Obesity Never Stopped Oprah or Carnie: Lessons from Childhood Weight Battles

Back LightingIf the Battle of the Bulge had a patron saint, it would be Oprah Winfrey. Famous, wealthy, and unprecedentedly influential, Oprah touched the hearts of millions as the play-by-play description of her ups and downs filled more magazine pages than possibly any other topic. Parts of her story can be found in “Oprah Winfrey’s Very Public Food Addiction Struggle.”Yes, addiction is the word. Leaving no room for doubt, Oprah openly and courageously declared to the world’s press, “My drug of choice is food. I use food for the same reasons an addict uses drugs: to comfort, to soothe, to ease stress.”

One episode of her television show featured some teenagers who had gone through weight-loss surgery, including a young woman four years post-gastric bypass who had transferred her addictive allegiance from food to alcohol. Dr. Oz was also a guest, urging caution and recommending that basic, underlying psychological problems be addressed before surgery is considered.

Childhood Obesity News mentioned Oprah again in connection with the documentary series she commissioned for her OWN TV network. Titled “Addicted to Food,” the series depicted the lives of several graduates of the Shades of Hope treatment program. We also noted how the media star gave plenty of credit to her personal trainer, Bob Greene, a proponent of healthy meal plans, simple baby steps, clear calorie goals, and support from friends. One of his hints is that almost always, a person is more easily able to increase activity than to reduce food intake. Sure, that part is important too—but by starting with exercise, which is more doable, it’s possible to build some confidence for the weight-loss journey.

Another Public Struggle: Carnie Wilson

Another self-avowed food addict is vocalist Carnie Wilson. The child of a famous father, she had a rough time growing up and coped with the psychological scars by eating. Through times of slimming and bloating, through surgeries and publicity efforts that were perhaps ill-advised, over years of battling obesity, Wilson has retained a loyal fan base.

Almost every rock musician has a chaotic life filled with temptations, and is subject to giddy emotional heights and horrifying emotional depths. In Carnie Wilson’s particular situation, she felt an extra burden in the need to “represent.” Being a public figure, she felt weighed down by other people’s expectations and by her conviction that everybody out there was counting on her to succeed. It’s bad enough to disappoint oneself and one’s family, but the inability to fulfill the hopes of a horde of faceless strangers is a special kind of hell.

In a manner of speaking, Wilson became not an obese professional person, but a professional obese person. Her never-ending saga holds so much interest that Childhood Obesity News added three more posts about her.

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Image by Steve Jurvetson

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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