Oprah, raw food, and parenting (part 1 of 2)

When my girls and I were on our way to California for me to teach classes in San Diego and Fullerton recently (see photo below of the Fullerton class at BellySprout), one of my daughters brought Oprah up. “Mom,” she said, “Oprah is really amazing and accomplishes so much. But she keeps gaining weight. She loses it, but then she gains it all back again. Why is that?”

We puzzled over it as we drove and I realized something very important related to the Introduction to 12 Steps to Whole Foods where I address parenting children to eat well at some length.

That is, we tend to go back to what we learned as children. Oprah can avoid ever spending time in her kitchen and can dictate exactly what she wants to eat, because she’s been rich enough to pay a full-time cook for many years. So the #1 and #2 reasons I’m given to avoid shifting to a high-raw, plant-based diet don’t even apply to her. Those are (1) “I don’t have time to cook” and (2) “I can’t afford to eat right.”

But she was powerfully influenced by the Southern U.S. diet she was raised with: fried everything and lots of animal protein. Even having tremendous advantages of money and a hired help hasn’t been able to overcome that programming!

So it is with us. Let’s look at the positive side of that. If we raise our children to eat mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, they certainly may stray. (I did for the first half of my 20’s, and you can read my story on the site.) But our children will always have the positive associations that came with eating according to correct principles throughout their childhood. (If you start now despite your children being half-raised, that’s still so much better than NEVER providing those learning opportunities.)

For me, the positive associations weren’t about those healthy foods I was raised with being comforting–my mother wasn’t a “food is love” person like some moms. She spent minimal time in food prep, wasn’t a good cook by anyone’s standards, and didn’t bother with artful presentation.

But I learned that I had energy and a positive mood, avoided illness, and stayed at an ideal weight back then when she fed us lots of raw fruits and vegs and legume/whole grain main dishes–and dessert only rarely, made with whole wheat and the sugar/butter cut in half. I feel sorry for people who never learned that in their childhood as I did! And so, after deviating for a number of years and not liking how I felt or looked, I came back to the “straight and narrow path” of eating simple, whole, plant foods. It’s a lot easier to RETURN to it than it is to INVENT it from scratch as an adult.

audience in Fullerton CA

37 thoughts on “Oprah, raw food, and parenting (part 1 of 2)

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  1. excellent comment on your part…sadly on Oprah’s part is that she really does not love herself enough to maximize her health…money really cannot buy happiness, it has to come from within…we are all the sum of our past experiences, and unless we go back and challenge the destructive experiences, they will rule our subconscious and how we act…changing one habit or subconscious influence takes 6-9 months of concentrated effort…but with proper nutrition from green smoothie girl, all else is possible….

    thank you for my additional lifetime healthy days….john kelly

  2. I think teaching our children good food habits is a great idea as long as we don’t force hyper vigillence onto them. To give teens the all the information we can about the benefits and risks of choices and then let them choose for themselves seems an ideal approach.

    And I think the view points expressed about why Oprah struggles may be

    over generalized. The emotional weight she carries from abuse as a 9 year old is a heavy burden that people use various things to cope with, including food. Even eating all raw one can still overeat to numb pain. For more information on this subject check out the list of coping mechanisms presented in the book “The Betrayal Bond” by Patrick Carnes.

  3. Thank you for posting this interesting blog. I have been a wholefood vegan for five years and easily regained a youthful figure despite being in my late fifties! My experience (and that of other vegans I know) is that the biggest factors in effortless weightloss is a) cutting out animal products and b) eradicating parasites. I believe that people who put on unwanted weight do so because their bodies are seeking proper nutrition and this is impossible to do on a ‘modern’ diet and with a ton of parasites inside that also need to be fed! Once properly nourished, the body stops craving sugary and fatty foods. Love Carmela

  4. Ah… the straight and narrow path… I’m getting there. I’ve been doing a green smoothie just about everyday. Got my Blendtec. Eating way less meat… which I didn’t seem to like much anymore any ways. Making progress. Now I need to hit the gym more. Thanks for the blog… always a good refresher!

