Oprah’s vote of no confidence in Weight Watchers heralds a new era of weight loss

That little red cart.One of the signal moments in a reign over popular culture filled with landmarks was the day Oprah Winfrey walked onto the stage of her zeitgeist-defining show to start season 1988 carting 30 kilograms of animal fat representing the weight she had lost over the holidays. She looked amazing. Tight blue jeans on a svelte form and her audience erupted in adoration of the Goddess Oprah. The almighty had achieved everything any modern woman should crave — fat loss, the holy grail of a life lived under the wheel of media-saturated beauty worship.She had starved and worked out and starved and worked out to fit into those jeans that morning. A final little fast (no water) and she could zip them up. But by the end of the show, she later said she could barely close the top button. Bodies do that.Oprah’s weight-loss journey has been a modern Odyssey for our times, as we have watched our heroine either at full sail on the sea of slenderness or dashed on the rocks of a blowout.Like millions of other metabolisms, Oprah’s is one that tends towards fat accumulation and as a celebrity destined to play out her life on TV, that meant a life of zig-zag dieting and weight loss — up and down in monotonous sync with her alternating feelings of self-esteem. One day, screw it — this is who I am! The next, I’m presenting at the Oscars — where’s the Stairmaster!The latest chapterSo here’s the new chapter in this never-ending tale. The billionaire media mogul has decided to own her diet reality and is stepping down from the board of that other billion-dollar juggernaut — WeightWatchers — is relinquishing all her stock and is not standing for re-election.Oprah has been the public face of WeightWatchers since 2015. In a statement this week she said she would donate all her shares in the company to the National Museum of African American History and Culture “to eliminate any perceived conflict of interest around her taking weight-loss medications”.So there you have it. The figurehead of the organisation that for generations has built a business model and a fortune out of yo-yo dieters has flown the white flag — and the flag has a big Ozempic logo on it.Ok, maybe it’s not Ozempic. But after some initial caginess, Oprah has been frank about the fact that the new generation of weight-loss drugs, which are actually diabetes drugs, have finally done what no other dieting system could. She has the means and the access, and she’s used it. Quick to notice a hypocrisy, she’s done the only thing that she should.But to return to Odysseus, while Oprah has responded to the siren call of these wonder drugs, her abandoned Weight Watchers ship is sinking: shares in the company plunged 25 per cent in pre-market trading on Friday and were down nearly 70 per cent at the time of writing. It would be hard to believe that any Oprah fan would stay on their plan after this vote of no confidence.Powerful honesty or just privilege?A friend of mine says she feels like she knows Oprah’s weight-loss journey as well as her own. Few have been as brilliantly transparent as Oprah about the struggles of being larger than she wants to be. Few have leveraged it like her into a rallying cry that has brought millions of women together in solidarity.But when someone like Oprah declares that the only thing that works is a drug with celebrity popularity that has meant shortages for those who actually have diabetes and can’t jump the queue … which of her decisions lands most powerfully? Her honesty or her privilege?After that famous 1988 stunt, Oprah said it was one of the biggest mistakes of her life. “You can see that my ego is on flamboyant display,” she said. “I’ve had to pay the price for that moment over and over.”Oprah fans are a very different kind of people. Engaged, loving, loyal to a fault. As many of them continue on alone, now, in their lifelong weight struggle, there may yet be another price for Oprah to pay.What to read this weekendThis weekend ancient leisure time, friendship dates and the dark side of heavy metal — which is almost all dark side when you think about it.Have a safe and happy weekend and do you feel like a new Crowded House song? Now, there’s a sentence I know you didn’t expect!This is Oh Hi, an optimistic and bright song reworked from 2022. Does that mean a new album is in the offing? Another iconic moment on the steps of the Opera House? Let’s see … Go well.


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