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Unpacking Oprah’s “Shame, Blame, and the Weight Loss Revolution

Special Recap Message from Michele Tedder, Sr. Program Manager, BWHI

After watching Oprah’s “Shame, Blame, and the Weight Loss Revolution” several times, I just had to unpack it. The special, streaming now on Hulu, opens up a critical dialogue on obesity, but it left me wanting deeper discussions on this complex topic.

Oprah’s opening confession resonates deeply with many of us. She bravely shared her experiences of enduring public ridicule about her weight for 25 years. This isn’t just Oprah’s story; it reflects the struggles of millions who have been unfairly spotlighted for their weight. Obesity isn’t just a number on a scale; it affects approximately 1 in 8 adults worldwide, each grappling with a complex disease while enduring unjust judgment.

Yes, I refer to it as a disease.

Obesity is a condition influenced by various factors, including genetics, environment, stress, sleep patterns, and the intricate workings of our brain and gut. It defies the oversimplified notion of being solely a result of laziness or moral failing. Dr. Michael Glickman, featured in the special, aptly underscores this point by highlighting the prevalence of misinformation in our society. Many still cling to the misguided belief that obesity can be permanently reversed through sheer willpower and calorie counting.

Reflecting on my own journey, I’ve explored various avenues—from weight loss surgery to pharmacological treatments and everything in between. These steps were instrumental in my pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. One of the most potent resources I’ve encountered is the Black Women’s Health Imperative’s program, CYL2 (Change Your Lifestyle. Change Your Life.). This program provided a supportive community through a culturally tailored approach led by individuals who shared my experiences and understood our unique challenges. It wasn’t solely about changing habits; it was about fostering a nurturing environment that empowers Black women to take control of their health.

That’s why I passionately advocate for access to comprehensive obesity care—a holistic approach encompassing medication, lifestyle adjustments, behavioral health support, surgery, nutrition counseling, and exercise programs. However, the path to wellness is far from uniform, especially for people of color.

For people of color, particularly Black women, the intersection of race, gender, and health creates additional barriers. We often face healthcare disparities, such as limited access to quality care, lack of cultural competency among healthcare providers, and underrepresentation in medical research. Additionally, cultural misunderstandings and stigmas surrounding body image and weight can make it difficult for Black women to seek help and find support. These challenges can hinder our ability to access the care and resources we need to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

While Oprah’s conversation was groundbreaking, I found myself longing to hear more from Black women. Our experiences with weight, health, and societal pressures are layered with a complex history and require a nuanced approach infused with empathy.

For those seeking to grasp the intersection of culture, community, and health—or those searching for a supportive network—I highly recommend exploring the Black Women’s Health Imperative and the CYL2 program at

In reflecting on Oprah’s special and thinking about our paths forward, it’s clear that while we’ve started changing the narrative around obesity, there’s more work to be done. As we continue these conversations, let’s remember the power of community, the importance of cultural sensitivity, and the need for a comprehensive toolkit in addressing obesity. It’s about time we all joined this revolution, not just in understanding but in action, advocating for a world where everyone feels seen, heard, and supported on their journey to health.