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WeightWatchers CEO apologizes to body positivity influencer after Oprah special on weight loss drugs

The CEO of WW, the weight loss company also known as WeightWatchers, apologized to a body positivity advocate for the company’s role in contributing to ‘toxic’ diet culture in the past.

On Wednesday, WW CEO Sima Sistani posted an Instagram story video directly addressing influencer Katie Sturino, author of “Body Talk: How to Embrace Your Body and Start Living Your Best Life” and founder of Megababe Beauty.

Sturino, who has built a following of more than 802,000 on Instagram, had posted her ‘unfiltered thoughts’ about “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution,’ which aired on ABC on Monday. Oprah Winfrey, who served as a member of the WW board for almost a decade, used the program to discuss the impact of anti-obesity medications after confirming in December that she takes one herself.

Sistani, who has served as WW’s CEO since 2022, was among those present for the special’s taping. The company announced last year that it would offer prescription weight-loss drugs and launched a new membership plan for members taking GLP-1 prescriptions drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy.

“Speaking of WeightWatchers, they had the CEO of WeightWatchers on the program for like 30 seconds last night and she got so close to apologizing on behalf of WeightWatchers,” Sturino said in her video. “She got so close to saying, ‘We really got this wrong and we’re sorry for saying it was just willpower, or that like one body is worse than the other, and we’re sorry for all the toxic things we put into diet culture.’”

Sistani said that she saw Sturino’s message and ‘couldn’t stop thinking about what she posted,’ which she described as ‘a really brave discussion about Oprah’s special on ABC.’

“And she noted that I participated and that I came this close to apologizing,’ Sistani said. ‘Katie, I want you to know I am sorry.”

‘Part of that is acknowledging the past where we played any part in the shame that people carry with them, and, so, Katie, thank you for engaging in this discussion so productively,’ she added.

She also addressed ‘every Katie whose out there who hasn’t heard this message,’ saying ‘it is important for me that you hear it because we can only start to hope for advocacy and health equity when we address our internalized bias.”

During Winfrey’s special, Sistani was asked to discuss WW’s past. She said the company previously focused on behaviors, but didn’t take into account the role biology plays for some people when it comes to weight loss.

“For all those people who took on the behavior change, some of them walked away without the success,” Sistani said during the special. “And to those people, I want to say it’s not your fault.”

In a Zoom interview with NBC News on Thursday, Sturino said that she was ‘completely shocked’ by the apology, but called it ‘a really powerful thing.’

Nothing about this conversation is perfect, but at least we’re trying to have it in a civil way, because it’s a really complicated conversation — the topics of weight loss, drugs, and diet culture.

-katie sturino, in a zoom interview with nbc news

‘I just feel so grateful that I am in this position, especially because there’s been so much conversation about how body positivity is over and how this is just the Ozempic age and it’s all about being thin,’ she said. ‘I feel so good to be able to engage with someone like WeightWatchers and then bring relief, a slight relief, to so many people together.’

In regard to conversations surrounding weight loss that are happening across platforms right now, Sturino said ‘there’s a lot of power in being vulnerable right now on the internet.’

‘Nothing about this conversation is perfect, but at least we’re trying to have it in a civil way, because it’s a really complicated conversation — the topics of weight loss, drugs, and diet culture,’ she said.

Sturino also shared her emotional reaction to Sistani’s apology in an Instagram video Thursday.

“Does this make up for all of the damage done? No. But to me, it felt like a real win for our community,” Sturino wrote in the caption. “Acknowledgment I don’t think I ever thought would come.”

A spokesperson for Winfrey and a spokesperson for WW did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Winfrey, who has been open about her weight loss journey for decades, announced in February that she would leave the board of directors of WW.

During her one-hour program, Winfrey got emotional when sharing that she “starved” herself on a ‘liquid diet’ for five months before she showcased a wagon of fat on her talk show in 1988.

The mogul elaborated on why she wanted to tackle a special on weight loss drugs while chatting with Gayle King and Charles Barkley on CNN’s “King Charles.’

“If you feel like being in a bigger body is great, and you don’t want to do anything about that, and you feel fine, that is beautiful. I really admire people who really believe that,” Winfrey said. “Whatever works for you. One of the reasons I wanted to do [the special] is [to] let people make their own choices for their health and well-being.”

This post appeared first on NBC NEWS

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