Oprah Winfrey Says She Regrets Participating in "Diet Culture"

"I've been a major contributor to it."

Oprah Winfrey is seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on March 14, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey is opening up about some of her career regrets, including her decision to participate in "diet culture."

Recently, the daytime television icon hosted a WeightWatchers event titled "Making The Shift: A New Way to Think About Weight" attended by other A-list celebrities, including Rebel Wilson, Busy Philipps, and Amber Riley.

During the event, Winfrey told the audience she is "done" with diet culture and the shame it perpetuates.

“So many of us have internalized about diet culture and the body standards that have caused us so much shame,” Winfrey said. "We've been criticized. We've been scrutinized. We've been shamed, and we've been told that unless we meet a certain standard of size that we didn't deserve to be accepted or even to be loved. And what I know for sure is that I am done with it.”

Winfrey went on to say that the goal of the event was to help people break free from the scrutiny and pressure of unrealistic beauty standards, and to encourage people to "stop judging others for the way they choose to live."

She then admitted that one of her "biggest regrets" is perpetuating that judgment, stigma and shame as a former television host.

“I also want to acknowledge that I have been a steadfast participant in this diet culture through my platforms, through the magazine, through the talk show for 25 years, through online,” she told the crowd. “I've been a major contributor to it. I cannot tell you how many weight loss shows and makeovers I have done, and they have been a staple since I've been working in television.”

The entertainment powerhouse went on to say that she's been candid in the past about the fact that her infamous "wagon of fat moment" on her Oprah show is "one of my biggest regrets."

During the segment, Winfrey wheeled out a literal "wagon full of fat" to represent how much weight she had lost.

Guest chairs from the set of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in the exhibition "Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture," at the National Museum Of African American History & Culture on June 6, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Guest chairs from the set of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in the exhibition "Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture," at the National Museum Of African American History & Culture on June 6, 2018 in Washington, DC. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Over a decade ago in an on-camera interview, Winfrey addressed that moment on air as well as the extreme lengths she went to lose over 60 pounds.

"There's a place here (in Chicago) called Moo & Oink," she said at the time. "So (I said): Let's go over to Moo & Oink and see what 67 pounds of Moo & Oink fat looks like and let's put it in a wagon.' That's why I did it.

"At the time I felt it was important to show it in that way because I had starved—literally starved —for four months, four and-a-half-months, and thought: 'Well, everybody is going to want to know how you lost the weight so you might as well tell them.'"

At the time, Winfrey told her studio audience that for six weeks she ate "absolutely nothing" before she eventually "cheated" on her diet, but described it as "controlled cheating."

"I want you to know that whatever diet you choose...you can do with the help of your family doctor and if you can believe in yourself and believe that this is the most important thing your life...you can conquer it," she continued.

Oprah Winfrey is seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on March 14, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

Oprah Winfrey is seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on March 14, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“It sent a message that starving yourself with a liquid diet, set a standard for people watching that I nor anybody else could uphold and—I've said this before—the very next day, the next day, I began to gain the weight back,” Winfrey told the WeightWatchers event audience.

“I own what I've done and I now want to do better, so I know now that that ‘wagon of fat’ moment was set into motion after years and years of thinking that my struggle with my weight was my fault,” she continued. “And it has taken me even up until last week to process the shame that I felt privately as my very public yo-yo diet moments became a national joke.”

Danielle Campoamor is an award-winning freelance writer covering mental health, reproductive justice, abortion access, maternal mental health, politics, celebrity, and feminist issues. She has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, InStyle, Playboy, Teen Vogue, Glamour, The Daily Beast, and more.