Nation & World

New Weight Watchers partner Oprah Winfrey has publicly battled weight over the years

A Nov. 15, 1988 file photo shows television talk show host Oprah Winfrey showing off her new figure in Chicago after she lost 67 pounds following a liquid diet and exercise.
A Nov. 15, 1988 file photo shows television talk show host Oprah Winfrey showing off her new figure in Chicago after she lost 67 pounds following a liquid diet and exercise. Associated Press

It would be difficult to find a celebrity who has watched weight more publicly than Oprah Winfrey.

She starved herself on a liquid diet, took up running, hired personal trainers and chefs, and spent who knows how much money to lose weight. A self-described food addict, she once called potato chips her “drug of choice.”

She confessed to readers of her magazine, “O,” that after gaining weight she “felt like a cow” in 2008 when she appeared on stage alongside Cher and Tina Turner.

Just like non-famous folks, her weight and emotions have yo-yoed over the decades.

Perhaps that’s why the news on Monday that the media mogul has purchased a 10 percent stake in Weight Watchers and joined the company’s board of directors struck many as a match made in weight-loss heaven.

The company’s shares spiked nearly 75 percent in premarket trading as the news broke. In a five-year deal, Winfrey’s name and face will appear on Weight Watchers products, and she’ll make public appearances for the company.

Weight is a topic that Winfrey has addressed fearlessly and honestly for decades. She has often laid her soul bare, saying out loud words that have bedeviled many a woman who has fought with weight.

“It doesn’t mean anything if you can’t fit into your clothes,” she once said. “It means the fat won. It means you didn’t win. ... I am mad at myself. I am embarrassed.”

In 1988, in one of the most memorable moments on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” she lost 67 pounds by “starving” herself on a liquid diet and showed off her new figure by squeezing into a size 10 pair of Calvin Klein jeans.

Winfrey, wheeling a wagon piled high with fat, became an iconic TV moment.

Two days later, she couldn’t zip up those jeans.

Two years later, in late 1990, she admitted that she’d gained back the 67 pounds and vowed to “never diet again.”

In 1992, Winfrey met personal trainer Bob Greene, the man she eventually turned into a national fitness guru. She weighed 237 pounds, which she called her heaviest-ever weight, when she met him.

Greene made more than 50 appearances on her talk show as living a healthy lifestyle became her cause. They issued weight challenges, spotlighted obesity issues in Mississippi, and Greene became the guy “more than any other person on the planet” who changed her life, she said.

In 1994, she ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. To this day new marathoners still want to know how fast Oprah ran the race. (Her official time was 4:29:15.)

For the next decade — she turned 50 in 2004 — she maintained her weight through diet and exercise.

She appeared on the January 2005 cover of her magazine at a toned 160 pounds.

“I thought I was finished with the weight battle,” she wrote. “I was done. I’d conquered it. I was so sure, I was even cocky. I had the nerve to say to friends who were struggling: ‘All you have to do is work out harder and eat less! Get your 10,000 steps in! None of that starchy stuff!’

“Bam! Karma is a bear of a thing.”

Two years later, as she prepared to host the Primetime Emmy Awards, she revealed that after several trips to see many doctors she’d been diagnosed with thyroid problems. She’d gained 40 pounds.

“Yes, you’re adding correctly; that means the dreaded 2-0-0,” she wrote in her magazine. “I was so frustrated I started eating whatever I wanted — and that’s never good.”

In January 2009, in an episode called “Oprah’s Weight Loss Confession,” she referred to her weight gain as “the brown elephant in the room.”

“With all the other things that I know how to do and all the other things that I’m so great at and all the other accomplishments, I can’t believe I’m still talking about weight,” she said.

Her frustration seemed to be shared by Greene, who had a new diet book to promote as his most famous client was talking about falling off the weight-loss wagon.

The stress of launching her new network, OWN, in 2011 seemed to lead to weight gain for a woman who has talked of being an emotional eater.

Then in the summer of 2012 news accounts revealed she had lost 25 pounds in six weeks with the help of a Hollywood personal chef and workouts with Greene.

In a 2014 interview with Barbara Walters, the ABC newswoman asked Winfrey to complete this sentence: “Before I leave this Earth, I will not be satisfied until I ...”

Winfrey’s response: “ ...until I make peace with the whole weight thing.”

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