America (and quite possibly the world) has been watching your private battle of the bulge for the last 20 years, and we feel your pain. Having battled an eating disorder myself (along with other addictions), I understand what you're going through. Now, as a health & wellness educator, I often work with people who are going through hard times with their weight. So I hope you'll forgive my presumption here and allow me to offer a few words of advice.
But before that, let me say how much I appreciate the way in which you share your private journey on such a public stage. When celebrities are willing to show their weaknesses, it makes it much easier for the rest of us to admit we may have the same problem and to take the necessary steps to heal. So thank you for courage.
I know you plan a mea culpa address on January 5th on The Oprah Winfrey Show to kick off Best Life Week. Please stop apologizing for your inability to keep off the weight you lost through the drastic liquid diet that helped you shed 60 pounds. You've gained back 40 of those pounds, but it's nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. You don't have to be mad at yourself for "falling off the wagon." Addictions are impossible to heal when you haven't fully addressed the original wounds that created the addiction in the first place.
Because you have shared your story with the public, I feel safe in observing that the trauma you experienced as a child growing up in Mississippi, moving a lot and shuffling between households, and being sexually abused by your uncle, cousin, and a family friend all left deep scars. Becoming pregnant at fourteen and having your son die shortly after birth was an enormous emotional burden to bear at such a young age. As you have said in the past, "I've felt safer and more protected when I was heavy. Food has always been comforting."
More nutrition and/or exercise gurus won't help you get to the root of the problem. It's important to remember that the power to heal the original wound that created this behavior and the power to heal the emotional pain lies only within you. The abuse you lived through as a child left you with a deep well of shame. In my healing work, I would call this a distortion of the second chakra, the energy center most related to substance abuse and addiction. If the healthy flow of energy is blocked in the second chakra, we can develop poor boundaries with others and within ourselves. The second chakra also governs how we find pleasure.
When you are unhappy, not feeling good, you go back to food.
You are an educated woman, a brave woman who brought sexual abuse out in the open in many of your shows, but you have not yet dispelled all the lingering shame from the early abuse. It's that place that can get triggered. Look at what happened around the time you started to pack the pounds back on. Did it coincide with the awful abuse scandal at your girls' leadership school in Africa? When you went racing to Africa to deal with the situation, you apologized to the pupils and parents at the school "I've disappointed you. I'm' sorry. I'm so sorry." As if their abuse was your personal shame.
"I was, needless to say, devastated and really shaken to my core when I first heard this news," Winfrey said. Young girls being shamed and abused in a place you had established as a safe haven for them would have brought up all the past demons of your life, and triggered your shame. Food would have been the natural way to self-medicate from the pain of the reopened early childhood wounds.
As we get older, the emotional pain and traumatic experiences that we have buried deep within come back to haunt us -- frequently as physical problems. Thyroid conditions are rampant among women because most women never vocalize the shame and pain of their lives. Here you are, possibly the most vocal women on the planet today, who has spoken out often about abuse and acted swiftly to fix the situation in Africa, and yet there are still things you can't say -- even to yourself.
Thyroid problems relate to the fifth chakra, the energy center located at the throat, and are commonly connected to blockages in the second chakra. Accessing and releasing the buried shame would not be hard for you with a little help. You have become so much more conscious over the years, and so much more aware of the way the dots connect between emotions and physical difficulties.
When you go back to food for comfort, it is a sign for you that your energy field is out of balance. You speak of balance in O magazine, and external balance between work and the rest of our lives is important, no doubt. But, first and foremost, the balance of our own energy field is vital if we are to be healthy and happy.
Let's also acknowledge the difficulty inherent in being a food addict. Those addicted to booze or cigarettes or drugs can live without those substances, but we need to eat in order to live. And as we addicts know, a little something often leads to a lot more of that something. And we don't have the option of staying away from food altogether.
Many people are not willing or able to look inside and see the reason they are starving or stuffing their bodies. They are trying to stave off the hurt and the pain without confronting and releasing it. Far more powerful than fitting into size 10 Calvin Klein jeans is the feeling that you don't ever have to be ashamed of what happened to you. Shame is such a dense energy. Children wear shame as if it belongs to them. The longer they carry that trance of shame into adulthood, they will unconsciously find ways of shaming themselves over and over again. "I was talking the talk, but I wasn't walking the walk. And that was very disappointing to me," is said by someone who still feels the shame of her lost little girl.
You are walking the walk. It just isn't a straight path. Our life challenges spiral back around again and again so we can face them from a slightly more conscious place each time. You are a brave lady for putting it front and center so all those who watch you can be inspired to take on their own demons. You're a warrior in the cause of self-improvement!
Find a beautiful dress for the inauguration and go with your head held high, your heart full of hope for a better world that you are instrumental in creating. Whatever your size, you will always loom large in minds and hearts of us all. When you finally wipe away the remnants of old shame, the pounds will melt away!