Dear Ms. Winfrey,
I am sorry to hear the news of your weight gain. I am not sorry because I can empathize with the 200 pound mark; a scary place unless your six foot five or playing in the NFL. I am not sorry because I, like many women, understand the struggle you face each time you step on a scale, look at yourself in the mirror, or step into your closet. I am sorry because it matters, it matters that unarguably one of the most powerful women in the world has to worry the size of her body when she has much more important matters to contend with. I am sorry that you feel like you’ve let yourself and women worldwide down by gaining weight when in actuality you’ve let women of the world down by continuing to make your weight such a big deal.
Oprah, you and I have much in common; unfortunately it is not a multibillion dollar fortune. My weight yo-yos are legendary. During my adult lifetime the scale readings ranged from 157 to 216. Winning a weight battle is easy, I like you have done it many, many times; it is the lifelong war that is hard. I understand your frustration because we know what to do, are scared because we know how bad extra weight is for the body, yet time and time again we “fall off the wagon.” It does give me some sort of sick vindication that with all the money and power in the world you continue to struggle with your weight but it also makes me very sad that you reached the pinnacle of success yet you, and much of society, discount your accomplishments simply because you cannot control your size. It is a shame that in this day and age a woman can be smart, accomplished, well-read, and benevolent, but cannot be classified as truly successful unless she is also thin.
Unfortunately Oprah you making your struggle with weight headline news only proliferates the issue of women being judged by how they look on the outside rather than who they are on the inside. You are a shrewd business woman who understands how women tick and have used your own weight roller coaster as a way of connecting with your female audience, cashing in on our insecurities, frustration, depression, and embarrassment. Your focus on weight sends a bad message to the millions upon millions of people who look up to you as a role model; all the accomplishments in the world are meaningless if you are not thin.
I have a dream that one day this nation will be size blind. I have a dream that little girls will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the size of their hips, but by the content of their character. I have a dream where women will define their self-worth not by their size but by their accomplishments, intelligence, strength of character, and contributions to community. You have an opportunity to make these dreams a reality rather than aiding and abetting eating disorders. Stop making food the enemy, encouraging women to give up carbs, eliminate fat, or try a liquid diet. Promote healthy eating, portion control, and the joy of eating well. Workout reasonably; your all or nothing personality (which I understand all too well) discourages women from exercising. You are either training for a marathon or the couch potato Olympics; there is a safe, happy, and healthy middle ground each of us can achieve. You announced that this time around the weight roller coaster you are striving for strong, confident, and healthy, not thin and to that I say bravo. Attaining a “healthy weight” takes commitment, time, and patience, not a few months of starvation so you can show off your svelte self during sweeps week. Lead the celebration of what our bodies can do rather than what size covers them. Oprah, if you really focus on your strength and health and not the latest crash diet you could have a positive impact on the long-term physical and psychological well-being of millions of women, an accomplishment much more profound then fitting into a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein Jeans.