Thursday, December 25, 2008

Re-reading Oprah's January article

A few weeks ago, the cover story of the January 2009 Oprah inspired a flurry of posts in the blog world. Here are links to the first and the follow-up by Elastic Waist and the one Anne wrote for AFG. The focus of most of these was on the pull quotes, like "I'm mad at myself. I'm embarassed. I can't believe that after all of these yearss, I'm still talking about my weight," and "Standing between Tina Turner and Cher, I felt like a fat cow. I wanted to disappear." Anne came out and said what a lot of people were thinking, I think: "But honestly, Oprah. It makes me mad that you are apologizing for being me. You have nothing to apologize for -- and neither do I." What made people angry and set off a firestorm of comments on these posts was applying the transative property to the story: If A=B and B=C than A=C... The reader thinks, "If I weigh 200 pounds and Oprah weighs 200 pounds and Oprah thinks she's a fat cow, then that means that Oprah thinks I am a fat cow too." Oprah, who never even met this reader, is judging her and calling her names. That bitch!

The actual article itself is much less incendiary than the pull quotes, in fact, it seemed downright dull the first time I read it. But rereading it today, I saw this quote, which wouldn't sell ads or magazines so it didn't make the headlines:
What I've learned this year is that my weight issue isn't about eating less or working out harder, or even about a malfunctioning thyroid. It's about my life being out of balance, with too much work and not enough play, not enough time to calm down. I let the well run dry. . . Falling off the wagon isn't a weight issue; it's a love issue.
The other thing that is problematic (for many of us) is believing that there is a wagon and that you're either on or off. Oprah responded to her thyroid problems by giving up: She was having trouble maintaining her washboard abs and her marathon training schedule so she felt defeated. I know I compare my current tired self to the me who used to get up at 5 a.m. to take swim classes so I could do a triathlon and think, "Where did that girl go?"

I took a walk in the park today after two days of too much food, too much noise, and not enough sleep. I had Jillian on the iPod for company, and she was talking about how real change only happens when we can let go of the familiar and slip into an unknown, uncomfortable space. Even if we're not happy with the way things are, it's often hard to let go of the grudges and defense mechanisms and habits that we know. Taking that kind of risk is the only thing that leads to change. Oprah did this when she lost weight the first time, I did this when I signed up for my first triathlon and started training.

The thing that we both forgot, that most of us don't realize, is that we can't just grab onto the new set of circumstances and hold on for dear life. We have to keep moving forward, keep letting go, keep rolling with new circumstances. That's why weight maintenance is so hard, I think. It's easier to take risks to move toward a big exciting goal and an imagined better life. It's harder to keep living in the present when you realize it's not just one big shining moment where you feel great all the time. You can't "conquer this battle once and for all," you can just keep living and working through your new stuff.

I was thinking about the whole New Year's Resolution fad and how it's all about wanting to start fresh on a clean sheet of paper. That kind of freshness, as we all know, rarely lasts through the first weekend. Now that Christmas is over, I'd like to give myself the gift of a week of already working toward the things I want before the new year gets here. I'm not getting back on the wagon, though: I'm going on foot this time.


  1. The part of that article I related to was the "I got chronically ill and it screwed up my weight maintenance." Word! That has been my life this year. I've thought about blogging that, but I'm pretty sure everyone is sick of the Oprah article by now, so I don't know if I will.

  2. Shauna (aka Dietgirl) recommended your blog and I am so glad she did!

    The O magazine has not hit our shelves yet so we've only seen what's on Oprah's website ie a taster. I am very keen to read the whole thing.

    You're so right; what she's REALLY saying is NOT going to hit the headlines. But the pounds lost and/or gained right back again will. Every time.

    I was really struck by your comments about moving forward. Need to think about those!

    Enjoy the next few days as 2008 moves to 2009.

    Festive wishes from the UK.

    Mrs Lard

  3. I am giving myself the same gift of doing things right for a week before the New Year. I loved the last bit of your blog that talked about going on foot. I am right there with you! Thanks for the great blog!

  4. I couldnt remember how I found your blog but "Mrs Lard" above reminded me - Shauna. The funny thing is that I have just printed off that article from Oprah about "How did I let this happen again" as it resonated with me. Health problems = surrender. Not anymore.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07