Yesterday’s announcement that Oprah bought 10% of Weight Watcher’s stock (effectively causing the company’s stock to double) raised a lot of eyebrows – though it probably shouldn’t.
To me, it’s just more evidence that diets don’t work – and that regardless of fame, wealth or status, body shame and weight stigma are pervasive.
Oprah, arguably the most powerful woman in the world, has always been public with her body image struggle. Heck, the woman hauled 60+ pounds of fat in a red wagon to represent what was once on her body. That in itself takes courage – though the implication has always been shame. An apology for a body that doesn’t match society’s ideal. And so the world – including millions of impressionable women who take the word of O as the word of God – has had a front row seat to each new diet and exercise regime she’s tried and ultimately abandoned.
Because it doesn’t work like that.
Finding peace with your body doesn’t mean spending more money than most people will see in their lifetime on restrictive programs and punishing fitness gurus.
Even if the ultimate goal is purely aesthetic – specifically to be thin – it doesn’t work like that. And the diet industry knows it, which is why it is constantly reinventing itself with new and ultimately doomed promises of weight loss. When one doesn’t work, there’s another one ready and waiting to take your money – and your self-worth – leaving you with less of both when you don’t get the “results” you were assured.
Because obsessing doesn’t work.
The fact is that most dieters regain weight within 6-24 months because, for most people, forcible restriction isn’t sustainable. Long-term weight loss on a diet is almost impossible.
And yet we continue to fall for it. We berate and abuse ourselves with it, rather than shifting our perspective and priorities. Oprah’s not immune – even with all of her power and, to be sure, the good work she’s done – she still thinks she’s failed.
It’s not you, Oprah.
But it’s frustrating to see someone with her influence using it to dig herself deeper into the pit of weight shaming. And she’s dragging an eager following down with her.
Hell, the name says it all: Weight Watchers. An entire institution (not unlike hundreds of thousands of others, of course) with the express purpose of fixating on weight. And food. And points, or whatever trademarked terminology is being used to represent the fact that you are trying to control something you may not biochemically have any power over.
What we do have power over? Where we focus our time and energy. And wouldn’t all of that be better spent on something bigger than, well, our bodies? Wouldn’t it be better to just circumvent all of this diet nonsense and acknowledge that our power has nothing to do with the circumference of our waist?
Summer Innanen summed it up beautifully: “Why not invest in something that’s going to help women cultivate a sense of worth outside of the number on a scale? If we really want female empowerment, we need to change the cultures and systems that are disempowering to women and put our investment dollars elsewhere.”
There’s no absolution in a mindset that equates happiness and self-worth with restriction and deprivation. Finding peace with your body doesn’t come from shrinking it.