Oprah’s Weight Loss Yo-Yo Woes

Wow.  Try saying that three times fast.

“We associate truth with convenience, with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self-esteem. Economic and social behavior are complex and to comprehend their character is mentally tiring. Therefore we adhere, as though to a raft, to those ideas which represent our understanding.”

John Kenneth Galbraith

Dr. Michael Eades has written an insightful post on the subject of Oprah Winfrey’s much-publicized and on-going battle with weight. Same goes for Mark Sisson, over at Mark’s daily Apple.  Both Mark and Dr. Eades have done a wonderful job in explaining the physical side of Oprah’s dilemma; I’d just like to add a couple of things concerning the psychological side of things.

No matter what your feelings for Oprah are as a person (professionally, political leanings, etc.), you have to acknowledge that she’s nobody’s fool. She’s smart, articulate and a savvy-as-all-hell businesswoman to boot. I greatly admire her for having risen to where she is, given what she had to begin with – which is to say, not squat. This is the type of person who comes ready-armed with all the mental ability, money and power required to seek the most knowledgeable, cutting-edge advice in any given area of study she so chooses. So why has she repeatedly fallen prey to such miserable diet and fitness advice? Because, in my humble opinion, she sought — and obtained — the “best” conventional advice in the land. And I think we can all learn something from her mistake.

Now this is purely speculation here, but I would imagine that the one thing Oprah does not have much of is time. She’s not afforded the ability to personally delve deep into, and fully investigate, any one single, or set of, issues. Now, if she employs someone to do this for her (which she obviously could — and, I would assume, does), she ends right back in the realm of the “best conventional” thought. What else would a well-paid employee seek out for her?  And I can imagine some instances where conventional thought might not be so bad, either — business and, say, finance as well. Unfortunately for Oprah, though, in the venue of diet and fitness, conventional advice (especially given her hormone profile and genetic leanings) was tantamount to prescribed failure. She never even had a chance. And that’s too bad, both for her personally, and for the thousands (millions?) of people who’ve looked to her over the years for dieting inspiration.

At this moment, the “Paleo-way” is considered by the mainstream (and by “mainstream”, I mean professionals), I would say, as nothing more than a misguided fringe movement. To your average Joe on the street, practitioners of Paleo are right up there with Roswell aficionados. I know, I get the “looks” and the rolled eyes.  All of which tells me that we Paleo (in all of its many variations) practitioners are, by nature, skeptics, non-believers and contrarians. If someone tells me it’s raining out, my first impulse is to look for an indication of moisture on their coat. Yeah, it’s sick, I know. But is has served me well at times. And that “question authority” and “question convention” attitude is exactly what led me to the Paleo Way to begin with. It’s also the personality quirk that continually forces me to question my own assumptions. This chronic distrust of conventional thought just may be the height of madness – and, if it is – well, I’ll just have to be one fit, lean and institutionalized fellow. But question I do, and hopefully always will.

But eventually, years from now, the herd will catch on. I mean, they have too, right?  But what then? What happens when yesterday’s contrarian becomes tomorrow’s conventional? That’s the last place I want to be, which is why I nurture my questioning attitude and which is why I’m not too proud to say I was wrong, or that I need to re-adjust my thinking on a particular subject. Or that if the conventional does happen to be right, to give it its due. I know that my brand of the Paleo Way – the TTP Way – will undergo continuous refinement. Nothing is perfect, all needs to be flexible. And everything deserves to be questioned.

Anyway, with any luck Oprah will finally catch on.  I just hope she finds her way before she suffers any serious, lasting damage to her health.  And, hey, Oprah, *wink, wink* if you’re reading this, my coaching services are available. And I’m a pretty damn good cook, as well.

In Health’


13 responses to “Oprah’s Weight Loss Yo-Yo Woes

    • Yeah, I said it tongue-in-cheek, but one thing’s for certain — I could absolutely guarantee her sizable results in six short weeks. She wouldn’t have to contend with the “starving all the time” feeling, and it’s a sustainable life-change — not some BS that, if looked at in a logical manner, obviously can never be maintained. Short term conventional weight loss can rarely (and I’m being politically correct here — I “never” say never — but this is as close as you can get to never) work due to (1) that starving/deprived feeling, (2)metabolic slowdown and (3)because of 1 and 2, the sustainability issue. Oprah knows this as well as anyone. If someone like her (a highly visible and admired, “every-woman”) would take the leap, just think of the paradigm shift that would follow. It’d be amazing.

