You may have heard the news earlier on this week that one of the most influential and famous celebrities on the planet, Oprah Winfrey, who has done immense things for women, society and arguably our culture has invested 10% into Weight Watchers, one of the world’s biggest money making weight loss companies in the world.
I felt a need to put my shock, upset and complete disappointment in a blog post as for someone who works on a daily basis with women who have screwed up relationships with their bodies and their food, this news from earlier on in the week is a really disappointing move for all women everywhere.
We all know about the diet industry, we all know about weight watchers and we all know about Oprah. The problem is that for years Oprah has been in the spot light for many things but arguably one of the largest things (parden the pun) has been her weight. She has openly struggled and yo-yoed and been very vulnerable at times about her body image. She’s experienced the media’s scrutiny, criticism & judgment over her body when she put weight on and was praised at how amazing she looked when she lost it again. This has continued for years.
For someone who knows what it’s like to be judged and scrutinised for her body size, I find it unbelievable that she’s invested in a company who’s entire business model is built on doing just that!
The weight loss industry is a shame based system, it encourages women to deliberately want to shrink themselves & take up less space in order to be more accepted by society. Society as a whole conditions us to believe that happiness, money and love can be found at the end of the weight loss journey. Slimness = the key to the happy life door.
Weight Watchers encourages women to measure their self worth by how much weight they have lost at their weekly meetings. You are good or bad depending on what the number says. The emotional value which so many women give their weight is desperately upsetting. The number on a scale is just the numerical value of our gravitational pull on this planet in this body. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s just a number.
The weight loss industry is a multi billion dollar industry (I don’t need to tell Oprah that as her financial advisors have clearly seen this opportunity for her to make loads more money!). It preys on women’s body insecurities, it uses very clever fear based marketing tactics which imply unless you are slim and eating in a certain way then you will be unhappy, miserable and overweight. At a time where eating disorders are on the increase year by year and there are more women now on diets than ever before, we have to stop and ask ourselves whether society has got all this wrong and dieting systems, such as weight watchers, are actually part of the problem.
We really need to start changing the systems, cultures & social perceptions whose foundations lie on disempowering women and body shaming.
Dieting by the way is the single most important risk factor for developing an eating disorder. 68% of 15 year old females are on a diet, of these, 8% are severely dieting. Adolescent girls who diet only moderately, are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who don’t diet, and those who diet severely are 18 time more likely to develop an eating disorder. This isn’t acceptable*
For someone who has done so much for female empowerment, this move by Oprah goes against everything which I have always perceived her to be. She has bought into the system of body shaming (something which she herself has struggled with), the system of not accepting each one of us for who we are, the system which encourages generations of women to try and change themselves. Wouldn’t it have been better for her to have invested in an organisation or a movement which encouraged positive body image? Something which will help to start to rewrite these screwed up messages about weight and body size? I would have loved to see her be the face and voice of a positive body image movement whilst giving the diet industry the middle finger.
For someone so influential and pro female empowerment as Oprah to put her money into something which hugely disempowers women disappoints me to my core.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels saddened by this news.
I’d love to know what you think….post your comments below!
* Kenardy, J., Brown, W.J. & Vogt, E. (2001). Dieting and health in young Australian women. European Eating Disorders Review, 9 (4), 242.