Oprah’s Issues with Food Are Rooted in Her Grandmother’s Whippings


I’ve been watching Oprah since day one ~ way back when she replaced Rob Weller as the host of A.M. Chicago ~ way before there was an international Oprah show or magazine or OWN. 

I was shocked to discover yesterday afternoon that her infamous eating disorder/food addiciton is rooted in being whipped by her grandmother.  It was a repeat of her show with Geneen Roth, author of the best-selling Women, Food, and God.


Disease to Please

Oprah has talked candidly about her struggles with the disease to please.  A lot of us have issues saying “no.”  She described the anxiety she experiences each time she has to say “no:”

What will they think?

Why am I feeling this anxiety?

What I was really feeling is everytime I have ever been beaten by my grandmother.  A lot of people were raised like I was raised.  You not only got the whipping, but at the end of the whipping you were not allowed to say “that hurt.”  I was whipped like you were whipped.

Then she would say, “take that pout out of your lips.”  You better not act like you’re upset.  You better shut your mouth and not remind me that I just whipped you.

Power to Annihilate

Oprah went on to explain how her grandmother’s power to annihilate her resurfaces:

What I recognized as I am stuffing myself [with food] is I still have that feeling if I don’t do what pleases the other person, then somehow that person has the power to annihilate me.  It’s not just punish me.  My little girl’s mind still feels that if I don’t do what you say and I don’t make you feel OK by operating the way you want me to operate, I’m somehow going to be destroyed.

As “powerful” as I am in the world, that feeling is still there.  That’s what eating the lettuce or the chips or the lasagna is really all about.

The pain and anxiety I am feeling about the phone call isn’t really about the phone call.  It’s about bringing up all the stuff that you were taught.

When you are a little girl feeling those feelings, you had to protect yourself by taking that position.  The thing to understand now is you will never be that small again.  That pain is done.  It’s over.  You are old enough to take care of yourself.

The Whipping Ends ~ the Conditioning Remains

Like most abuse survivors, Oprah learned to wear a mask.  She’s one of the most powerful people on the planet, but even she can become unglued when something triggers a flashback to her grandmother’s whippings.  Her grandmother passed away a long time ago, but the brutal beatings still take place in Oprah’s subconscious mind.

It doesn’t matter if someone whipped you with hands or switches or words.  The power and control that person has over our welfare conditions us.  It rewires our brains and causes our brains to short-circuit whenever the trigger is tripped.

Underneath her mask, Oprah still grieves for the unconditional love, nurturing, and support she should have gotten from her grandmother.  This is the root of her food addiction.  She’s still punishing herself as if her grandmother was in the room ready to whip her.

Replace the Tapes

Conditioning is the tape that plays in our head automatically ~ the voice of the person who abused us still playing in our heads.

It is important for us to identify those tapes because they sabotage our success.  Then, we need to delete those tapes and replace them with loving messages ~ the messages we should have gotten ~ the messages the wounded child inside us desperately needs to hear.

What do you say to someone you cherish?  I’m guessing the tone of voice you use is tender and your words nurture and support. 

The next time you pass a mirror, look deeply into your eyes and say with feeling, “I love you.  You are a very special person.”  It will feel awkward at first.  You may instantly lapse into self-criticism.  Stop yourself and repeat, “I love you.”  It felt like a stupid thing to do until I noticed one day that my stomach was flatter.  I’d lost 1 1/2 inches around my middle without dieting or exercising!

4 responses to “Oprah’s Issues with Food Are Rooted in Her Grandmother’s Whippings

  1. Pingback: Mental Disorders 101·

  2. What fascinated me about this revelation is that with all Oprah’s been through and everything she has put out there about her own life experiences, this is the first time she talked about being beaten. I missed the show, so I was happy to find this clear summary that seems to have captured the major quotes. Thanks for putting it together!

  3. Thanks, Sarah. I actually missed it the first time the show aired ~ watched the show ~ was multi-tasking and not paying total attention.

    Then, I happened to catch the repeat and heard the tail end of what Oprah said. So, I taped the show when it was rebroadcast later that night.

    I have been watching Oprah since day one ~ I’m one of those Ultimate Viewers ~ have a couple of T-shirts and several books from her ~ have been in her audience many times. I have never, ever heard her talk about being beaten. It was an OMG moment. . .everything makes sense now. Since I had taped the show, I was able to take copious notes.

    Hope you come back to visit again soon. Love your blog! Y’all are great writers!

    Sending hugs,
    Anne Caroline

  4. Pingback: Oprah Sells Out Her Granma! « Anna Renee is Still Talking·

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