Oprah Winfrey resigned from WeightWatchers over ‘conflict of interest’

Oprah Winfrey resigned from the WeightWatchers board after almost 10 years to avoid a conflict of interest.

During her appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” last week, Winfrey explained why she stepped down ahead of her upcoming special, “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution.”

“I decided [to leave the WeightWatchers board] because this special was really important to me, and I wanted to be able to talk about whatever I want to talk about,” Winfrey said. “And WeightWatchers is now in the business of being a weight-health company that also administers drug medications for weight. I did not want to have the appearance of any conflict of interest.”

The media mogul continued, saying that when she resigned she donated all of her shares to the National Museum of African American History. 

Winfrey added of her decision to leave, “So nobody can say ‘Oh, she’s doing that special, she’s making money, promoting [it],’ no, you cannot say that.”

The special, airing on ABC, is Winfrey’s first in 13 years, and comes after she revealed she was using weight-loss medication last year.

Oprah Winfrey resigned from the WeightWatchers board after nine years. GC Images

Winfrey explained to People in December, “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. It’s not about willpower – it’s about the brain.”

“The fact that there’s a medically approved prescription for managing weight and staying healthier, in my lifetime, feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for,” Winfrey said. “I’m absolutely done with the shaming from other people and particularly myself.”

Winfrey’s choice and openness about using weight-loss medication have been met with mixed reactions, in part from her position as an ambassador for WeightWatchers (WW) since 2017.

She has served on the board since 2015, when she acquired a 10% stake in the company. 

Winfrey has an upcoming weight-loss special coming out. Jimmy Kimmel Live/Youtube

Her decision was initially announced in February, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which said Winfrey notified the chairman of WW International Inc.’s board of directors “that she would not be standing for re-election as a member of the Board at the Company’s 2024 annual meeting of shareholders,” which is currently slated for May 9.

WeightWatchers shares dropped 20% following the news.

In a press release, Winfrey said, “I look forward to continuing to advise and collaborate with WeightWatchers and CEO Sima Sistani in elevating the conversation around recognizing obesity as a chronic condition, working to reduce stigma, and advocating for health equity.”

The 70-year-old has always been open about her weight struggles throughout her career.

In 1988, she infamously brought out a red Radio Flyer wagon stacked with 67 pounds of fat to represent the weight she’d recently lost over the previous four months thanks to a liquid only diet.

She later admitted she regretted the stunt on the “Making Oprah” podcast in 2016.

“You can see that my ego is on flamboyant display,” she said at the time. “I’ve had to pay the price for that moment over and over. I literally handed to the world on a fat wagon platter the story of ‘Is she fat? Is she thin?’”

Winfrey revealed that she is using weight-loss drugs. Weight Watchers

As she told Kimmel recently, “You’ve seen me, you all have seen me, I’ve been in the struggle, I’ve been in the storm of losing the weight, gaining it back, losing the weight, gaining it back.”

After years of yo-yoing, Winfrey added, her doctors explained that “obesity is a disease” and a spectrum. 

“But I realized when I listened to what the doctor said, [which was] ‘You’re always going to put it back on and it’s like holding your breath under water and trying to not rise, you’re always going to rise.’”

She decided to use a weight loss medication following a painful knee surgery, when she vowed, “God, if you let me walk again, I promise I will get myself in shape, I promise I will use my body to the highest possible good for myself and my health.”

“An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution” airs Monday, March 18, on ABC, and next day on Hulu.

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