Oprah once starved herself over 'shame' about her looks: ‘Making fun of my weight was a national sport'

Oprah Winfrey is getting real about her weight-loss journey, admitting that for “25 years, making fun of my weight was a national sport.”

Winfrey said throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, tabloids were smeared with headlines like “fatter than ever,” “hits 246 pounds,” “final showdown with Steadman sends her into feeding frenzy” and “Oprah warned: diet or die.”

She said she even saw herself described on a 1990 cover of TV Guide as “bumpy, lumpy and downright dumpy” by fashion critic Mr. Blackwell.

The 70-year-old said she once starved herself on a liquid diet “in an effort to combat the shame” for nearly five months in 1988 “and then wheeled out that wagon of fat [on her show] that the internet will never let me forget and after losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet, next day, y’all , the very next day, I started to gain it back.”

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Oprah Winfrey said it was a “national sport” for 25 years to mock her weight.  (Getty Images)

Winfrey was discussing her yo-yo dieting on “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution,” an ABC special discussing obesity drugs that aired this week.

She admitted late last year that she has been prescribed drugs to help manage her weight.

The former daytime host discussed the “disease of obesity” with experts during the show in which several guests were brought on to talk about their experiences with obesity and losing weight on medications like Ozempic and Wegovy.

Winfrey remembered how controversial alcoholism being considered a disease was when she first talked about it on her show, with critics saying things like: “Just put the bottle down” and “There’s no such thing as alcoholism being a disease.”

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Oprah Winfrey in 1978.  (Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

She said, “Now, of course, we know differently. Alcoholism is a disease for many people,” although, she said, “it’s not a disease for everyone who drinks too much.”

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“Many people have the disease of obesity,” she continued. “Everybody who is overweight does not have the disease of obesity, but if you have the disease of obesity, you’re always going to go back to that set point.”

She said people who don’t have the disease are able to diet and exercise to lose weight “and all of the things that we’ve heard over the years.”

Winfrey added that it’s “wrong to be shaming people” when people don’t understand the complexity of the disease.

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Oprah Winfrey said she now uses weight-loss drugs to help her stay thin.  (John Salangsang/Variety via Getty Images)

“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 continued, “All these years, I thought all of the people who never had to diet were just using their willpower and they were for some reason stronger than me, and now I realize y’all weren’t even thinking about the food. It’s not that you had the willpower. You weren’t thinking about it. You weren’t obsessing about it. That is the big thing I learned.”

In December, she told People magazine that she uses medication as she needs it to keep her from yo-yo dieting.

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

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