  5. I heard there are some vegetarians with signs of obesity, even raw foodists. Victoria Boutenko is right example. I just want to say it’s not that simple.

  6. As the mom of two kids, who are now healthy teens (16 & 20), I taught them from an early age about food and nutrition. When my son was little, I knew he couldn’t eat dairy and sugar without having problems, i.e. ear infections, coughs, etc. Whenever he would eat these ‘foods’ and get sick, he knew that it was the ‘food’ that caused it and he gradually learned how to avoid them. He is now 16 and rarely eats dairy & sugar. At 6’2″ and 170#, he is healthy, beautiful and bright. My daughter also learned about healthy eating and has a propensity towards eating carbs and sweets. She knows avoiding these foods would help her shed 10-15#, however, this is her choice and she knows fully well the benefits of limiting these items. She is at college and there are many temptations, but she does her best. She eats organics and healthy when she’s at home.

    When she was 8 yrs old, she came home in tears one day from school and said that the other girls had teased her about her lunch. I had packed her a whole-grain sandwich w/organic meat, veggies, fruit and water. She said the other girls had white bread, candy, pop, etc. for lunch. They made fun of her lunch and she held her own, but burst into tears when she got home. She said, ‘mom, I know that you really care about me, and that’s why you make me healthy lunches.’ It was a very impressionable moment and she has never forgotten it. Her choices are usually healthy and she still drinks water, not pop, no aspartame, no junk, except occasionally, and then she pays the price w/her face breaking out and weight gain.

    Even if you think your kids aren’t listening, they learn by example and you owe it to them and yourself to be the healthiest person possible.

  7. You completely disregarded the long-lasting emotional effects of childhood sexual abuse and incest. She has a lot more factors raging in her mind in relation to her appearance and sense of self-worth. Even if she has overcome it “mentally”, emotionally it is a massive, life-long burden.

    Many many many survivors of incest wear weight as a protective layer.

  8. I was raised in a large disfuctional family. A typical meal consisted of some form of meat, generally canned veggies that were boiled when cooked, and for a good many meals…instant potatoes. Nutrition was something that my mother thought she was an expert on!

    Once I was old enough to live on my own, I was lucky enough to discovered a true passion for raw foods! The problem was I did not know how to cook, and I believed I was a failure in the kitchen.

    Yes I have learned to cook some hot meals, but now that my children are ready to leave home I find that I can not force myself to make hot meals any more. A mean salad or a flavourful green smoothie is all my husband can seem to get from me these days!!!! I am hopelessly in love with raw food!

  9. I was raised by a mother who kept our meal simple, too. We had canned fruit for dessert, or jello. We raised a garden, canned tomatoes. Always ate vegetables and a big salad with small servings of animal protein. The switch to raw is a challenge, but doable for me. Dumping those foods containing corn sweetner and artificial stuff feels so good. You’re right. It’s much easier to go back to something than break all new ground.

  10. Robyn, the statement you made, “That is, we tend to go back to what we learned as children.”, reminds me of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

    As a child, I too was fed lots of fruit,vegetables, legumes, etc… So as an adult, those are the foods I LOVE eating!

    The green smoothies are a wonderfully delicious addition to the equation!

    Thanks a million!

  11. Very astute observation. Thank you for the insights. Thank you too for your courage and commitment to stand up for your beliefs even if they are contrary to popular opinion. You are at the pointy end of an anarchic revolution that is the only hope for humanity’s continuing survival and future growth.

    May I humbly share a perspective that could help us understand the powerful forces that have created the Oprah effect.

    What is important here is the underlying farmework that allowed intelligent people to make what can now be seen as very silly choices over the most important facets of our lives. For over 500 years as the Euro centric civilizations took control of the world, they used their technological military superiority to convince the people of the earth that their “science” had all the answers and that any other wisdom of the time was junk.

