An Open Letter to Oprah

Bravo! Your $43 million investment in Weight Watchers last October is a watershed event in the arduous, and often frustrating, modern history of dieting.

An Open Letter to Oprah Featured
A new use case for the “Oprah Effect.”

President, Harpo Productions Inc.
1058 W Washington Blvd
Chicago, IL 60607

Dear Oprah:


Your $43 million investment in Weight Watchers last October is a watershed event in the arduous, and often frustrating, modern history of dieting. It was widely reported that you had shed 15 pounds on the diet, and were so grateful that Weight Watchers had given you the “tools to begin to make a lasting shift” to a thinner and healthier lifestyle, that you stepped up to the plate (no pun intended) and purchased 10% of the company.

Everything you touch seems to turn to gold—and few companies needed the “Oprah Effect” more than Weight Watchers. As you know, along with its declining membership—the stock tanked big-time, tumbling from $29.70 to $3.67 in a recent 52-week period. But the moment your involvement with Weight Watchers was announced—from sitting on the company’s board of directors, to endorsing and promoting the diet— the stock more than doubled within a few hours, closing at $13.92, and kept on climbing in the following weeks.

C’mon, Oprah, ‘fess up. You had to know the stock would likely soar when news broke of your endorsement. Hey, that’s fine by me. You’ve worked hard to build your brand, and you put your money where your mouth is—$43 million! What’s more, I have to believe you sincerely want to help the countless folks who struggle with their weight. There’s no denying you feel their pain. Your own epic weight battles have made headlines, and even inspired that infamous moment in television history. I’m talking about the time you lost 67 pounds, and then to highlight your triumph, you wheeled out 67 pounds of solid fat on your show.

My own weight loss history isn’t nearly as dramatic as yours, but I’ve got a story you’ll appreciate. I dropped some 30 pounds on Weight Watchers. I’ve always been in pretty good shape. For most of my adult life, I’ve been running as much as 15 to 20 miles a week. I would diet simply to look better in jeans or a suit. And through the years, I’d tried ‘em all—Atkins, Zone, South Beach. Then five years ago, when my wife’s doctor expressed concern about her blood pressure and cholesterol level, we decided to diet together and see where Weight Watchers got us. Well, many lost lbs. later, it got us a lot healthier and fitter. And to this day, we’ve managed to control our weight using the lessons we learned on the diet.

I don’t have to tell you, Oprah, that there’s no better time than now—in the wake of stuffing our faces on Christmas and New Years and all the days and nights in between—to begin a diet. Donna and I started our Weight Watchers program during the very same post-holiday month of January. By the way, I was aiming to lose 10 pounds, figuring that would be hard enough. When I lost the weight so painlessly, I kept at it. It took me only a few more months to drop another 20 pounds, and I didn’t sweat it. I even enjoyed a three-ounce martini and eight ounces of wine each night with dinner. And on some occasions, I allowed myself a more generous pour. Is this a great way to diet or what?

Anyway, Oprah, I’m hoping you’ll reach out to men as well as women. Like the guys who read Five O’Clock Magazine. And the guys who write for it. Like me. Check it out. It’s chock-full of essays about active lifestyles, health and fitness, grooming, etiquette, social responsibility… the sort of subjects that spark your interest.

It goes without saying that you’ve got terrific communication skills. I’d bet the mortgage you can inspire Five O’Clock’s heavily-male audience. So, here’s my pitch: I’m thinking that you might like to write an essay for Five O’Clock? Maybe use your vaunted powers of persuasion to get this special group of men on board with eating better and on the road to a healthier lifestyle?

You can tell them about Weight Watchers Points Plus system, and how the foods you eat have point values based on a mix of protein, fiber, carbs, and fat. Assure them that while the diet may focus on fruits and vegetables, there’s plenty of lean meats and chicken and fish to choose from. Let them know they can pretty much eat anything they want as long as it’s in moderation, and don’t exceed their daily point total. Don’t forget to mention that they’re rewarded with extra points depending on their level of activity. For example, I racked up an additional eight points on days when I jogged 40 minutes. Which meant I could add another shot of vodka to my martini, or eat a few more ounces of steak, or maybe treat myself to a piece of cake.

One more thing, you should make a point of noting that they’re not required to attend any meetings or join a support group to get with the program. Many might prefer the plan that Weight Watchers offers on its website, where they’ll find all the tips and tools they’ll need to get back into fighting shape.

Well, Oprah, what do you say? I’m sure the magazine’s editor would be thrilled to count you among their writers.


Peter Bonventre