Oprah’s new Weight Watchers ad is making the internet feel things. The Wrap calls it “her rawest outpouring of emotion to date.” Twitter is in tears. She’s really touched a nerve with this one:
“Inside every overweight woman, is a woman she knows she can be.
Many times you look in the mirror and you don’t even recognize your own self, because you got lost, buried in the weight that you carry. Nothing you’ve ever been through is wasted. So every time I tried and failed, every time I tried again, has brought me to this most powerful moment to say, ‘If not now, when?’ I feel that way and I know millions of other people feel that way. Are you ready? Let’s do this together.”
Oprah has spent her life struggling with weight. She knows what people go through: the failure, the depression, the self-loathing. And she’s made a business decision to make a shit-ton of money off an industry that will pay her well to convince people everywhere that this time they can really do it. But they can’t. They won’t. The Weight Watchers model is successful, because diets don’t work. This is something the company knows well. And Oprah Winfrey is nothing if not a smart business woman. She knows it, too.
In August, Winfrey paid $43 million for a 10% stake in the company and the stock prices skyrocketed. She made a whopping $70 million in one day. Now she’s the new spokeswoman for the company, because of course. Her struggle with her weight is common knowledge — it’s the perfect marriage. And we love Oprah, don’t we? We trust her. We know what’s she’s been through. She’s us — only with more money than god and a vested interest that we’ll all believe the only thing that can make us truly happy in this world is to reach our ideal weight.
And we may reach it with Weight Watchers. But just about every study proves we’ll gain it back.
“It’s the perfect business model. People give Weight Watchers the credit when they lose weight. Then they regain the weight and blame themselves. This sets them up to join Weight Watchers all over again, and they do,” writes Traci Mann, a PhD who’s spent years studying the psychology of weight loss. “The company brags about this to its shareholders. According to Weight Watchers’ business plan from 2001 (which I viewed in hard-copy form at a library), its members have ‘demonstrated a consistent pattern of repeat enrollment over a number of years,’ signing up for an average of four separate program cycles.” The former CFO of the company said the company is so successful because the majority of the users regain the weight they lost:“That’s where your business comes from.”
I’ve been plagued with self image issues pretty much all of my life, much like every woman I’ve ever met. Since about the age of 12, I don’t think there was ever a time when I didn’t consider myself fat. I remember being a sophomore in high school, weighing 114 pounds. Fat! Then in my early 20’s, being somewhere around 125 pounds. Fat! Never, ever, in my life have I looked in the mirror and not seen a fat person staring back at me, especially now – when I actually am fat. So I understand Winfrey’s struggles. I’m not delusional. I’m not blind. It’s just that somewhere in my early adolescence I drank the same Kool Aid that every other woman in this country was served. And like the urban myth of the bad PCP trip… I’ve never been able to recover. I personally know women who are a size four and active members of Weight Watchers. The company banks on our disorder and self-loathing. And now Oprah is, too.
Oprah has everything yet still feels the need to publicly batter herself because she just can’t make weight. That’s either the most depressing thing in the world, or the most brilliant business strategy, ever.