Oprah has devoted hundreds of shows to body issues over the years, and she culminated her show's discussion on the topic in her final weight-loss episode last week (audience members were people who had lost more than 100 pounds and were motivated to do so via an Oprah Winfrey Show spark). The episode focused on two fronts: Oprah's personal struggles, and updates on guests or viewers who had significant wake up calls, which led them to lose weight.
For the former, a retrospective was presented: "This is the battle of my life," Oprah says in a clip from the eighties. And she has shared it with us openly and honestly. She introduced us to her "brother" Bob Greene. She has presented exercise regimens, guidance on how to determine if there are underlying emotional issues at play, and nutrition tips, but rarely has she touched on acceptance. "All the success doesn't mean anything if you can't fit into your clothes," she said in January 2009, "It means the fat won."
Then last year, Oprah said she had an epiphany: "I've never liked the term food addict, and have in the past referred to myself as a food addict casually, but I realized…I have punished myself for that...and I know that I am not alone and I know that the battle has an ending." Ugh. This feels more like a platitude than an epiphany, as does the following said in the same show, "I'll always be on this journey, but I gave up the battle when I read [the book Women, Food and God] because the battle really is about how much you're willing to love yourself and give back to yourself."
OK, agreed that loving yourself is key, but like many statements Oprah has made during this season I can't help but think what does that mean, really? Doesn't loving yourself include acceptance of who you are and how you look? I think so, and I expected at least one voice representing fat acceptance to be present during this final OWS episode on weight. But it wasn't. Which makes the whole freaking public journey seem for naught.
Guest after guest appeared to share their weight loss stories, motivations, and results, all focused on fighting fat. The victory of losing weight was the predominant theme of the show. What I'm saying about this particular episode is what I've been saying throughout this series: that Oprah is amazing at being Oprah. There is no one else like her—she created her own job and her own empire, based around her, as a public persona. She is a model for branding and entrepreneurship and I admire her (especially given her early struggles). But as a talk show host, she rarely presents the full spectrum of an issue. In this case, fatphobia wins again. Actual acceptance? Not so much.