.

Our bodies have been constructed to respond to sugary, carby foods with singular purpose, to consume it quickly and find more. Accepting that, and creating a life that makes access more difficult is a much better solution than the narrative of personal failing. You are supposed to WANT THE DONUT. There are food scientists working around the clock to get us hooked on their product based on just this premise.

Here’s a crazy idea: work with your body. Accept your cravings, your weak spots, and figure out bit by bit how to work around those things.

If you really want to figure out the metrics of lasting weight loss my advice is to stop turning inward to find problems and start looking around at how you have constructed your life. It turns out the systems we live in have far more to do with supporting a healthy weight than some inner deficiency we need to tearfully acknowledge.

Do you live in an area with sidewalks? How big are your plates (yep)? What foods make you want to eat more and are they in your house? Do you have a bike and places to safely ride? Have you left room in your daily life for self-care? Do you live in an area with a lot of fast food signs? Do your co-workers bring in and share unhealthy foods?

Once I stopped cringing about all the possible things that could be wrong with me and started taking a clear-eyed, open-minded look at my environment I was able to make meaningful changes one step at a time. It resulted in a 50 pound loss that I maintained even through cancer treatments (which contrary to popular belief, put weight on).

I am still a deeply flawed person with my neurosis firmly intact. I am also 50 pounds lighter and odds are good I will stay that way.

I hope it isn’t just about the money because you already have buckets full. If you want to make a meaningful contribution to America’s waist line it is time to stop with the tear-jerking, emotional mea culpas and start figuring how to help people navigate a world that chains us to our cars, houses, desks and over-feeds us at every turn.

Sincerely,

Rebecca

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