“Making The Shift”: 6 things we learned from Oprah Winfrey's live broadcast with WeightWatchers

The three-hour long event featured candid interviews with Rebel Wilson, Busy Philipps, Sima Sistani and more

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published May 10, 2024 3:55PM (EDT)

Oprah Winfrey at the 81st Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California. (Gilbert Flores/Golden Globes 2024/Golden Globes 2024 via Getty Images)
Oprah Winfrey at the 81st Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California. (Gilbert Flores/Golden Globes 2024/Golden Globes 2024 via Getty Images)

Following the premiere of her prime-time program, “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution,” Oprah Winfrey is once again continuing the conversation on weight stigma, this time with a broadcast event in partnership with WeightWatchers.

Called “Making The Shift: A New Way to Think About Weight,” the three-hour showcase was live-streamed on WeightWatchers’ YouTube channel on Thursday, May 9, from 6-9 p.m. ET. In it, Winfrey led several discussions alongside a handful of key speakers, including WeightWatchers CEO Sima Sistani, IT Cosmetics co-founder Jamie Kern Lima and actors Rebel Wilson, Amber Riley and Busy Philipps. The focus of the event was less about anti-obesity drugs and more on dismantling diet culture and the harmful narratives surrounding both weight and body image.    

“As we reconcile the shame stories we have all experienced, I’m on a mission to keep this conversation going and help us better understand the complexity of weight health and how we can use the science and what we know now to enhance our lives,” Winfrey said in a statement released in anticipation of the event.

Back in March, the entertainment mogul announced that she will be leaving the board of WeightWatchers after almost 10 years. Winfrey has served as a director on the company’s board since 2015 when she acquired a 10% stake in WeightWatchers. 

According to WeightWatchers’ filings with the SEC, Winfrey’s agreement with the company states that she “will not engage in any other weight loss or weight management business, program, products or services” while she’s with the company and for an additional year afterward. The company added that Winfrey’s decision to leave “was not the result of any disagreement with the company on any matter relating to the company’s operations, policies or practices.”

Here are 6 things we learned from “Making The Shift”:

Winfrey said Joan Rivers “challenged” her to lose 15 pounds

During the opening moments of the live-stream, Winfrey recalled her infamous 1985 interview with Joan Rivers, who was guest hosting on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.” Winfrey, whose career was on the rise after winning the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant in 1971, was working as a host of “AM Chicago” at the time.


Excited to be interviewed by Rivers, Winfrey said she was dumbfounded when Rivers blatantly called out her weight gain. “So how’d you gain the weight?” Rivers asked, inquiring about Winfrey’s eating habits, which had become difficult to maintain due to her busy schedule. Winfrey said she felt confused in the moment — like the “studio started spinning” — and questioned whether Rivers was mocking her for being “fat.” 


Winfrey also recounted the incident in her new cookbook, “Food, Health and Happiness,” that was released earlier this year.


“Joan sat behind Johnny’s big wooden desk, telling me that she didn’t want to hear my excuses and that I shouldn’t have let this happen,” Winfrey wrote. “The audience laughed nervously as she wagged her flawlessly manicured finger at me, pointed out that I was still 'a single girl,' and challenged me to come back 15 pounds lighter next time she hosted. And the whole time I just sat there smiling breezily, wanting nothing more than to crawl under my chair.”

The “obesity penalty” exits for women, not men

Sociologist and New York Times columnist Tressie McMillan Cottom defined the obesity penalty as “the way the world values us differently when we are overweight.” The obesity penalty is greatest for women, McMillan Cottom explained.


“What that looks like is when a woman is overweight, she’s paid less than a thinner woman. When a woman is overweight, she has fewer job opportunities over the course of her whole life. When a woman is overweight, if she finds herself unemployed, she’s unemployed for longer. And it’s even true for powerful women…if she is overweight, she earns less.”

There’s a difference between “acceptance and joy” when it comes to body image

“It’s hard to love yourself when the rest of the world is constantly telling you that what you look like isn’t enough,” Winfrey told her audience.


While talking about the differences between “accepting” one’s body versus finding “joy” in one’s self, Winfrey alongside McMillan Cottom introduced the concept of stigma. “I can accept myself and the world can still stigmatize me,” McMillan Cottom said. Joy, on the other hand, is moving into a greater space of acceptance.


“Yes, I accept myself and my body reflects the best version of myself…Other people’s opinion of us really limits how far our acceptance can take us,” McMillan Cottom added.

Rebel Wilson was once told she would lose her career if she lost weight

In her recent memoir “Rebel Rising,” actor Rebel Wilson said there was an “emotional war” going on in her mind while she battled her unhealthy eating behaviors and negative body image. 


“I used being overweight to my advantage and I leaned into comedy. At first, I wanted to become a serious actress and then I realized that bigger girls do really good in comedy,” Wilson told Winfrey. “I made millions of dollars playing the fat funny girl and I love it — I really loved it.”


When asked if she was afraid to no longer be “the fat funny girl,” Wilson said she was.


“It was put into me at the time by the team around me that if [I] do lose weight, [I] would lose my career,” she continued. “I thought I had two choices in life. Do I become healthy — and the impetus for that was because I wanted to have a child — or do I stay the same and have this great career which I do love?”


Wilson said her fertility doctor eventually confronted her with “the hard truth” and pushed her to become healthier.

Busy Philipps said weight stigma greatly impacted her career in Hollywood

“I’m just gonna be so real with you; my opportunities are better if I’m a certain size,” Busy Philipps said. “That is just a fact.”


The “Girls5Eva” star also slammed the hypocrisy of shaming women who choose to use Ozempic to lose weight. An old clip of Philipps on Jon Lovett’s “Lovett or Leave It” podcast was played during Winfrey’s live broadcast. In it, Philipps called out the “body positivity” movement and the double standards surrounding blockbuster weight loss drugs.


“All these motherf**kers have been on HGH (Human Growth Hormone) forever. I never saw one f**king Time magazine cover about it. The men are all on HGH,” Philipps told Lovett. “That’s why all the superheroes and movie stars have been so fit after age 40. What do you think has happened? They’re on drugs!”


“Then all of a sudden Ozempic comes along and people are like, ‘Oh, that’s a f**king big deal.’ Like, ‘We can’t have that.’ What in God’s name do you think has been happening?” she continued. “It’s all … people hate women so much. We didn’t create the system that we live in.”


While conversing with Winfrey, Philipps referenced her 2018 memoir, “This Will Only Hurt a Little,” in which she opened up about the job opportunities she lost due to her weight.


“I want better for my kids, and I want people to stop talking about our bodies. And I want women’s bodies to be off topic.”

Winfrey apologized for perpetuating diet culture

“I want to acknowledge that I have been a steadfast participant in this diet culture,” Winfrey said. 


“Through my platforms, through the magazine, through the talk show for 25 years and online. 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.”


Winfrey continued, saying she “set a standard for people watching that I nor anybody else could uphold.”

“Making The Shift: A New Way to Think About Weight" is available to watch on YouTube:


By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.