I was standing on the front porch of my new home in California, the one I've worked on for three years as a gift to myself. I was looking at the mountains folding over on themselves and my yard filled with oak, pine, and redwood trees, thinking how this property is really graced by God, a promised land, and I suddenly said to myself: I do not want to be an unhealthy fat person standing in the doorway of this beautiful house.
That's when everything really clicked.
I'm not struggling anymore. I've lifted the veil. Because when you're wrestling with your weight and not being the person you know you can be, you are living behind a veil. And every person who is buried in fat knows that. When I turned 50 a year ago January, I made a vow to myself that I would live only in the space of moving forward. I wasn't feeling my biological clock ticking; what I felt was my life clock chiming, "Is that all there is?" The answer is, no! There's always more—you just have to open yourself to the possibility of being transformed by it all.
So after many years of my weight going up and down—of saying on Monday "I'm going to do it" and by Wednesday failing—I realized that the commitment to do well and to be well is a lifetime of choices that you make daily. The space to live in is not "I'll try." Not "I want to." Not "I really want to." It's "I have decided."
Oprah Makes the Commitment continues... A Spiritual Awakening
I've known all of this intellectually for a while, but last year the click came as an emotional and spiritual awakening.
Now I live straight through the center of myself, which means telling the truth about everything. No more games. Every day I make the choice to live as well as I possibly can. And that starts with exercise. I do not have the genetics or the body type to function without it. So I stopped vacillating between "Maybe I'll work out" and "Maybe I'll take the day off." I do it the way I bathe. And guess what: I do not hate it anymore. Don't get me wrong—you won't see me jumping up and down going, "Oh, jeez, exercise is great," but I no longer dread it. And that is nothing less than a revolution.
I do at least 30 minutes of aerobics a day, regardless, and when I'm feeling especially sassy—Tina's pumping on the stereo, or Stevie Wonder—I can do up to 45 minutes. I call it a Party for One. Instead of Oh God, this is so hard (because that just negates the whole process of trying to move forward), I tell myself, I have the incline up as high as it will go—I can't believe it! Three days a week I add resistance training. I also started doing Pilates two to three times a week—this is mostly a spiritual act for me. I use the Pilates principles of moving out from the center, awareness, harmony, balance, and control to help me embody where I'm going with my life. The benefit is that you end up walking taller, feeling stronger, and looking leaner; but if you're doing it just for those reasons, you'll get frustrated because the process is very slow.
Oprah Makes the Commitment continues... The Role of Food
With food, what works for me is treating refined and processed carbohydrates as though they are poison. I've given myself four to six times a year when I'm allowed to indulge. And you can bet, next Christmas morning I'll be having my Williams-Sonoma croissant—you know the frozen ones they ship to your door, and when you heat them up the whole house smells like bread? The difference is, the year before last, I took an entire tray of those croissants on the plane to South Africa, and we ate them all the way to Sweden. I'm no physician, but I know that the more sugar you consume, the more your body wants. You think your craving is a lack of willpower, but what you've really got is a chemical imbalance.
The biggest imbalance for many of us, though, is in the amount of thought we devote to food and weight. If I could add up the time I've spent worrying about what I just ate and what I shouldn't have just eaten, feeling guilty about it, and getting down on myself about why I'm not where I want to be, it would probably be several years of my life. And you can't get those years back.
I am not wasting any more time. And by no longer dwelling on all of these negative thoughts, I have opened up a whole new energy field for myself. It's amazing. I feel as if I'm living on a higher frequency, a stronger, brighter charge. The voltage got turned up. People stop me all the time and ask, "What have you done to look so different?" This is the answer.
I've also stopped seeing every big occasion as a license to eat. I used to go to parties thinking, Oh boy, I hope they have good hors d'oeuvres. Now I wonder who might be interesting to meet there. And I've changed my behavior to avoid what are food triggers for me. Before, I'd get home, put down my purse, and go straight to the refrigerator. Now, I come in the door, put down my purse, and head for the bedroom to change into my pajamas—those five minutes get me past the fridge impulse. Same thing at work: I'd come up the stairs, go into my little room, and think, I've got to eat some potato chips because I just finished the show and I deserve it. Now I walk all the way around the other side of the building to get to my office, so I break the pattern.
The real key for me is to decide before a meal or an event what I'm going to eat—and if I do have some dessert, I just move on. One piece of anything isn't going to kill you; it's the seconds and thirds and fourths that become a problem. At my own 50th birthday celebration, I made a choice not to have a piece of the incredible cake everybody saw on the show. I appreciated the love that went into that cake. And it sure was pretty. But I did not have any. I didn't even think about it. And to go, "You're not going to eat the cake" and stick to it...what can I say? It felt absolutely fabulous.
Oprah Makes the Commitment continues... Reaching the Goal
I still want to lose ten pounds, though, maybe 12. I'm a size 10, 5'6½, and 163 pounds (the tabloids have said 140, but I haven't been that low since seventh grade, okay?). My goal is to get into the "safe zone"—where I'm not just a meal or vacation away from slipping to the other side and having to fight my way back. For me that's in the 150s. I don't have an exact number, but I'll know it when I get there.
To do this, I decided to start my own personal three-month boot camp. Riffing off my trainer, Bob Greene, and his new book, Total Body Makeover, I've put together an eating and exercise plan based on what I've found to work. And for extra motivation, I've asked four people at Harpo—all of whom I've seen struggling—to do it with me. I've been so psychologically shackled by my weight for most of my adult life, I view my ability to help others break free as a part of what I'm supposed to do. When you learn, you teach. Here's what I have to tell you: There's no easy way out. If there were, I would have bought it. And believe me, it would be one of my favorite things!
The first thing I told my team was, "I want you to think about why you're overweight. But let me save you a lot of time: The reason you're fat is that you give more to other people than you give to yourself, because you don't feel you're worth it." The bottom line is, you cannot lose weight until you make yourself enough of a priority to do the things you need to do to make it happen. People always say, "I'm too busy to exercise," "I have to be there for the kids," "I've got too much work." You know what? These are little lies you're telling yourself, and they go against the laws of self-preservation, because the more whole and healthy you are, the more fully you can give to other people. And that's the truth. I'm not asking anyone to abandon her children. I'm just saying: Put yourself at the top of the list so you can treat your body with as much care and respect as you'd give to someone else's—and when anyone needs something from you, you will be operating from a full cup.
I'm so pleased to be living from a full cup instead of a half-empty one—and kicking it up as I go. As I celebrate my 51st birthday, I want to assure you, getting older is not the end. It's the beginning of my life deepening to a level I had never even imagined was there.