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

The talk show host said she has been able to 'release' the 'shame' she carried about her weight during her ABC special 'An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution'

<p>Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty</p> Oprah Winfrey

Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is sharing the emotional toll that decades of yo-yo dieting, and negative comments surrounding her unsuccessful attempts at weight loss, took on her.

During her new ABC special, An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution, the talk show host, 70, got emotional while touching on her own struggles with weight loss over the years — including how she struggled to keep the weight off after the infamous moment on her talk show when she slimmed down and wheeled out a wagon loaded with fat to represent the pounds that she had shedded.

“In an effort to combat all the shame, I starved myself for nearly five months and then wheeled out that wagon of fat that the internet will never forget,” Winfrey said of the moment in 1988. "After losing 67 pounds on [a] liquid diet, the next day, the very next day, I started to gain it back. Feeling the shame of fighting a losing battle with weight, is a story all too familiar."

Winfrey also recalled how she was “ridiculed on every late-night talk show for 25 years” and shared some of the headlines that she claimed were written about her at the time, including “Oprah: Fatter Than Ever” and “Oprah Warned Diet or Die.”

<p>Disney/Eric McCandless</p> Oprah Winfrey during filming for 'An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution'

Disney/Eric McCandless

Oprah Winfrey during filming for 'An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution'

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

The philanthropist, who has been open about the countless diets she has tried over the years to combat her weight, then went on to explain her mindset at the time and how it has changed years later.

"All these years, I thought all of the people who never had to diet were just using their willpower and they were for some reason stronger than me," she told one guest on the show.

"And now I realize y'all weren't even thinking about the food,” she continued. “It's not that you had the willpower. You weren't thinking about it. You weren't obsessing about it. That is the big thing I learned."

During the hour-long special, Winfrey shared testimonials from audience members on the struggles they’ve had with their weight and also got experts to weigh in on the prescription weight-loss medications — which she told PEOPLE she was taking in December — like Ozempic and Mounjaro.

<p>Disney/Eric McCandless</p> Oprah Winfrey speaks to audience members during the ABC special

Disney/Eric McCandless

Oprah Winfrey speaks to audience members during the ABC special

Related: Stars Who've Spoken About Ozempic — and What They've Said

"I now use it as I feel I need it, as a tool to manage not yo-yoing," Winfrey told PEOPLE of the weight-loss medication in December. "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. I’m absolutely done with the shaming from other people and particularly myself."

Elsewhere during the special, Winfrey also shared that after several decades, she eventually reframed her mindset on obesity as a “disease not a character flaw.”

"There is now a sense of hope, No. 1, and No. 2, you no longer blame yourself," Winfrey explained of her new logic. "When I tell you how many times I have blamed myself because you think, 'I'm smart enough to figure this out,' and then to hear all along, it's you fighting your brain."

Later in the episode, Winfrey opened up about how much lighter she felt after making that realization and getting everything off her chest.

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“The thing that’s been the biggest relief for me, and I hope that many of you watching this episode of Shame and Blame, will release the shame for yourself,” she said. “Because I, as I said at the beginning of this, took on the same for myself and carried it for myself.”

She added, “And now that I know that I’m just holding my breath underwater, I have been able to release that shame, and it doesn’t matter what anybody says.”

An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution is now streaming on Hulu.

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