My Two Cents on Oprah Once Again Taking Up The Cause of Dieting

When I saw Oprah on my TV screen, once again touting the benefits of weight loss (albeit now through the much healthier Weight Watchers plan, rather than some kind of liquid diet in the late 80's), I was a bit shocked.

"Nothing you've ever been through is wasted, so every time I tried and failed, every time I tried again, and every time I tried again, has brought me to this most powerful moment to say, 'If not now, when?'" she asks.

My husband informed me she was now a major stockholder in the company.

Okay. There's that uneasy take on it.

I have not been an Oprah fanatic. I admire her greatly, and believe she has been the inspiration for many people to see mental health in a different light. Her show has allowed us to watch people who have been through all kinds of trauma -- talk about it. Maybe crying. Maybe not. She has not shied away from things previously "unspeakable."

I remember specifically one show in the early 90's, when I was desperately trying to get pregnant. She featured maybe seven or eight women, who regretted becoming mothers. They were talking about wishing they had considered another way of life -- not that they didn't love their children, but that the decision hadn't been thought through.

The show certainly made me think.

The hate came gushing in. Whatever form of social media or communication we had back then was filled to the brim with things like, "Their children should be taken away from them!" or vile assassinations of their characters.

There was a very tiny minority that said, "Thank you."

The next day, Oprah cancelled the regular scheduled program. Only two of the women agreed to reappear (my memory may not have this exactly right, but most of the women would not participate). She then guided the even more important discussion of the hatred we can spout when we judge each other, or need to justify to ourselves the life path and beliefs we have chosen.

We stop listening.

My admiration of her grew in that moment. I obviously haven't forgotten it.

So here she is, telling us she has proudly lost weight through Weight Watchers, and wants us to join in. Yes, she's making a mint. I bet she knew she would take a lot of heat.

I have two points to consider.

One. As a therapist, I watch people of all ages change and grow. What they have blindly strived for, hidden, defended, rationalized, justified, or decided to live with -- they are now actively confronting in themselves. Alcoholics who drink until they become grandfathers. Trauma victims who carry a secret, until they reach an age where they think, "I want to live more fully. I'm tired of feeling like a victim." Work fanatics, who realize it's time to slow down and put energy into the people they love. People who have amassed fortunes, deciding to give a lot of it away to charity. People with life-threatening illness, altering their entire way of living after a near miss.

People change. I don't think this new venture makes a mockery of anything in her past. Oprah has allowed us to see her all along, in all her vulnerability.

Second. Obesity is rampant. I saw, just yesterday, an older man, a grandfather, coming out of a surgery center. His lower abdomen jutted out abnormally, and he swayed from side to side when he walked.  Following him? A young man, maybe 11 or 12. I assumed a grandson. I couldn't make out his features very well, because of all the extra weight around his face.

It was tragic.

Maybe this time, Oprah isn't going to carry a wheelbarrow out on stage, with mounds of lost fat on it. Maybe this time, she is trying to reach out to anyone who will listen. Maybe she is trying to talk to the millions of people who are in denial of the impact of their weight on both their physical and emotional lives.

"If not now, when?"  She again offers her vulnerability, for those who might follow her. She's inviting them to watch her journey. To emulate her, and to find their courage and resolve.

The point that Weight Watchers or any other diet plan may not "work" or lead to permanent weight loss is important, and should be recognized.

It's not magic. Changing a life habit or an addiction takes amazing self-discipline, recognizing the power it has over your life, and accepting that power. No diet plan is going to be enough. You must change inwardly.

Yet frequently, when I am seeing someone who's depressed about something in their life, I recommend to them that they focus on what they have control over, not what they don't. A lot of times that includes exercise, what they eat, or how much sleep they are getting. Maybe going to AA meetings, or attending free nutrition classes. Whatever issue there is.

If Oprah or any other spokesperson can give that message to the millions whose relationship with food is all messed up, if she helps them believe they can learn to have more control over their life, what they eat, and what they believe about themselves?

More power to her.

And good luck.

"if not now, when?"

You can read more of Dr. Margaret on her website. Just click here!