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Dear Oprah, Please Stop Promoting Diet Culture

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Dear Oprah,

You are one of the most influential people in the United States. Everyone knows your name and everyone knows what you do. So many girls look up to you and aspire to be as successful as you are. When I was around 12, one of my friends even said she considered you to be her idol. For years, we have all seen you on TV, longed to meet you and longed to be you.

I’m writing this letter to talk to you about the last time I saw you on TV. A commercial came on and you confidently said, “I love bread” while endorsing Weight Watchers. I love bread as much as the next person, but I’m not as keen on Weight Watchers – or any other diet for that matter. I’ve seen firsthand the damage the media can have on women. Convincing us to be skinny at any and all costs, the media is overpowering, overbearing and overwhelming. The idea of a “perfect body” is thrown at us from tons of different directions. We’re told all day, every day, that we need to diet to be “good enough.” You may wonder why I care so much about your influence and Weight Watchers. Well, I’m currently in treatment for anorexia nervosa and I’m tired of watching my peers struggle with their bodies because someone on TV told them to.

So many women struggle with their body image and would like to lose weight. You’ve shared on your show that you also struggle with your body image, (which is impressively vulnerable for national television). Like many women, you’ve gone on various diets over the years and your weight has fluctuated. You’re so relatable to so many people! But then, we see our “friend” Oprah tell us we need to go on a diet. You tell us this is the diet that will finally work. We’ll finally be skinny if we just follow this one diet.

It’s not true! There is no diet that will ever result in permanent weight loss. Our bodies simply aren’t made that way. Our body has a magic number it likes to sit at (called a set point) and we have no control over that number. In fact, when we diet, we’re more likely to raise that number than lower it. Yet you, and millions of other people still buy into the idea that we can “take control” of our bodies and finally all look like supermodels. This diet mentality is incredibly damaging.

Over the years, you’ve had plenty of guests on your show with eating disorders. You’ve talked to girls with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia and everything in between. The common thread between these women is a burning desire to lose weight and a bad habit of using food to cope with negative feelings. I’ve watched women sit on your show and lament to you their desire to be thin to look like a model. At one time, you had a 5-year-old girl that had the beginnings of an eating disorder come on the show and tell you that she, “just didn’t want to be fat” because then, “no one would like her.” Her words broke my heart, and I’m sure they broke yours, too.

By promoting Weight Watchers, or any other diet, you are perpetuating the notion that “fat” is bad, that “fat” is to be avoided at all costs and that those who are “fat” have something wrong with them. When I was younger, I heard you say that size eight was your goal weight. At the time, I was a size 12, and I was crushed. You told the world your goal size, but all I heard was “Deanna, you are too fat.” Unfortunately, I doubt I was the only one to hear this toxic message.

Lucky for you, you have the power to make a difference! There are a million other little girls watching you on OWN. Can you imagine the difference in their lives if you promoted body positivity? If, instead of saying that you want to be size eight, saying you were proud to look the way you do? Or if you sat on TV, ate a piece of cake and talked about how good it tasted instead of how many calories it was? A little girl somewhere out there might hear those words and feel better about themselves. Maybe that girl will avoid dieting. Maybe she would be saved from an eating disorder. There is no way to know how someone might change while watching their role model embrace their body, but the point is: it would influence at least one person’s life in a positive way. That’s a difference I’d like to make.

I’m not saying that you are the sole person responsible for eating disorders, or that by changing your presentation all eating disorders will go away. But you can help. You’ve talked to us and heard our struggles. You’ve seen our pain. So please, can you help stop it? Can you be one more person in the fight against the man we call ED?

Thank you,


If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Photo via Oprah Winfrey Facebook page.

Originally published: August 18, 2017
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