  1. Poor Oprah! But look at all the stuff her trainer Bob Greene endorses… it’s like a Cereal Killer nightmare with some fat-free sugar-free yogurt on top.

    I must admit to waffling a bit on the paleo/primal thing at first, but mostly that was due to wigging out from not eating enough fat, and then binging on carb foods that I really didn’t even like all that much. When I started to read Mark Sisson’s blog and some others regularly I tried to implement it more fully, but still felt up and down with it.

    But I must say it was Keith’s “44 and Paleo Pics” that made me say Holy Sh!t, Batman! Because, although female, I am also 44. And since the approach seemed to be one of tailoring what is useful like the Bruce Lee philosophy, that’s exactly what I did.

    I could eat more salads more often, and drink less beer, but you have to do what works for you.

    This was when I really started to see changes in my body composition. Now I am wearing clothes because I am starting to look good in them again, not so they are hiding a big fat belly roll.

    You sort of have to be willing to tune-out the “whole grain goodness, bad saturated fats” mentality. I just got to the point where I was like “No one is going to tell me what to eat.” So foods that made me feel bad sort of dropped off the grid whether they were supposed to be “good” for me or not.

    With books like Real Food (which was very influential for me) and In Defense of Food (not as good as Real Food, IMO), and a lot of blog sites popping up I think people are becoming more aware of this type of eating as well as local and seasonal eating. Maybe it will become more mainstream. The meat-and-fat heavy idea behind TTP-style eating will be very difficult for most people to, well, digest, because of all the fear of cardiovascular disease and not listening to health authorities who insist high-carb, low fat is best.

    I eat a lot more veggies now that I slap butter, cream, olive oil, bacon grease, and such on them.

    Maybe Oprah will get Gary Taubes on her show and then she will see the light.


    • The biggest two obstacles in going “Paleo” unfortunately work so very well in tandem; breaking free of the conventional diet mindset together with shaking the simple carb Jones. Then there’s the whole social obstacle — oh c’mon, a little (name your poison)’s not gonna hurt you. I know when I first started, I went “clean” for a couple of days, then relapse. Then a few days longer than before, then relapse. Eventually, I went over the wall. But, yeah, it took a few tries — fits and starts.

      Thanks for weighing-in, TrailGrrl. And I really like the idea of her having GT on the show…or Art DeVany. Maybe she’ll allow me to do the “grunt work” of training/coaching her day-to-day. 🙂

  2. Keith,
    No sh..!!! All I heard when I was out with friends and family was that exact comment. Piece of bread won’t kill you, will it? Come on we are al having dessert just have some. It always really set me back when I did indulge.
    Art D. wrote a while back about the neuro pathways.
    I really think there is something to it. Because when I “slip” I ended up jonesing for more…..

    Hey, maybe I can cook for Oprah. 😉


    • Because when I “slip” I ended up jonesing for more…..

      I believe that the carb addiction is just that — an addiction as strong as any other.
      Your cooking for Oprah sounds like a plan. Rosie What’s-her-name did pretty well with that gig (albeit, with the wrong ingredients).

  3. From TrailGrrl down, all the comments are right-spot-exactly on. I didn’t eat enough fat or protein and would slip. I would give in to social pressure – slip. I thought I understood, but that damn subconcious would just butt in with its low-fat and whole grain brainwashing.

    Like TrailGrrl, it was this site that finally got me to go “over the wall” as you put it (at least it feels like it 🙂 – I *really* finally and absolutely get it – and it’s working and I feel great, which is postitive reinforcement.

    So often I hear, “well, maybe I’ll try it next week” or “But my dad’s doctor has him on a super low-fat diet because of his cholesterol” (translation – low-fat is healthy) or “I just couldn’t live without my bread/dessert.” If they want to do that, fine, but I can’t be happy, healty or feel good that way.

  4. We sound like we’ve all escaped from some asylum by going “over the wall.”

    I think that the start-stop-start cycle is normal at first. I mean you see donuts, bagels, and breakfast bars everywhere and of course they are dirt cheap (hey even FREE at work!), unlike a little bag of jerky that’s like $3.99. But then when I realized I was using it for an entire meal… it doesn’t seem so expensive. It’s a totally different way of putting your meals together that requires more thinking that grabbing a 64 oz coffee and little plastic bowl of cereal. I finally got really pissed off about having to read so many labels to decide what was “real food.” It wasn’t so much the wheat and grains that I ditched at first, but all the crap that is added to all cereals now (soy, splenda, whey, etc.). But then I found I really didn’t miss it all that much.

