“Making Fun of My Weight Was a National Sport” Oprah Winfrey Discusses Past Fat-Shaming

 “Making Fun of My Weight Was a National Sport” Oprah Winfrey Discusses Past Fat-Shaming

(Arturo Holmes / Getty Images for Essence)

Oprah Winfrey recently opened up about the painful experiences of being fat-shamed, particularly following a notable episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show in November 1988. In a candid conversation on the inaugural episode of The Jamie Kern Lima podcast, Winfrey recalled the harsh public scrutiny over her weight that persisted for over two decades.

During the 1988 episode, Winfrey famously wheeled a wagon full of fat onto the stage to symbolize the weight she had lost on an all-liquid diet, Optifast. “I didn’t have a morsel of food for five solid months in losing that weight,” she shared. However, the rapid weight loss was not sustainable. “Three days later, I was 5 lbs. heavier, and a week later I was 10 lbs. heavier,” Winfrey explained, detailing the swift weight gain that followed the cessation of her diet, reported People Magazine.

The weight gain led to a significant amount of public ridicule and personal discomfort, to the extent that she felt too self-conscious to attend a pre-Christmas gathering hosted by none other than Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame. “I thought I was too fat to go,” Winfrey recounted, as her weight had climbed from 145 lbs to 157 lbs in just about two weeks.

Winfrey also reflected on the broader impact of the public’s fixation on her body, describing how “making fun of my weight was a national sport for 25 years.” This period included particularly stinging parodies, such as a sketch on the comedy show In Living Color. In the sketch, Winfrey was portrayed by a character who kept eating until she exploded, a depiction that Winfrey found deeply hurtful.

“In Living Color had done a skit where the woman was doing something, and she just kept eating and getting fatter and fatter and eventually she just exploded,” she said. “The whole audience fell out [laughing] and the woman was me.” These experiences highlight the cruel nature of body shaming that Winfrey endured, which mirrored the struggles many face in the public eye.

Her discussion on the podcast not only sheds light on her personal battles with weight and public perception but also underscores the ongoing challenges related to body image in the media. Winfrey’s openness provides a poignant reminder of the need for compassion and respect in how we discuss and portray individual health and body images.

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