“If Not Now, When?” Oprah, Weight Watchers, and Happiness at Any Weight

Since Oprah Winfrey became the face of Weight Watchers late last year, the media mogul’s endorsements have saddled an already diet-crazed media with even more weight-obsessed messaging. On the Internet and TV, Oprah has laid her inspired gaze and “honey child” accent on women looking to achieve their “best bodies.” The famous dieter works her candid charm again in the April 2016 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, which features the weight loss goals of nine everyday women.

The magazine’s cover story asks its audience to “join the club” of women who wish to slim their bodies. “We’re dropping the weight, losing the baggage, [and] getting lighter as we go!” the headline exclaims to its millions of monthly readers. Inside, an Oprah-penned note speaks to women across the size spectrum. Whether it’s the “weight of an entire extra person” or a mere “ten pounds,” Lady O says everyone can “choose” to lose that burdensome “baggage”—just like the “motivated” women featured in her magazine.

Suggesting that body size is a self-chosen and reliable indicator of wellness, the magazine then profiles the heights, weights, and goal weights of the featured women. Finally, a medical columnist chimes in, “The number on the scale feels like an enemy you can’t outwit. And it’s so much more than a number. It’s how you see yourself and often how the world sees you…Just as our life can shape our weight, our weight can shape our life.”

Her message is culturally telling.

The media often suggests that weight loss will improve our lives: We will be happier at our “happy” weights, better in our “best” bodies. While the bathroom scale may provide us temporary satisfaction, it will never make us permanently content or internally fulfilled. External metrics never will. If we’re not good enough for ourselves at our current sizes, we won’t be good enough for ourselves five, ten, or twenty pounds from now.

Slimmer stomachs won’t make our smiles wider, and thinner thighs won’t make our laughs louder. Narrow hips won’t open our hearts any more than toned arms will rest our minds. So, rather than focus on the “baggage” of body weight, let’s resolve to lose the burden of self-loathing, unworthiness, and insecurity. Let’s shed shame instead of inches and guilt instead of pounds.

Let’s refuse to let weight stop us from living the lives we want to lead now—from enjoying meals, from wearing swimsuits, from attending parties, from pursuing passions, from loving friends, families, ourselves. Let’s take the permission slip back from the scale and start acting as if our lives have already begun.

They have.