Oprah Winfrey just turned 70, and she’s reflecting on the milestone in an essay that lays out just how far she’s come on her health journey.
The cultural icon shared the essay in Oprah Daily, and included thoughts on her health, as well as her weight, which has been the subject of public speculation and scrutiny for decades.
She shared that she had come across a two-page handwritten letter from her friend Gayle King that was dated April 17, 1992.
“In it she says, ‘I’m so sorry you have to go through this,’” Oprah wrote. “Based on her condolences, I think it had something to do with once again being publicly shamed about my weight. However, the ‘this’ was not clearly stated, and I can’t recall what was causing me such anguish.”
But Oprah said she’s figured out how to move past that. “What I’ve learned is that everything passes,” she said. “And if you don’t write down the specific pain or heartache, you won’t even remember it. Those of you in my age range know this to be true.”
As she explained, Oprah’s weight loss journey has been in the headlines for decades, and recently, it’s cropped back up as people have noticed her fit figure on red carpets all over Hollywood. The media mogul hasn’t been shy about crediting her recent weight loss to a holistic approach to health, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and, yes, weight loss medication.
Ahead, here’s everything she’s shared about her weight loss journey.
How did Oprah lose weight?
Oprah’s 2021 knee surgery actually jumpstarted her recent weight loss.
“After [my] knee surgery, I started hiking and setting new distance goals each week. I could eventually hike three to five miles every day and a 10-mile straight-up hike on weekends,” Oprah told PEOPLE. “I felt stronger, more fit and more alive than I’d felt in years.”
Working towards these fitness goals also helped Oprah achieve a personal goal. “In Hawaii, I live on a mountain, and there’s this big hill—I used to look out the window every morning and say, ‘God, one day I want to walk up that mountain,'” she said in her PEOPLE cover story. “Last year over Christmas I did it… It felt like redemption.”
Oprah’s also been a WeightWatchers ambassador since 2015 (she even owns 10 percent of shares in the company, and serves as a board member and advisor, the company announced back in 2015), and still uses the program to help her maintain a healthy diet. “I eat my last meal at 4 o’clock, drink a gallon of water a day, and use the WeightWatchers principles of counting points,” she told PEOPLE.
In December, Oprah shared with PEOPLE that she was close to her “goal weight” of 160 pounds, but emphasized that her journey was not about a number but rather about living a more vibrant life.
Did Oprah use weight-loss medications?
In September 2023, the multihyphenate hosted Oprah Daily’s “The State of Weight” panel. At that time, she shared that she wasn’t interested in taking weight loss medication. “Shouldn’t we all just be more accepting of whatever body you choose to be in? That should be your choice,” she said. “Even when I first started hearing about the weight loss drugs, at the same time I was going through knee surgery, and I felt, ‘I’ve got to do this on my own.’ Because if I take the drug, that’s the easy way out.'”
But in December 2023, Oprah Winfrey opened up to PEOPLE about how her perspective on weight loss medication has changed over time.
“I now use it [weight loss medication] as I feel I need it, as a tool to manage not yo-yoing,” Oprah told the publication, without naming the specific drug she takes. “The fact that there’s a medically-approved prescription for managing weight and staying healthier, in my lifetime, feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for. I’m absolutely done with the shaming from other people and particularly myself.”
But she emphasized that weight loss medication has not been a “magic bullet” in managing her weight. “It’s everything,” she said, referencing her health and fitness routine. “I know everybody thought I was on it, but I worked so damn hard. I know that if I’m not also working out and vigilant about all the other things, it doesn’t work for me.”
Oprah also shared that she took the medication before Thanksgiving “because I knew I was going to have two solid weeks of eating.” Instead of gaining eight pounds like she did last year, she gained half a pound, per the publication.
But Oprah also made it clear that everyone’s weight loss journey is different. “Whatever your choice is for your body and your weight health, it should be yours to own and not to be shamed about it,” she said.” “I’m just sick of it, and I hope this conversation begins the un-shaming of it.”
Plus, she’s also learned to let go of the shame she’s long felt about her body. “I realized I’d been blaming myself all these years for being overweight, and I have a predisposition that no amount of willpower is going to control,” Oprah told PEOPLE. “…I had an awareness of [weight loss] medications, but felt I had to prove I had the willpower to do it. I now no longer feel that way.”
Watch Oprah speak candidly about her relationship with weight and shame below:
How does Oprah exercise?
The cardio queen does more than just hiking. She told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017 that she hits her home gym soon after waking up. “I have a fantastic Octane elliptical machine that is like a power mover—you can increase the length of your stride and your arm movement,” she said. “I’ll do 20 minutes on the elliptical and 30 minutes walking on the treadmill. I start out at the Level 3 incline setting and then every minute I add to the incline until I get to 12 or 15. And then I do sit-ups.”
After getting her heart rate up, Oprah said she’ll often cool down with 10 to 20 minutes of a walking or sitting meditation.
Despite her dedication to fitness, Oprah still doesn’t love to work out.
“Here’s the thing about exercise: I still hate it so much,” she said on Today in 2020, per People. But, she added, “I still do it.”
“I think everyone’s waiting to love it,” she continued. “You’re not going to love it, but you do the thing you need to do to make yourself feel whole and well.”
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.