Queen Oprah As Weight-Loss Disruptor

A thinner Ms. Winfrey.

Talk about a disruptor.

In my column on Wednesday, I was perhaps the millionth person to write about the year-old category of appetite-suppressing semaglutide weight loss drugs, with labels like Ozempic, Wegovy and Manjaro -- that are overtaking the economy and upending the traditional diet and weight loss industry.

Like AI, these GLP-1s are eating the world.

The “magic” drugs are also starting culture wars over fat-shaming, this time reverse-shaming formerly fat people for taking the “easy” way out by taking the drug.

More importantly, the more than nine million Americans on them –--particularly the truly obese, and not just vanity VIPS--are seeing life-saving health improvements, some forestalling serious surgeries and the development of heart and other organ diseases down the road.



What can’t these drugs do? Now there’s talk of an oral form (more than 70 versions are in the pipeline ) and uses in treating dementia, arthritis, and sleep apnea.

In the column, I pointed to Oprah Winfrey as the female embodiment of American weight loss woes for the past 35 years.

I feel for her, since her struggles have been so public.

Back in 1989, icon Oprah had famously lost 67 pounds on a liquid diet, and then gained it all back.

Surprisingly, though perfectly on trend, last December she admitted to taking the drug. (And has looked marvelous in her various “Color Purple”- promoting purple dresses ever since.) 

Given her link to old-school dieting and exercise, however, it did seem odd that she would confess. But that started to make sense, because Weight Watchers had itself acquired Sequence, a telehealth platform to dispense the appetite-suppressing drugs, as part of its armory.

“As Oprah moves, so goes the nation,” I wrote -- which hardly took a crystal ball.

Still, the titanic (and stock-tanking) split between Oprah and Weight Watchers was something I didn’t see coming the following morning, when it was announced that Winfrey will leave the board after more than nine years as an investor and corporate director of the company.

Meanwhile, the company published its latest financial report on Wednesday, including its fourth-quarter and full-year 2023 results, which showed a total loss of $88.1 million. Not good.

In the wake of the split, Weight Watchers announced Winfrey would donate all  her stock  to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) “to eliminate any perceived conflict around taking weight-loss medications" and will "donate the proceeds from any future exercises of her WW stock options to NMAAHC.”

What is this “perceived conflict?” Why would there be such a thing, if Weight Watchers itself owns one of the leading online platforms for prescribing GLP-1 medications? (Noom does too, by the way.)

When she did come out about taking the drug initially, her statements seemed unusually impassioned. She said her weight fluctuations had “occupied five decades of space in my brain, yo-yoing and feeling like, why can’t I just conquer this thing, believing willpower was my failing.”

She added, “It was public sport to make fun of me for 25 years. I have been blamed and shamed, and I blamed and shamed myself.”

She talked about finally ridding herself of this immense burden: her shame.

But now, whether it’s a bifurcation, a conflict or a breakdown, there seems to be a war brewing.

“I look forward to continuing to advise and collaborate with Weight Watchers and CEO Sima Sistani in elevating the conversation around recognizing obesity as a chronic condition, working to reduce stigma, and advocating for health equity,” Winfrey is quoted as saying in the WW release. 

“Weight health is a critically important topic and one that needs to be addressed at a broader scale.”

Could Winfrey have plans to team up formally with Ozempic, and together O-bust the world?  Or do something more philanthropic?

It’s all developing. But the drugs are a game-changer, and once again Oprah is leading the revolution.

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