Her Best Body

The new year always brings a rush of ads, news pieces, magazine articles on dieting, the assumption being that we will have been gluttonous over the holidays and now feel shame which will motivate us to correct the error of our ways — or should that be “weighs”? This year, of course is no exception. 

In 2015 Oprah Winfrey bought 10% of Weight Watchers for $40 million. And because she likely expects her investment to yield healthy returns, it lends additional weight to her perennial quest to find a body she can love.

So Oprah opens 2016 with a long commercial about what she claims all fat women feel — that is her dissatisfaction with her body — and says that she wants this year to be the year of her “best body”. And it was this phrase that caught my attention.

What is one’s “best body” anyway? Recently I saw a series of photos of ballerinas’ feet — like this:


The dancer’s body looks so ethereal, so lovely — is that her best body? But look at the price her feet must pay to be able to present that graceful line that so defines classical ballet. 

How many professional athletes arrive at 50 or 60 without the scars of surgery from injuries and overuse on their bodies? Are their vulnerable joints the sacrifice they must make in order to have their best body?

Oprah is a wealthy and very successful woman. But all of her success and wealth along with the many failed efforts to find and hold on to what she thinks of as her best body have not brought her acceptance for the body she has. And what price does her body or the bodies of the many many women like her pay for trying so hard so many times to beat her body into submission and meet what she imagines her best body to be?

Oprah is encouraging all of us to join her in her quest. She does not say, maybe she doesn’t believe what science is showing again and again as reported in this from the CBC: Obesity research confirms long-term weight loss almost impossible:

if most scientists know that we can't eat ourselves thin, that the lost weight will ultimately bounce back, why don't they say so?

Tim Caulfield says his fellow obesity academics tend to tiptoe around the truth. "You go to these meetings and you talk to researchers, you get a sense there is almost a political correctness around it, that we don't want this message to get out there," he said.

"You'll be in a room with very knowledgeable individuals, and everyone in the room will know what the data says and still the message doesn't seem to get out."

In part, that's because it's such a harsh message. "You have to be careful about the stigmatizing nature of that kind of image," Caulfield says. "That's one of the reasons why this myth of weight loss lives on."

Health experts are also afraid people will abandon all efforts to exercise and eat a nutritious diet — behaviour that is important for health and longevity — even if it doesn't result in much weight loss.

So Oprah, you are in your best body, the very body that has brought you to age 62, that has survived your efforts to change it and that will keep on going so long as you take loving care of it. It makes me sad to know that in a very few years, we will see you back at the same weight, in this same body again. Because Weight Watchers fails in the long run, just like all the others.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2016. All  rights reserved.