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Memo Pad: Oprah Opens Up About Falling Down

Oprah Winfrey discusses her recent weight gain and her life.

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OPRAH OPENS UP ABOUT FALLING DOWN: “It’s unique,” said Susan Reed of her new gig as editor of O, The Oprah Magazine. Reed, the former editor of Golf For Women, took over in July for Amy Gross, who retired this summer. But don’t expect Reed to make major changes at the 2.4 million circulation magazine. For one, Oprah Winfrey, the magazine’s namesake, will continue to be on the covers each month for the foreseeable future, despite reports to the contrary, said Reed. But readers might start seeing more of Oprah, as she finally opens up about her recent weight gain in a eight-page package in the January issue that has the cover headline, “How Did I Let This Happen Again?”

The media entrepreneur has endured a public struggle to maintain her weight, in the past discussing her many approaches to diet and exercise on her television show and in the magazine. While Winfrey writes the opening and closing essays for the title in each issue, she uses more ink in the January one to deconstruct how and why she has gained 40 pounds in four years, reaching 200 pounds. She doesn’t hold back, admitting in headline-sized type: “I’m mad at myself. I’m embarrassed.”

She goes on to write, “I didn’t just fall of the wagon. I let the wagon fall on me.”

Winfrey informed Reed and her team back in September that “I know what the January cover is going to be.” It happens to recycle an idea — Winfrey posed in January 2005 when she was at a healthy 160 pounds, in her workout clothes and in a slim-fitting evening gown. “I want to repeat the cover with who I am now and what my story is,” Winfrey told Reed.

Of the challenges that led to the weight gain, “this past year, I took myself off of my own priority list. I wasn’t just low on the list, I wasn’t even on the list.” Winfrey writes in the issue. The media mogul also suffered from thyroid conditions that eventually slowed her metabolism. After missing meditation and workout sessions and not eating right, the weight creeped on. During the year, Winfrey felt so troubled by her weight gain that she didn’t shoot any full-body covers of herself, only allowing headshots or poses that hid her body. (Perhaps readers would have been more accepting had she shown all of herself: for the first half of the year, circulation has remained flat, but newsstand sales fell 17 percent, to 734,000 issues a month on average, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.)

For Winfrey, the message to readers isn’t about losing weight, “it’s losing and regaining control of your life,” said Reed. And to expand upon that theme, Winfrey’s story will serve as the foundation of a weeklong series on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” beginning Jan. 5 — “Oprah’s Best Life Week,” which will take viewers through five days of advice on health, spirit, money and relationships to guide them through the new year, with additional wellness info on oprah.com (Reed said more interplay between the magazine and the TV show will occur in issues going forward, and is already at work on a package based on a piece in the February one).

Aside from that, little will change in the magazine, which Reed says already helps ease a consumer looking for an escape from the country’s economic troubles. “We’re able to talk about spiritual improvement and able to celebrate the things we love in our lives, like shoes and stationery,” said Reed. “When you see a lot of people scrambling to get on message with the times, I’m not sure we will need to change much of anything.” — Stephanie D. Smith

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