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Oprah’s Weight as National News?

Anyone who watches the Oprah show with any regularity knows that Oprah has been gaining weight; however, when I saw that the Associated Press had a story on Oprah’s weight and that it appeared above the fold on Google News, I was surprised.  Isn’t the weight gain/loss stories of celebrities more the domain of The Enquirer and US Magazine? Clearly, not any more.

Of course, the weight trials of Oprah exist in a sphere beyond normal celebrity, and this may have contributed to the national coverage of this story; however, I had to ask: Should Oprah’s weight be a national headline? I was surprised that I found myself to be of two minds on this. I was going to simply say: Let’s just leave Oprah alone, until I saw the above magazine cover. I’ve had to give the issue some consideration before commenting, so here’s my reasoning on both sides of the issue.

No, Oprah’s Weight Is Not National News

1. Demonizing weight gain as failure fuels the current obsession with the thin ideal.

Oprah says she has failed. Others report on this as a failure. Being super-rich and super-powerful isn’t enough–it is only worthwhile if you look a certain way.
2. Oprah’s weight is her own, personal affair.

And even though she has chosen to shine the spotlight on her weight gain in her magazine and on her show, this still is not really “news we need to know.”

3. What important story has gone unreported as a result of all the ink on Oprah?

Aren’t there other things going on in the country and in the world that we need to know about?

Yes, Oprah’s Weight Is National News

1. Long-term weight loss is difficult to maintain.

No one wants it more than Oprah, yet she has repeatedly been unable to maintain her dream weight. As I type, The Biggest Loser finale is on, where people will have lost over 100lbs in a short time. We all know that a good number will gain some if not most of the weight back, yet we still encourage this kind of weight loss. Maybe we will finally grasp that there are aspects of weight that we have yet to understand.

2. Even Oprah, who has Oprah-money and Oprah-resources, can’t keep weight off.

For years I’ve heard (and admittedly said a time or two): If I had Oprah’s money, trainer, chef, resources, etc., I could lose weight, too. Well, when Oprah can’t keep weight off, then the whole advanced-dieting-resources argument becomes moot.

3. At 200lbs, Oprah looks great.

I think that Oprah looks fantastic, even at 200lbs. There are some gorgeous red carpet photos of Oprah circulating and she looks chic and fabulous. Maybe, we, the consumers of media will look at Oprah and say, You weigh 200lbs? So what? You still look Oprah-rific.

4. Maybe Oprah will finally make peace with her weight and make the world safer for fat people everywhere.

If plus-size designers make the O-list, the fashion industry would be revolutionized. And if she can teach the world to love our bodies, no matter the size, our culture could be revolutionized as well.
Ultimately, I really feel for Oprah. She is clearly tormented by the issue of weight, and as a person who understands the emotional pain of feeling like my body is a failure, I have nothing but sympathy. I would hope that Oprah finds peace–and it is her right to figure out what that means for her, be that perpetual dieting or self-acceptance.

Here are links to a couple of articles that I really enjoyed on the issue. I’d love to hear your take on this.

We Share Your Loss, and Your Gain, Washington Post

Oprah Regains Weight … Again, The F-Word.org

December 16, 2008   10 Comments