What kind of message does it send to women when one of the most powerful females in the world admits that she is "mad at herself... embarrassed" because she has gained weight?
In the January edition of O The Oprah Magazine, no less than eight pages have been dedicated to the talk show queen's weight battle. Cover line: "How did I let this happen again?". A self-confessed fad and yo-yo dieter, WWD reports Winfrey, who writes the opening and closing essays each issue, "uses more ink in the January one to deconstruct how and why she has gained 40 pounds in four years, reaching 200 pounds." She writes: "I didn't just fall off the wagon. I let the wagon fall on me." She says: “this past year, I took myself off of my own priority list. I wasn’t just low on the list, I wasn’t even on the list.” Winfrey attributes the gain to a slow metabolism, missed meditation and workout sessions and not eating right.
But so what if she wasn't able to maintain the same rigorous exercise and diet regime as Madonna? Clearly she is a woman with more on her plate (no pun intended... sort of) than maintaining some external image to win the approval of her devoted fans. Do other women care if Winfrey is overweight? Would they really respect her any less if she stayed the shape she is now? And, by the same token, would they respect her more if she dropped the surplus pounds?
The media is prone to celebrating the weight loss of celebrities, for sure (particularly post-birth), but why does Winfrey have to play victim to the same game? Could she not take a stance that says, "Hey, I'm a busy woman running a multi-million dollar empire, and I haven't had a chance to hit the gym"? Sure, being overweight is detrimental to one's health, but how much of our lives should we invest in aspiring to look thinner? It's such a brain suck. We're smarter than that. Admittedly, Winfrey does say in the story that it's not about losing weight but regaining control of her life. Still, pictures (and cover lines) speak louder than the fine print.
The cover shows an image of Winfrey sporting a crop top and toned stomach to rival Britney Spears from the January 2005 cover, juxtaposed with a current shot. She has been reluctant to use full-body shots of herself on recent covers, only allowing headshots and poses that disguised her body.
The new issue will be complemented by a week-long Oprah Winfrey Show series beginning January 5 during which she'll take viewers through five days of advice on health, spirituality, money and relationships.
Girl With a Satchel
P.S. In the interest of disclosure and honesty, I have battled my fair share of body/mind/soul issues (and still do). Which is, in part, why I feel so impassioned about the representation of women's body image in the media. Diversity and fabulous, three-dimensional women whose lives are not controlled by calories are what we need to see more of in our magazines, people.