Oprah Winfrey Says Participating in ‘Diet Culture’ Is ‘One of My Biggest Regrets’

She cited her 1988 on-air “wagon of fat” demonstration as a mistake, adding that she now wants to ”do better”

<p>Kevin Winter/Getty</p> Oprah Winfrey in March 2024

Kevin Winter/Getty

Oprah Winfrey in March 2024

Oprah Winfrey is taking responsibility for her contributions to diet culture — and sharing her plans to “do better.”

At an event she hosted with WeightWatchers — called “Making The Shift: A New Way to Think About Weight” on Thursday, May 9 — the legendary talk show host declared that she is “done” letting diet culture and the “shame” that comes with it rule her life.

“So many of us have internalized about diet culture and the body standards that have caused us so much shame,” Winfrey, 70, said while introducing the event, which also featured conversations with Rebel Wilson, Busy Philipps, Glee alum Amber Riley and more.

Related: Oprah Winfrey Recalls Diet Where She ‘Starved’ Herself for ‘5 Months,’ Says Obesity Is ‘Disease’ Not ‘Character Flaw’

“We've been criticized. We've been scrutinized. We've been shamed, and we've been told that unless we meet a certain standard of size that we didn't deserve to be accepted or even to be loved,” she continued. “And what I know for sure is that I am done with it.”

The TV icon went on to say that the purpose of the conversation is to not only free yourself from that scrutiny, but also to stop scrutinizing those around you. Or, in Winfrey’s words, to “stop judging others for the way they choose to live” — something she not only owned up to doing, but also called one of her “biggest regrets.”

“I also want to acknowledge that I have been a steadfast participant in this diet culture through my platforms, through the magazine, through the talk show for 25 years, through online,” she admitted. “I've been a major contributor to it. I cannot tell you how many weight loss shows and makeovers I have done, and they have been a staple since I've been working in television.”

”I've shared how that famous ‘wagon of fat’ moment on the Oprah show is one of my biggest regrets,” she continued, referring to the 1988 moment on her eponymous talk show when, while revealing her weight loss, she wheeled out a wagon loaded with fat as a physical representation of the pounds she had lost.

<p>Michael Kovac/Getty</p> Oprah Winfrey in March 2024.

Michael Kovac/Getty

Oprah Winfrey in March 2024.

“It sent a message that starving yourself with a liquid diet, set a standard for people watching that I nor anybody else could uphold and — I've said this before — the very next day the next day, I began to gain the weight back,” she said.

Related: Oprah Winfrey Tackles Key Issues Around Weight Loss Drugs amid Obesity Epidemic: 'Very Personal to Me'

To demonstrate how her views of diet culture — which considers weight and thinness as the ultimate marker of health — have changed over the decades, Winfrey quoted Maya Angelou, telling the audience, “When you know better, you do better.”

“So these conversations for me are an effort to do better,” she added.

“I own what I've done and I now want to do better, so I know now that that ‘wagon of fat’ moment was set into motion after years and years of thinking that my struggle with my weight was my fault,” she said. “And it has taken me even up until last week to process the shame that I felt privately as my very public yo-yo diet moments became a national joke.”

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In December 2023, Winfrey reflected how her journey with weight loss and health has played out in the media throughout the years, telling PEOPLE, “It was public sport to make fun of me for 25 years.”

She added: “I have been blamed and shamed, and I blamed and shamed myself.”

<p>Eric Charbonneau/Getty</p> Oprah Winfrey in December 2023.

Eric Charbonneau/Getty

Oprah Winfrey in December 2023.

Elsewhere in the conversation, Winfrey told PEOPLE about her current holistic approach to health, which includes regular exercise and lifestyle tweaks, as well as a weight-loss medication.

Related: Oprah Winfrey Celebrates 70th Birthday with a Run on the Beach: 'Health Is the Best Gift'

She also revealed that her view of using pharmaceutical aids shifted in July 2023 during a panel conversation with weight loss experts for Oprah Daily’s Life You Want series, called The State of Weight.

“I had the biggest aha along with many people in that audience,” she recalled of the discussion. “I realized I’d been blaming myself all these years for being overweight, and I have a predisposition that no amount of willpower is going to control.”

“Obesity is a disease,” she added. “It’s not about willpower — it's about the brain.”

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