Oprah on Weight Stigma and Displacement Intervention

For decades, Oprah Winfrey has been an icon of empowerment and resilience, but behind her public persona lay a battle with weight stigma that was both personal and deeply pervasive. In a March 18 ABC special titled “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution,” Oprah opened up about the relentless scrutiny she faced regarding her weight over the years and delivered a poignant message of self-acceptance and compassion for others, also underscoring the importance of displacement intervention.

Decades-long body shaming took its toll

Reflecting on the relentless criticism she endured, Oprah recounted instances where her appearance was dissected and ridiculed by the media. From disparaging headlines to hurtful comments, she bore the brunt of a societal obsession with body image that often equates worth with weight.

“I have to say that I took on the shame that the world gave to me. For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport,” Oprah candidly expressed during the special.

She vividly recalled the hurtful labels thrown her way, including being described as “bumpy, lumpy and downright dumpy” on the cover of TV Guide in 1990. These experiences were not just personal slights but emblematic of a broader culture that perpetuates harmful stereotypes and unrealistic beauty standards.

Let’s end the weight stigma, Oprah said

But Oprah’s message wasn’t just about her own struggles; it was a call to action against the pervasive culture of body shaming. She urged an end to the stigma and judgment surrounding weight, emphasizing the need for compassion and understanding in discussions about health and wellness.

Oprah said:

In an effort to combat all the shame, I starved myself for nearly five months and then wheeled out that wagon of fat that the internet will never let me forget. And after losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet, the next day, y’all, the very next day I started to gain it back.

A holistic approach beyond the meds

Winfrey’s journey toward self-acceptance didn’t end with mere acknowledgment of the problem; she actively sought solutions and found solace in weight-loss medication, alongside a balanced approach to fitness and nutrition. By sharing her experiences with GLP-1 prescription medications like Ozempic, Mounjaro, Victoza, and Wegovy, she aimed to destigmatize their use and provide hope to those struggling with weight management.

Oprah’s decision to combine medication with healthy lifestyle choices, including hiking, exercise, and mindful eating, underscores the complexity of addressing weight-related issues. It’s a holistic approach that acknowledges the multifaceted nature of health and well-being, rejecting simplistic narratives that prioritize appearance over overall wellness.

Throughout the special, Winfrey emphasized that obesity is not a character flaw but a complex medical condition deserving of empathy and support. Oprah said: “The number one thing I hope people come away with is knowing that [obesity] is a disease, and it’s in the brain.” What is the disease in the brain? Hijacking of the reward system? Displacement mechanism going rogue? All good questions.

Dr. Pretlow weighed in:

Displacement intervention (problem solving, rechanneling excess brain energy), with medications as an assist, may be the best approach for obesity. Also, displacement intervention may be a way to get off the medications, which otherwise would need to be taken for life.

“Evidence-based interventions”

Oprah seems to agree. Joined by medical experts, she challenged misconceptions about weight loss and highlighted the importance of evidence-based interventions in tackling obesity. Personally, she uses the medication in combination with “hiking 3 to 5 miles a day,” running, weight resistance training, and eating a “healthy diet.”

Dr. W. Scott Butsch and Dr. Amanda Velazquez, medical professionals specializing in obesity medicine, lent their expertise to the conversation, debunking myths and advocating for a more nuanced understanding of weight-related issues. They emphasized that obesity is not simply a matter of willpower but a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors.

In a world where body image is often weaponized against individuals, Oprah’s courage in confronting her own demons and advocating for change is both empowering and inspiring. Her journey also throws light on how displacement activities can work in tandem (or not) with weight loss medications to bring positive outcomes.

There’s a study for that!

The ability to rechannel displacement into less harmless activities rather than succumbing to urges is behind the behavior modification app, BrainWeighve, currently ramping up for a trial through the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). The trial focuses on weight loss for obese teens using “a self-directed, physician-supervised program withdrawing from one problem food at a time.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Oprah Winfrey says she has released the shame of being ‘ridiculed’ for her weight for 25 years,” ABC News, March 19, 2024
Source: “Oprah Winfrey reveals she starved herself ‘for nearly five months’ in ABC weight loss special,” USA TODAY, March 18, 2024
Image by Nik on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

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.

Food & Health Resources