Oprah and the New Weight Watchers Ad

Anyone who’s followed Oprah’s career even tangentially knows the billionaire media star has had a lifelong struggle with weight. I recall seeing a photo of her several years ago where her size had dropped to an eight, maybe even a six. She was positively tiny. But her weight has ballooned again, and now she’s featured in a new ad for Weight Watchers. She allows some very vulnerable moments to show in the ad, including her very overweight self attempting to jog.

I’m fascinated by the impulse among media figures to make everything part of their public persona, and here to make the need to lose weight an opportunity to make money doing ads. Oprah hardly needs whatever money Weight Watchers paid her for this appearance. She can claim media attention for any number of things, just for the asking. But here she is, solemn-faced, saying it’s finally time. She’s going to do this. And anyone out there watching who needs to lose weight can do this too.

I wonder why she’s appearing in this ad, which verges on Far Too Much Information? Is it a way to hold herself publicly accountable for getting her ever-seesawing weight under control again? I have no idea.

I admire Oprah greatly for the media empire she’s built, for her acting skill in serious films like The Color Purple, and for her advocacy on the part of President Obama. I respect her for speaking out on the difficult issue of being a fat woman in a public and visible role. I just wonder why she does it in a paid ad instead of as a public health message on the dangers of obesity?  That part, for me, is a bit discordant.

6 thoughts on “Oprah and the New Weight Watchers Ad

  1. As one who has see-sawed with her weight certainly as much if not more times than Oprah, I am thrilled that she is the spokesperson for a program that is healthy, accessible to everyone, works (indeed, it’s the only program I have had success with), and I hope she sticks with it and reaches her goal. If you have never struggled with weight loss and actually changing your lifestyle, you would be hard-pressed to understand the journey – similar to quitting smoking or drugs or drinking. As they say, “if it were easy, anyone could do it!” She will inspire soooo many people to try once more because she is so universally admired and really understands the difficulties facing the overweight public. Another message about the dangers of obesity from the medical community or another celebrity that has had personal trainers and chefs to keep them on track wouldn’t have nearly the impact her participation in Weight Watchers will have – trust me. I’m already back on the wagon myself and look forward to finally finishing the job in 2016!!! I also could care less if she makes another billion dollars from ads or buying a piece of the company. In fact I heard that Weight Watchers stock tripled yesterday after the announcement! – I missed that opportunity – darn!!

  2. I agree with Karen. I don’t believe she is being paid for her appearance per se. For 10% of the company she has agreed that they can use her name, endorsements, etc. She is under intense pressure and scrutiny this time, isn’t she?

  3. for Dawn: I’m going to defer to your perspective 100% on this one. Right now I’m not in Weight Watchers target market, as my weight is pretty much where I want it to be. That doesn’t mean maintaining a healthy weight is easy. I have friends whose combination of personal metabolism, calorie intake and exercise level is such that they never really gain weight and never think about it. That’s never been me, and it’s much harder as I age. If I’m careless for even a couple of days, I see it reflected in the scale. And, I’m no stranger to the struggle with morbid obesity, as I have family members for whom this has been a lifelong health issue. I’m a great fan of Weight Watchers. In fact, didn’t we wind up at a meeting together many years ago? I like the fact that Weight Watchers focuses on real food choices that we must make every day, and on portion control. That latter has been a downfall for me. I remember realizing that the calorie count for a serving of ice cream is “a half cup”, and finally understanding what a tiny portion that is. I’m capable of eating a half cup just in the spoonfuls I take right from the container while serving up my evening treat. And I’m not saying, at all, that people shouldn’t talk about weight issues. The husband of a friend had bariatric surgery in the fall, and much of their Christmas letter involved his talking about what the operation meant to him and how he hopes it will change his life going forward. He trusted that those of us who care about him would want to know about this big decision in his life, and want to offer support, and he’s right. The rules shouldn’t be different for celebs like Oprah. I went online to find that pic of her at her slimmest, and did. She’s wearing tight jeans and a black turtleneck and a flashy belt, and she must ache in her heart when she compares her size now, as I suspect she does. She’s a great spokesperson; we know that she could create best-selling authors all on her own, just by promoting their book on her show, and wouldn’t I have loved being one of those? I don’t know what glitches for me with the current ads – something – but your point is far more important. If she inspires herself and others to focus on losing weight and actually do it, it’s a good thing. Full stop.

  4. for Frances: She is under intense scrutiny, and alas, the judgment that seems to attend when people have a weight problem as opposed to, say, a cancer problem. I know, because I have family members who struggle with weight issues, that going up and down by orders of magnitude is bad for your health. So is being steadily obese. It’s really hard, because we all have to eat and tempting food choices are all around us. For someone like Oprah who is often out at events where gourmet food and alcohol are served, it must be a nightmare to think that all you can allow yourself is sparkling water and celery.

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