Back in 1985, Oprah Winfrey was very self-conscious about the weight she had gained, but she truly hoped nobody else would notice.
Then she met Joan Rivers and all hell broke loose.
In an excerpt from her new cookbook, Food, Health and Happiness, Winfrey recalls the shocking moment Rivers called her out for gaining weight during her television debut on The Tonight Show.
“It was all going smoothly; I was starting to settle in. And then it happened: Joan interrupted with perhaps the only question I hadn’t prepared for: ‘So how’d you gain the weight?’ ” Winfrey, 62, wrote. “Wait a minute — did she just use my national television debut to ask me why I was so fat? The studio started spinning. The word fat…fat…faaaaatttttt reverberated in my brain.”
“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. 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,” she continued.
At the time, Oprah wasn’t the household name she is today, but she was an up-and-coming star as the host of AM Chicago.
According to Winfrey herself, she had gained about 42 pounds since she first made headlines as the winner of Miss Black Tennessee in 1971.
After the humiliating incident on The Tonight Show, Winfrey was determined to lose at least 15 pounds by starting a new diet—the first of many diets.
Eventually, Winfrey realized that the reason she turned to food for comfort so often stemmed from the lack of unconditional love she felt as a child.
“So many of us just want to fill up on a large helping of unconditional love. When I was a girl, there wasn’t always enough of that to go around. As an adult, though, I came to realize that even when people have the time and strength to care for you, the deepest care must ultimately come from your own self-acceptance, self-respect, and hard-earned truth,” Winfrey said.
“When I feel emotionally depleted or deprived, when I’m overwhelmed by life’s pressures, food has always been my drug of choice — the way alcohol or gambling or shopping might be for someone else. But none of these are fixes. They’re all just empty promises. They don’t actually fill you up inside. They’re like junk food for the soul,” she added. “When I manage to nourish myself with the stuff that really matters, food tends to be much less complicated.”
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