Saturday, May 15, 2010


If I get irritated watching Oprah I have no one to blame but myself, especially if she's talking about weight loss. I have the bad habit of using the television as background noise and I was flipping through the channels the day she had Geneen Roth talking about her new book. Oprah is talking about the book like it's fill of new ideas. It's not.
Many of the ideas in the book are the ones that I embraced as a teenager and many of the ideas are positive. She talks about loving yourself now and not waiting until you're thin. The problem is that she says when you fully embrace the ideas you will inevitably lose weight. It's a re-articulation of the same old tired message. Being fat means something is wrong specifically in terms of your relationship with food. Do self work to reveal what's wrong and your relationship with food will heal and you'll lose the weight -- for good. It's not that different from Oprah's earlier articulation of "make the connection".
I do often enjoy Oprah's affection for personal process. On the show she talked about a recent self revelation.
"Oprah says even she turns to food when life gets hard. "There's still anxiety when I have to say no to someone," she says. "I still worry, 'What are they going to think' ... [That happened to me recently and] I did not eat a pound of potato chips. I ate a pound of lettuce. But it's the same thing. I've switched the drug from potato chips to lettuce."
In that moment, Oprah says she started questioning her actions. After saying no and standing up for herself, why was she so anxiety-ridden that she had to eat a bowl of lettuce? "I went back to what you had said in the book,” she says. “What I'm really feeling is every time I have ever been beaten by my grandmother. ... What I recognize as I'm stuffing myself with the lettuce is I still have that feeling of if I don't do what pleased the other person, then somehow that person has the power to annihilate me."
I have some of that issue. I wasn't beaten but Mom and I did live with her parents for my first twelve years. I did get the message that we could be homeless if the grandparents got too angry. I learned to accommodate and never really trust the affection of anyone. I don't really think my grandparents would have kicked us out. Mom paid rent, which was a benefit to them. I know they loved us. But my grandmother did have a way of seeming to threaten. And when I was younger and trying so hard to do self analysis I did make connections between those kind of issues, how I ate and my weight. At some point I realized that there was no amount of any food that could take away the feelings of loss, rejection, anger, sadness, and so on. I wish there were.
There are people who will read this book and have insights and make changes in how they eat and they may lose weight. And I don't really have a problem with that. Awareness is good. Is Oprah one of them? I doubt it. Oprah has demonstrated what a fat person's body does naturally. She gains weight. Again and again. When she exercises rigorously and makes modifications to her diet she does lose weight. But clearly she can't sustain those things. I don't know her so I don't know what she does but we've watched her regain weight for so many years. I mean really. When is she gonna get it?
I remember a show back in the "make the connection" days. She was in a grocery store talking about healthy food choices and she was so excited about red and yellow bell peppers. It was cute. I support her attempts to eat well. I don't really care how much exercise she does but exercise is good. I just wish she'd stop believing that her weight is something she can control. I wish she would accept that she is a fat person and make food and exercise choices with no thought about her weight.
I resent the way the book says to do that very thing in a completely disingenuous manner. The book talks about loving your body at any size but implies that when you do that you will lose weight. I resent the idea of a god that wants everyone to be thin.
There's a really good video of Kelly Bliss in which Lynn McAfee talks about the will power it takes to walk out the door in the morning. I love the way Kelly talks about being someone who eats in a healthy manner and exercises and is still what is considered fat. The video shows women of different sizes exercising. It's good.
I have a lot of good thoughts about Oprah. She loves books and reading. She's done a lot of great work specifically in support of young women. I just wish she'd use that overwhelming media power to promote a world view in which Lynn McAfee doesn't have to summon the will to leave her house.


Mandy said...

Couldn't agree more!! I've been saying this ever since the entire thing began with her trying to lose weight, over and over, and unsuccessfully so. She is so obviously NOT meant to be small, so why waste your entire life struggling to make yourself small when it just isn't happening?! And the fact that she keeps pushing that on others is just a shame!

Tish said...

It's crazy because out of one side of her mouth she's saying she'll never diet again and she's not focused on weight loss but she continues to assert that a person can make an emotional/internal/spiritual change that will result in permanent weight loss. I find it exhausting.