Losing Weight with Oprah Yet Again

oprahAre you one of us who notices Oprah’s ups and downs in the weight department?

Did you see her at the end of last year confess to being fat again, even though we all could see the obvious?

Did you tune in early in January when she opened up this year’s weight loss “challenge” with her master coach Bob Green because you, too, had gained weight?

Had you already vowed since hearing the year-end confession that you, too, would tackle the annual struggle to lose weight again, finally, at last, etc.?

Well, me too.

And now here it is the middle of April and I think I’ve gained another ten pounds since the vow.

Just to show you how old this ongoing saga is for me, I’m going to print the Simple Truths newspaper column I wrote way back when Oprah declared the weight thing over for her. The time she got into the really skinny jeans. Here it is:

Oprah, Me, and Never Say Never

I’ve lost thirty-five pounds.


Lost implies that I, like Bo Peep with her sheep, should be out looking for them. I’ve always obliged in the past.

“I’d prefer not to this time,” I told my friend Jill, for whom this was no news flash. That’s the wonder of good friends, particularly those who struggle with similar problems. They let you say the same things over and over until you don’t need to any more.

“Maybe I’ll write a column,” I said.

“You’re going to write about that,” Jill said calmly, in that neutral way that therapists have of using statements to ask questions. We do it with each other when we’re on sensitive terrain.

What she wanted to say, I figured, was “What? You’re going to write about that! Have you forgotten Oprah?”

Of course, I remember Oprah. What woman over the age of twelve doesn’t recall Oprah Winfrey’s celebrated 67-pound weight loss? What woman who’s ever despaired about her own dress size doesn’t know that the Queen of Talk Shows gained it back? All this before the greedy eyes of millions of TV viewers.

When she pranced onstage in her prized size eight (or was it size ten?) Calvin Klein jeans, I remember thinking, “Don’t say it, Oprah. Don’t say it.”

But she did. She said something had “clicked,” and she knew she would never be fat again.

Her ace in the hole for maintaining her new slim figure was tabloid fear. The media would mock any gain, ounce by ounce.

They did, and so did we.

Were you one of us who took Oprah’s measurements with our eyeballs, who watched her girth broaden millimeter by millimeter?

At the time, both Jill and I were dressing out of the side of the closet where the fat clothes live. My Evil Twin actually rooted for Oprah to blow it and blimp right back up there with all the rest of the 95 percent of us dieters who’ve ever reclaimed pounds at the Lost and Found.

Over the following months, our VCRs recorded Oprah’s mid-afternoon shows, and our Evil Twins compared notes:

“Her face looked pudgy, today.”

“New chin coming.”

“Bigger in the hips, definitely.”

Inspecting her body relieved us from attending to our own.

Watching this brilliant, successful, lovable woman gain weight on national television reminded us, in a bigger-than-life way, that this is not about brainpower. (Oprah is not stupid, and neither are we.) Nor is it about willpower. (Oprah revealed majestic strength by not eating for months, and so have we.) Nor is it about information power. (Oprah knows all about calories, fat grams, and aerobics, just as we do.)

At last, on her show Oprah confessed to what everyone in TVland already knew. She was fat again. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

I felt badly about my Evil Twin’s ugly wishes, for I, too, know that this is the hardest thing.

After losing and regaining the same thirty-five pounds over and over for as many years, what gives me (or anyone) the courage to hope that this time is different?

Each time, I’ve uncovered something new within myself that has informed the next time. Hope lies in that, in the difference between a vicious circle and what I call a learning spiral.

When we’re caught in a vicious circle, our repeating patterns bring us back to the exact same place. When we’re riding a learning spiral, no matter how familiar it seems when we come round again, we’re not in the same spot. We’ve moved up a level. Growth has taken place.

For many of us who suffer with food obsessions and/or major weight swings, the question is not so much “What should I do?” in behavior and lifestyle terms. We already know volumes about eating less and exercising more.

The real question is “How come I can’t do what I know?” There’s a mystery here for each of us to track down. It’s as individual as we are and involves discovering our own inner connections and necessities as they’re acted out through misuse of food.

I can say, as I did to Jill, that I’d prefer not to repeat this pattern. But I know to never say “never” about being fat again. I also know to always say “always” about learning from the process.

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