New Year Diet Ads: Is Oprah Credible Any More at Selling Diet Remedies?

As I followed a link for a story about how diet soda can make people gain weight, I was somewhat surprised to find an ad featuring Oprah Winfrey’s somewhat slenderized face hawking an Acai berry diet, I thought…huh?

The exact wording on the ad is “Oprah’s Acai Berry diet.”

As we head into the New Year season of incessant diet ads, is it not time to ask of Oprah is remotely credible for touting weight loss?

Didn’t I just hear or read about how Oprah had gained a bunch of weight? I don’t pay much attention to Ms. Winfrey, but I do remember something about this.

Sure enough, a story from People Magazine a few weeks back reported this: “Having packed 40 pounds onto her former 160-pound self, Oprah Winfrey is declaring, “I’m mad at myself” because she’s “fallen off the wagon.” As the media mogul, 54, writes in the January issue of her O magazine hitting newsstands Tuesday (and provided in advance to the Associated Press by Winfrey’s Harpo Productions): “I’m embarrassed … I can’t believe that after all these years, all the things I know how to do, I’m still talking about my weight. I look at my thinner self and think, ‘How did I let this happen again?”

As I can attest from a life of gaining and losing weight, people do go up and down the diet ladder. And Oprah is surely one of them. And while her experience is typical of women, and many men, why should anyone listen to her at this point endorse a particular diet? I am missing the aspirational aspect of following an Oprah diet suggestion that inevitably leads to yo-yo dieting.

I can recall that back in the 1980s Oprah’s first endorsement of a diet was Optifast. She lost something like 60 or 70 pounds. She was more gaunt than svelte. Her endorsement, though, created a two-year explosion of business around Optifast that extended to products like Medifast and a host of other liquid protein powder diets that are utterly unsustainable. Sometime after that, when Oprah had gained back the weight, she spoke very little, as I recall, about the failure of the diet. And I believe she said something about not endorsing diet regimens in future.

We all know Ms. Winfrey has a legion of people around her to keep her away from the sweets. She has schedulers, trainers, cooks, etc. But all of that apparently is not enough to manage her weight very effectively.

So, I ask again…why is she lending her image and name to a diet anything? If I was promoting a diet regimen, I might be glad to score an appearance on her show. But I’d be thinking maybe the time has passed for wanting her to actually fasten her face and endorsement to the product or system.

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