© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

After nearly a decade, Oprah Winfrey is set to depart the board of WeightWatchers

Oprah Winfrey, pictured in January, said she will donate her stake in WeightWatchers and proceeds from any future stock options to the National Museum of African American History and Culture upon her departure from the company's board of directors.
Chris Pizzello
/
AP
Oprah Winfrey, pictured in January, said she will donate her stake in WeightWatchers and proceeds from any future stock options to the National Museum of African American History and Culture upon her departure from the company's board of directors.

Oprah Winfrey plans on leaving WeightWatchers' board of directors after nearly a decade, amid the diet company's waning profits and public support.

WW International, Inc., announced on Wednesday that the billionaire decided not to stand for reelection at its next shareholder meeting in May. Winfrey, who joined the board in 2015, owns 1.13 million shares in the weight loss company, according to Reuters.

"I look forward to continuing to advise and collaborate with WeightWatchers and CEO Sima Sistani in elevating the conversation around recognizing obesity as a chronic condition, working to reduce stigma, and advocating for health equity," Winfrey said in a statement.

The entertainment mogul added that she intends "to participate in a number of public forums and events where I will be a vocal advocate in advancing this conversation."

WeightWatchers shares fell precipitously after the announcement, dropping around 25% in early trading on Thursday. The company has been facing steadily declining stock prices so far this yearas medications like Ozempic and Wegovy, which help manage blood sugar and boost weight loss, have soared in popularity.

Board chairman Thilo Semmelbauer thanked Winfrey for her role in shaping the company over the last eight years, saying that she has been "an inspiring presence and passionate advocate" for members.

Winfrey said she will donate her stake in WeightWatchers and proceeds from any future stock options to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The remaining nine board members said they support Winfrey's charitable decision and that it serves "to eliminate any perceived conflict of interest around her taking weight loss medications."

Winfrey came under scrutiny after revealing in December that she has been using medication to lose and maintain her weight. Winfrey said the drug "feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift."

"I'm absolutely done with the shaming from other people and particularly myself," Winfrey told People magazine.

Reflecting on her very public weight loss journey — and the cruel ridicule it sometimes drew — the 70-year-old said that it "occupied five decades of space in my brain, yo-yoing and feeling like why can't I just conquer this thing, believing willpower was my failing,"

Around the same time as Winfrey's exclusive interview with People, WeightWatchers unveiledthe rollout of WeightWatchers Clinic, which gives members access to doctors who can prescribe weight loss medications, including Wegovy and Zepbound. The services were made possible after WW's acquisition of a telehealth company called Sequence last spring.

The move to embrace the drugs as part of its weight management program is a massive shift for the company's behavior-based program. For 60 years, WeightWatchers coaches have told members that the path to a thinner, healthier version of themselves consisted of exercise, counting calories, points — and, perhaps most of all, willpower.

That reversal has left many current and former members struggling with their own weight feeling betrayed.

When asked if that advice was wrong, the company's CEO Sistani told NPR, "Yes, that advice was wrong."

Telling people that it was a "choice, not chance" was detrimental to people, she added.

"And ultimately, for every one person that we helped, there was one person who our program did not work for because they were dealing with a chronic relapsing condition, with biology and genetics and environmental underpinnings. So, in order for us to reintroduce ourselves, we need to acknowledge the part that we had in the past," Sistani said.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.

Enjoying stories like this?

Donate to help keep public radio strong across Wyoming.

Related Content