Oprah's feeling heavy, and we're feeling her pain

December 15, 2008|By KEVIN COWHERD | KEVIN COWHERD,kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

How's your diet doing this holiday season? Not so well? Neither is Oprah Winfrey's.

In case you haven't heard, Oprah has gotten hefty again and gone public about it.

In the January issue of O magazine, you'll never guess who's on the cover. Give up? OK, it's Oprah! Again! The talk-show diva says she's "fallen off the wagon" with her eating habits and now weighs 200 pounds.

She says she's gained 40 pounds in the past two years. And she's "embarrassed" and "upset" by it.

"How did I let this happen again?" reads the cover of the new O, due on newsstands tomorrow.

And adding to the endless self-flagellation that celebrities are fond of, the now-chunky Oprah even poses on the cover alongside a picture of her formerly slim self in a sexy workout outfit.

As an on-again, off-again fatso who has struggled with his weight forever, I applaud Oprah's honesty on this subject.

It shows just how human she is. And how hard it is to keep weight off in this culture of too much food, too much work and too little exercise.

But this is one of the reasons I'd never want to be a celebrity.

Let's face it, when you or I gain a few pounds, the whole world doesn't know about it.

Oh, maybe a few of our friends notice when we're a little heftier. And a few colleagues at the office.

But when you're a big-shot celebrity, millions of people know when you've put on 5 pounds, never mind 40.

You're in the limelight. You're on TV, you're in the movies, you're going to this opening and that party with the paparazzi jackals snapping your picture every five seconds.

The whispers start about your weight, then the snarky blog posts, then the she's-really-let-herself-go photos in People.

Suddenly, you're Ms. Buffet Line 2008.

Eventually, you get so sick of the whispers and photos and catty stories - not to mention looking in the mirror - that you have to address the issue.

Maybe you put out a statement that says something like: "I am determined to address my health and fitness needs through a renewed commitment to exercise, good nutritional habits and blah, blah, blah."

Or, if you're the most powerful woman in entertainment, you splash it on the cover of your own magazine and vow to change your ways.

Then you yak about it on your own talk show, which Oprah plans to do starting Jan. 5 to kick off "Best Life Week."

(Me, I'd be telling all those fan and media busybodies obsessed with my weight: "Why don't you get a life? I don't see too many runway models among you people, either." But that's probably not the best way to handle it.)

Of course, when you're a celeb with a weight problem, you have to come up with a reason for the weight gain, too.

It can't just be that you like to sit around all day watching trash TV and knocking back quarts of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

It can't just be that the thought of doing 45 minutes on the treadmill makes you want to throw yourself in front of a train.

In Oprah's case, she says a thyroid condition has made it hard for her to work out and keep the pounds off.

But to her credit, she mainly blames herself. And now she says she's no longer trying to get thin, just strong, healthy and fit.

With holiday parties and dinners in full swing - assuming that anyone has any money or desire for holiday parties and dinners - this is a heck of a time for Oprah to lay her latest fat-girl guilt trip on us.

On the other hand, maybe it'll do some good.

I remember her famous show in 1988 when she wheeled out a wagon loaded with fat, symbolic of the 67 pounds she had lost on her latest shape-up mission.

She was decked out in a black turtleneck sweater and size 10 jeans and looked like a million bucks.

Thousands of her adoring fans watched that show and decided that they, too, were going to lose weight and get in shape.

The same thing happened five years later, when she ballooned to 237 pounds. That was the year she hired personal trainer Bob Greene, which was the best thing to ever happen to this guy. He'd be working at a Bally's in Wichita without Oprah. But again it inspired thousands of Oprah disciples to rededicate themselves to fitness.

Maybe something similar will happen this time.

If nothing else, Oprah's story offers a familiar cautionary tale.

Losing weight is hard to do.

Keeping it off is even harder.

And it doesn't get any easier for the rich and famous.

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