Yes, I know Oprah is planning a show on eating disorders

Yes, I heard.

After Oprah's new network put out notice of a planned Inside Rehab show following eating disorder patients I got a rush of emails and news alerts and the ED blogosphere and message boards lit up with Oprah's name. People wrote telling me to get on the show, and people wrote me asking how they could get on the show. Some people started protests, and others called for deeper thought on the matter.

I don't have the pull to be heard by Oprah but if I could I'd say this: "Don't do it."

Unless you are going to do the homework to understand the most recent science about this illness and evidence-based care, Oprah, please don't do this show.

By the time an article and especially a TV show topic has been assigned there is a storyline to be followed. If what you are willing to say, or they can get you to illustrate, fits into the story then you make the cut. If not, you go - not the original idea.

That is why I'm not looking forward to this show or particularly interested in helping people get on it. The promotional information already tells me all I need to know about the direction of the editing: sensationalist, about victimization and transformation, and based in residential treatment. The chance that there would be information about the biological underpinnings of the behaviors and thoughts of the patient is vanishingly remote. The work of recovery will be about insight and a life-changing moment - not the real work of eating disorder recovery which is both medical and incremental cognitive re-building. The likelihood of there being a history of abuse or neglect is high. Parents who are supportive and normal? I doubt it.

In other words, this will be entertainment and not educational. It will be alienating and not helpful.

I would walk over broken glass to get good information about eating disorders directly to Oprah and the chance to get that information to the public. Her power to change society's views is enormous and I would be happy to have access to that but the time to get that access would be before the story is already conceived.

There is power here to do good, but also power to do damage on an enormous scale as well. Don't do it.

**Good news, though. Oprah has announced she isn't going to diet any more. She realizes her issues with food are in her mind and not her weight. I'd argue with her about how to address that, but it is important that public figures stop going on public diets. Dieting is an unhealthy and futile activity and sends a terrible message to kids.


  1. I can only hope that you will be proven wrong, Laura, but I doubt highly that will happen. I am sharing so many of your comments on Facebook these days, including this one. At least my little corner of the world has been notified about "the most recent science about this illness and evidence-based care."

  2. It takes a village - of bloggers and posters and forwarders... Thank goodness for the Internet!

  3. Poor Oprah - I think she genuinely always means well with her topics, that she really wants to help people, but I don't think her plans ever quite work out.

    I agree with you. This show will only sensationalize EDs and cause a big mess of misunderstanding.

    (Even the well-known documentary THIN, which was well-praised by many, I have about a hundred problems with.)

  4. I totally, 100% agree with you on this Laura...

    For starters, I pretty much despise TV programmes like Oprah, which (un)intentionally sensationalise (and/or glamourise) people's personal difficulties.

    Why people actually agree (even desire) to feature in such programmes escapes me. All I can think is that TV = fame. Many people nowadays desire fame - and so they apply to go on reality TV shows like Big Brother, or comparably silly programmes.

    A recent small survey in the UK suggested that primary school age children's greatest desire is to win the X Factor (equivalent to American Idol). I may sound like an 'old fart', but I do wonder what has happened to our society. Having said that, I do watch the X Factor for entertainment, so maybe I'm a hypocrite...


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