Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Since the 1960’s Weight Watchers has been a moderate representative of the diet industry, and has helped millions of dieters deprive food and closely monitor their effected weight. Today, Oprah Winfrey has decided to encourage more people to do the same.

In October of 2015 Weight Watchers sold 10% (6.4 million) shares to Oprah for 43.2 million dollars. By the end of the day Weight Watchers stock doubled, making Oprah 70 million dollars. But as with all diets, the allure of the fantasy dies and so did the ‘Oprah effect’. Weight Watchers stock has tanked since January, with a steep declining trajectory. Could it be the influx of newer easier weight loss apps and gadgets? Or maybe the growing movement to reject the dogma of the body-image culture?

In a recent Weight Watchers commercial Oprah declares,

“Inside every woman is the woman she knows she can become.”

In other words, what she’s saying is in every woman is a thinner woman wanting to get out. In every woman is a picture programmed into her brain of what she’s supposed to look like and without question, it matches societal dogma as thinner and more attractive.  

In another commercial she states,

“Let’s let 2016 be the year of our best bodies.”

In this she’s inferring that in order to have a better body, it must be thinner. This is a wonderful example of both dogma and stigma.

Dogma is defined by a set of principles or beliefs given by authority that is irrefutably true. Stigma is consequential to those beliefs, in that a person’s reputation is negatively defined by not meeting those standards. These messages sent by Weight Watchers emphasize the dogma of thin-supremacy.

The principle is that thinner people are smarter, sexier, healthier, have more self-control, and are more important and valuable to society. Thin people are superior people. The stigma then is that fatter people are unintelligent, unattractive, lazy, and worth less to society. Fat people are inferior people.

Without questioning the validity and credibility of these beliefs, they have become sacred to society. Enough so that even with her affiliation with some of the most prolific and popular spiritual teachers of today, Oprah still hasn’t transcended the controlling grasp of thin-supremacy. It’s no wonder she feels she has a thin woman inside her waiting to get out and that her thinner body is a better body in 2016.

Unfortunately, the hundreds of trillions of dollars spent on acquiring the ideal dogmatic body is an indication of how many people believe in it and are fearful of resulting stigma. But with awareness comes knowledge. 

There has been a shift in what the consumer is looking for, which could explain why Weight Watchers is struggling, despite benefiting from a few months of the ‘Oprah effect’. Many people aren’t buying into the body-image fantasy the same way they used to, and they might actually be less influenced by stigma. Enough so that Oprah might realize she already has a better body, when her investment isn't enough to keep her from getting hungry and wanting to eat.