Oprah Winfrey emotional in TV special as she recalls being ridiculed over weight

Oprah Winfrey became emotional during a TV special in which she addressed past criticism of her weight, saying that for more than two decades “making fun of my weight was national sport”.

The US star addressed the myths surrounding obesity and the growing trend of weight management medication in a TV special titled An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame And The Weight Loss Revolution on the American network ABC.

The 70-year-old also said she made the decision to stop serving on the board of WeightWatchers because she did not want a “perceived conflict of interest” for the TV special, as well as donating “all of my shares at WeightWatchers to the Smithsonian Museum Of African American History And Culture”.

Opening the TV special, Winfrey said: “In my lifetime, I never dreamed that we would be talking about medicine that is providing hope for people like me who have struggled for years with being overweight or obesity.

“So I come to this conversation in the hope that we can start releasing the stigma and the shame and the judgment to stop shaming other people for being overweight or how they choose to lose or not lose weight.

“And more importantly, to stop shaming ourselves.

“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.”

Winfrey said she will “never forget” when she saw herself on the cover of TV Guides best and worst dressed in 1990, where she was described as “bumpy, lumpy, and down right dumpy”.

“I was ridiculed on every late-night talk show for 25 years, and tabloid covers for 25 years,” she said.

Winfrey read out a number of article headlines about her, including “Oprah: Fatter Than Ever”, and “Oprah Warned ‘Diet Or Die'”.

“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,” Winfrey said, referencing her 1988 talk-show appearance during which she wheeled out a wagon on TV containing animal fat to the equivalent of the weight she had lost.

“And after losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet, the next day, the very next day, I started to gain it back.

“Feeling the shame of fighting a losing battle with weight is a story all too familiar.”

In December 2023, during an interview with American outlet People, she admitted to using weight-loss medication but did not specify which one.

She told the publication: “The fact that there’s a medically approved prescription for managing weight and staying healthier, in my lifetime, feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for.

“I’m absolutely done with the shaming from other people and particularly myself.”

Winfrey said during the ABC special that since taking weight-loss treatment she eats food in smaller portions, and combines it with hiking or running three to five miles a day, healthy diet and weight resistance training.

“All these years I thought all of the people who never had to diet were just using their willpower and for some reason, stronger than me.

“And now I realise, y’all weren’t even thinking about the food. It’s not that you had the willpower, you weren’t obsessing over it, that’s the big thing I learned,” she said.

Winfrey became emotional when describing the medication as giving people a “sense of hope” as you “no longer blame yourself”.

“When I tell you how many times I have blamed myself because you think ‘I’m smart enough to figure this out’ and then to hear all along it’s you fighting your brain,” she said.

Winfrey ended the broadcast saying “let’s stop the shaming and blaming, there is no place for it”.

Winfrey hosted The Oprah Winfrey Show which aired from 1986-2011 and became one of the most successful shows in US TV history.

She sat down with King of Pop Michael Jackson in 1993, an interview which saw 90 million viewers tune in. In 2013 she grilled disgraced drug cheat cyclist Lance Armstrong, who finally came clean about his years of doping.

And it was Winfrey’s couch that Tom Cruise jumped on in 2005 to proclaim his love for Katie Holmes.

She was among the guests at Harry and Meghan’s wedding at Windsor in 2018, and went on to interview them in 2021 for an explosive sit down that made global headlines.