    Because where there are eggs, there is often bacon. And as everyone knows, everything is better wrapped in bacon (incuding bacon!).

    People at work do find it odd that I eat meat for breakfast if they happen to come into my office and witness it, but hey I just tell them it’s leftover from dinner (not so odd for beef stew, but a little weird for them if it’s just steak, and eating flat ribs with my bare hands I really just don’t even try to explain).

    I would get discouraged and think I couldn’t do whole foods only or paleo, that it would be too much trouble, but the fact is it ends up being a lot easier. And I am more in touch with flavors of veggies and fruits, and what “sweet” really is like. When I was a kid I didn’t want Hostess ding dongs if blackberries or strawberries or fresh corn and tomatoes were in season. I could have Hostess anytime, but certain things were only around at their best flavor for a little while. And we gorged on them while they were available, right off the bush. So I think the off-and-on part takes a bit at first, until you figure out when you are really hungry and whether it’s really for something sweet or if you just needed a hit of walnuts or meat.

    I think someone hit the nail on the head, that Oprah’s real issue is “between her ears.” Her main relationship with Steadman has always been “off” as far as I can tell, and no matter how far you go you can still be somewhat insecure on the inside. Also, I think she is very driven professionally, and I bet she runs a full day just like other successful professionals and lets diet and everything else lag behind. The counting calories approach is not a “lifestyle” but something that can only be transient. It’s meant to be cycled off of when times are better (evolutionarily speaking). We’re not meant to sustain famine all of the time, and our brains did not get big without the right stuff.


    • We sound like we’ve all escaped from some asylum by going “over the wall.”


      I think for most people, easing into Paleo eating habits is probably the best way to go. A little bit here, a little bit there. That’s just what I gather from the reaction of the “general population”. Now, I’m usually surrounded, and always have been, by very driven people (myself included). Maybe I’m overcompensating for what I feel is a general lack of drive from “normal people” — not giving them enough credit in the “hang tough” category. But there is a certain personality (I know this one all too well 🙂 ), who, when they decide to do something, just do it all-out. Which is why I can relate to the setbacks. Having a setback in attaining a goal is not my M.O., and I know how tough it was for me at first, having taken a few setbacks before I finally nailed it. And, too, I’m not one to succumb to, or be much influenced by, social convention. I guess this all is a long-winded way of saying that this is tough going (at first) for the driven; you’ve got to have a good bit of determination to persevere, get over “the wall”, and escape the asylum. And I love that analogy, TrailGrrl 🙂

  5. Keith,

    Thought it was time for me to stop lurking and say hi. I’ve been checking out your site daily for months now and wanted to say thanks!!

    Though not as paleo as you, TrailGrrl and AT22 (been reading her site as well lately), I’m pretty close (even w/ the high intensity – get in, get out – workout mentality). I appreciate your efforts in posting interesting and deeply thought out articles that really hit home for me; such as this one. Plus, the comments from others are also spot on!!!

    Though I doubt I’ll ever reach your levels of physical fitness/physique (you are a machine), I’m in the best shape of my life at 43 having lost 80 pounds down to 215 on a 6’2 frame. My current goal is a 6 pack. 🙂

    Keep up the good work!!!


    • Thanks for the good words, Scott. I’m glad things are working out for you. I think a lot of people take the “easing in” route to this lifestyle — nothing wrong with that. A little tweak here, another there — and next thing you know, you’re full-on Paleo.

      And by the way, if you’ve got the drive to lose 80 lbs, who’s to say where you’ll end up? Enjoy the ride, and attempt to better one aspect of yourself every day. No telling where it will lead. Keep up the hard work, Scott, and keep us updated!

  6. Well said, your right too that it is sad that she must feel so humiliated and like a big fat loser when in fact she just fell prey to the ‘conventional’ wisdom of the day. The sad thing is that she promotes the thought patterns that its willpower and laziness rather than ‘the’ diet that is causing the problems. Also I am a lot like you, as a scientist I tend to be skeptical and that is what led me to paleo eating.

    • Yeah, I really hope she doesn’t throw in the dieting towel just yet. I can certainly empathize with her situation, though — I’m sure she’s got more “advice” than she can shake a stick at. Unfortunately, it’s all the wrong advice. I wonder how much of this is people telling her what they think she wants to hear? Hopefully by now (surely?) she’s seen that it’s her lifestyle that has to be completely altered. Like I always say, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. The information is out there for her, maybe she’ll come across it and grasp hold.

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