I knew it was only a matter of time before Oprah would start talking about her weight gain. The first time I noticed she was “big again” was on election night.
I think it is hard to find a more influential person on many Americans than Oprah Winfrey. I mean, we don’t even need to use her last name, do we?
So, as a nutrition and fitness expert, I feel an obligation (as if I am not naturally drawn) to pay attention to some upcoming television and radio shows about weight issues. People will definitely be listening and they’ll be applying what they learn – no doubt. The biggest dissapointment is that she still is not working with a registered dietitian. Evidently, the doctor and trainer will be back. Let’s hope they do the right thing and give sound, useful recommendations.
Here’s where you can tune in to the action:
It seems Winfrey is aware of the health risks, inviting both Greene and Dr. Mehmet Oz to her show during the first week of January, along with spirituality experts, sex therapists and financial expert Suze Orman. Winfrey also is expected to discuss her weight on her XM station’s “The Gayle King Show” on Jan. 5 and will host interactive live Web casts at Oprah.com the week of Jan. 12 to 16 every night at 9 p.m. EST.
Let me start some discussion by sharing a personal experience. I come from a family of obese women and it is right down the female bloodline – grandma, mother, sister, aunt, great aunt. We definitely have a propensity to be big, but only from a frame standpoint. I’ll never have the frame of half my friends even though I run marathons, triathlons, practice yoga and easily get about 6 hours or more of exercise a week. It’s just not possible. Genetics plays a role and your frame does matter. That said, I once weight 35 pounds more than I do today – very close to the 40 pounds Oprah gained, I might add.
Even though I was 10 years younger, I weighed much more. Why is that? Hard to believe since I was a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. But I also knew squat about nutrition. Just the typical “oh yeah, fruits and veggies”. My lifestyle explained the excess weight – without question. I made that mistake of assuming since I was active, I had a license to eat whatever I wanted. I also mimicked what my roomies did. Here was a typical week. Mon-Weds work and teach a couple aerobics classes without paying much attention to what I ate. Weds-Sat more work, more aerobics, by Weds night – bar! 5-7 drinks at least… a mere 800 calories or so from alcohol. Then, you gotta eat when you get home, right? So it was pizza or fast food… easily another 800-1000 calories. It’s not hard to figure out how I gained weight, even though I “felt” fit. Nobody should expect to be their healthiest weight with that kind of lifestyle.
After learning more about nutrition and realizing what I was doing to myself could not be good in the long term, I retooled my lifestyle to include foods that would energize and fuel me and limit over-indulgences. Fewer nights out, fewer drinks. Fewer late night calorie binges. I also joined a bootcamp class and started running. Within a year, I finished my first marathon and my first semester on my nutrition carrer change path. After that, I knew I would never be the same again.
Now, for the deconstruction of this article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28139107 Oprah said she has “fallen off the wagon” when it comes to healthy living. I think she’s right. She said that she has a fear of exercise from her thyroid problem and turned to eating whatever she wanted. That sounds like a lifestyle downward spiral if I’ve ever heard of one.
I think one thing a lot of people might be asking is “How could this happen to Oprah? She has all the money in the world and can’t maintain her weight.” Well, some of it is her health condition and the other part is her change in ability to cope with her condition by maintaining positive health behaviors – eating healthy, exercising, and keeping indulgences small.
I feel bad for Oprah, my family, and some of my friends struggling with weight. It is not easy. Our society is quick to discriminate against “fat people” and blame them for being lazy. It’s a lot easier to prevent weight gain than it is to gain it, change, and lose it. It’s not like Oprah hasn’t tried before.
Winfrey famously wheeled a wagon loaded with fat onto the set of her talk show in 1988 to represent a 67-pound weight loss while wearing a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans. She had lost the pounds with a liquid protein diet.
“I had literally starved myself for four months — not a morsel of food,” Winfrey recalled in 2005. “Two hours after that show, I started eating to celebrate — of course, within two days those jeans no longer fit!”
Thankfully she is giving attention to the message that “crash diets” don’t work in the long-term. I also think she is sending a positive message about “healthy weight”. We need to stop striving for some ideal number. It’s a toxic mistake. Rather, what can Oprah realistically maintain as far as healthy eating and exercise. Is she willing to lose weight slowly and does she have the energy to commit to a regular exercise program?
Winfrey also writes that her goal is no longer to be thin; instead, she wants to be strong, healthy and fit. She hopes to get started with her upcoming “Best Life Week,” starting Jan. 5 with an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” during which she is expected to talk candidly about her weight.
The first thing I notice is a mere sentence at the end “Oprah, an admitted food addict.” OK that says it all right there. One thing to realize is that many people’s struggles with food have very little to do with food and hunger. Rather, there are other issues going on, life anxietites like stress, self-abuse, need for control, and other factors characteristic of disordered eating patterns. Eating is her “pleasure fix” drug of choice.
Drug addicts don’t hit rock bottom and leave that drug habit forever. Food is probably the hardest addiction of all to deal with…especially overeating. It is legal, affordable, plentiful, and socially acceptable.
One thing I hope she does on her shows is have her labs tested. I would love for her to share her A1C (long term glucose control – diabetes), blood pressure, cholesterol levels, CRP, and to have an overall health assessment that includes more than just the 200 pound weight.
I doubt she would do that… it’s a lot of personal information to share with the world. But one of my biggest fears about Oprah bringing attention to her weight is that people will focus solely on her weight. Anyone working as a dietitian in weight management will tell you that there is a cluster of signs and symptoms of health issues above and beyond weight. When it comes to health, it is important to understand that weight increases risk for diseases and is associated with diseases, but is not a direct cause. I think knowing lab values can either motivate people to change (to improve labs) or give the peace of mind that the inside is doing OK, but now is the time to change to prevent future issues.
What do you think about Oprah’s lifestyle? Please share…
Filed under: diet, eating healthy, exercise, food, nutrition, obesity, overweight | Tagged: oprah | 2 Comments »