    So all over the world, people succumbed to the dictates of the colonial masters, who destroyed all wisdom in order to implement their own ego centric will. The most crucial area they influenced in this respect was food and consequently health. Why? Because it made the people of the world dependent on the “answers” that were being provided by the dominant nations, namely wheat, fertiliser, agrochemicals, drugs and hospital systems.

    There is a social consciousness that has grown around this which influences the minds of all of us at a subconscious level. Mantras such as “Meat is essential”, “Coke is it”, “Maccas”, “Daily bread”, “Meat and veg” (rather than “Veg and meat”) etc have subtely invaded our subconscious thought. Even when we resist them, they become stronger in our minds.

    The way forward is to listen to some of the older wisdoms (as you are amply demonstrating) and recreate the mantras in the social consciousness of the world. Now that would be an exciting adventure wouldn’t it? Hmmmmmmm… my mischievous mind is getting a little excited at the possibilities…

    Thank you once agian for the brilliant work you do. Humanity of the future will be very grateful for your work.

  12. Remember a few years ago, Oprah was sued by the beef industry for implying beef wasn’t good for us. Even if she became raw, she is a target of the beef and dairy mob.

  13. I completely agree. Except that when I grew up my mom did not eat or cook healthy! Her motto was that if it didn’t go in the microwave then it didn’t get eaten! Horrible! With what I know now, I’m surprised that I survived!

    I can definitely see how much healthier my children are. Although I was not overweight at all, my weight did fluctuate a lot (I always had about 3 different sizes in my closet!) among other things and I don’t see that anymore eating a high percentage of raw and vegan cuisine. It has to become a lifestyle, not a binge diet sort of thing!

  14. Good thing for me my comfort foods aren’t canned green beans, shake-n-bake pork chops and hamburger helper! lol

    Oprah is one of those celebrities that really makes us think about the Standard American Diet as well as fad dieting. If she can’t lose weight and keep it off…who can?

  15. Oh yeah! and my children don’t always have a taste for eating like this but something that seems to work is to let them help in the kitchen. Then at the same time they are learning how to prepare food for themselves for when they grow up. Also, I try to make things look as good as I can.

  16. Good post. It’s encouraging to hear how your journey went. I have always raised my kids on minimal sweets, whole grains, and recently went to a high raw food diet. My kids are in their twenties now, but my son has juiced with me since he was about twelve. My daughter has taken a different turn in the way she eats – she likes to eat healthy, but also has a very sweet tooth:-)

    I am glad they know as much as they do about eating healthy.

  17. I don’t watch Oprah regularly (it’s on here at 1.00pm free to air TV) but the one episode I saw last year was Dr Oz making a green smoothie- I thought these would really help me to have more raw food so after more research I have been drinking green smoothies all year…changed my life. Oprah brings people on her show to promote healthy food etc but I can’t help thinking she probably had one taste of that smoothie and pretended “mmmm fresh” to the cameras because if she had been drinking them everyday she would have no weight issues at all now…she should try practicing what she preaches. She would be the ideal person to promote green smoothies into the mainstream Western diet because she does have a lot of influence.

  18. Wow, I have not watched the Oprah show in more than 8 years!! I just don’t watch TV anymore. So, I have not laid eyes on Oprah in that amount of time unless it were on the cover of a magazine. I have found many meanfuling things to fill up on besides television ( like the internet)!

    Bordem often drives people back to patterns where they have come from.

    Weight is a very complex issue. Man is a triune being and having either mind, body or spirit deeply imbalanced can result in weight changes in the body.

    I consume my green smoothies and raw foods to a very high level ( almost 100%) daily and am not super slim. I thought raw food would just bring me down to the size 5 that I would love to be but this has not been the case. I am a solid size 8!

