Saturday, January 17, 2009
Oprah and the "brown elephant in the room"
That, according to a recent New York Times article, is how Oprah Winfrey refers to the 40 pounds she's gained over the last year or two. The piece is titled "Her Bulge, His Book and Their Plan B," and focuses on her long-term relationship with the most important man in her life: Bob Greene, her personal trainer/diet guru.
It's an interesting piece and worth reading for those who are interested in the money side of the weight-loss biz. Greene has created several hugely profitable franchises from his work with Oprah--so profitable, in fact, that he no longer charges her for consulting. (I love that--the richest woman in the world doesn't have to pay!) The recent media attention to Oprah's weight gain has been a bonanza for Greene, a fact he readily admits.
There's much to shake your head at here, but it was this quote that really got me:
Ms. Winfrey has so far accepted all the blame for her lapse, not once suggesting the fault lies with Mr. Greene or his diet plan. "This has been a wake-up call for her to let me get back to doing my thing," Mr. Greene said.
Notice anything? Oprah takes blame for gaining weight. Not responsibility. Not ownership. But blame. As in, gaining weight is obviously a moral lapse that must be atoned for. Greene's "diet plan" is blameless, as is Greene himself. Not everyone agrees: At the end of the article, another trainer comments that "any time a client falls off the wagon, the fault lies with the trainer, because it is his or her job to formulate a plan that works for the client."
Here's a radical suggestion: Maybe the fault here lies neither with the stars nor with ourselves* but with the concept of dieting, a concept we know to be fundamentally flawed because 98 percent of dieters "fall off the wagon," as Oprah put it. Maybe the real problem is the frenzy of self-loathing we are so quick to fall into, which, I submit, does more to prevent us from "living our best life" than 5 "extra" pounds, or 30, or 80.
I've been there. Just ask my long-suffering husband, who's had to talk me off the ledge of self-hatred many times. One thing I know for sure: Self-acceptance feels a hell of a lot better than self-loathing. It's not easy to pull off in this culture, whether you're fat or thin. But it's worth the effort. Really.
* I can never resist a Shakespeare paraphrase or pun.