    Some people just have more of a margin of error where their food choices are concerned without gaining excessive weight. I know people that eat only cooked meals daily and they are much slimer than I am.

    Once a person has been as heavy as Oprah has for long periods of of time in her life it is so easy to gain weight during stressful times in ones life or if you change any small thing in your routine.

    If she is going through a highly stressful period in her life then her cortisol levels will be elevated. Cortisol is called the death hormone and can cause rapid weight gain.

    Oprah is a recovering food addict. Like in the case of alcohol abuse it is a life long process of recovery.There are more than likely triggers that she still has yet to uncover and identify that can sometimes push her over the edge.

    I am sure that this is and has been a very painful process for her. When I think of Oprah I also think of that old saying ” No Cross, then there will surely be no Crown!

    She has borne many crosses in her time and has also emerged wearing very handsome crowns too!

    I believe she may have a few more false skins to shead before she reaches total freedom in this area of her life.

    I am an African American female that grew up in the south too and I assure you I am not addicted to traditional southern prepared foods in the least. It is possible to not take on everything that is unproductive in one’s enviroment.

    I grew up eating junky type foods because that is all most people I knew had to offer. I was not in a position to buy and perpare my own foods at that point in my life.

    I was however addicted to white sugar as a child, but the other things like fried foods just never held a soft spot in my heart. I would opt for an egg sandwich instead of fried fish any day of the week ( as a child ).

    In my late teens my body begin to rebel due to my excessive white sugar intake and I had to make some profound changes. This began my journey to use food as medicine that ultimate lead me to raw foods!

    I love raw foods mainly because it does not hiner my having a more dynamic a vibrant realtionship with Christ!

  19. I have dieted for years. I have overcome some pretty awful abuses in my life. The thing that helped me more then anything else was not worshipping food. Allowing Heavenly Father to feed me when it was my heart that was empty and eating food when my stomach was empty. Eating and stopping when I was comfortably full was new for me. That has changed my life and perspective. When people ask me how I have lost my weight and maintained it, they to are perplexed to learn “hunger/fullness. It’s the best kept secret. It’s not easy but God never leaves you wanting when you give him your will. He has designed our bodies to enjoy foods. All kinds of foods. Listen to our bodies tell us when we are comfortbly full so our bodies can then digest the food and not be taxed. Eating within the bounds the Lord has set. You feel so amazing as you allow this to happen. It brought tears to my eyes the first time I did it.

  20. Robyn, You should be a guest on Oprah’s show! Have you approached her? Get her to do the 30-day Green Smoothie Challenge, and challenge Oprah AND America to try a month-long Green Smoothie diet! I bet you it would be HUGE! You know Dr. Oz would be with you all the way!

  21. In my experience with food as a child, I was raised eating whatever I wanted, and I chose sugar most of the time. My mother did make whole grain bread for us though. Fortunately, I was never overwieght. I was always doing some sort of excercise. As an adult I have chosen to feed my children whole foods because of fear that they would get diabetes like my father did. And I realized it made me feel good. I don’t eat green smoothies and whole grains just because of weight, it is because I feel good, and I believe it is the way of God. I try to teach my kids the reasons why we should eat these foods and explain what they do for us. Then they choose. If we make healthy foods all about the weight, I believe that will be the only reason your child will eat them or feel guilty about it if they don’t eat them. In turn they can have emotional problems because of it and it will begin to rule their lives. I think if we all just enjoy the foods we eat and let go of the guilt, focus on a regular excercise program that will enlighten our mood physically and emotionally we can naturally be healthy, happy and free from judgement to ourselves, and of others. I love your 12 steps to wholeness recipes Robyn, thanks! Breathe! 🙂

  22. How do you get started on the green smoothie weight loss program?

    please let me know I am interrested.

    Thank you

    Jutta Fischer

  23. This is a huge deal for me… and at times, a point of shame. I’ve done 36 days of green juice fasting and felt absolutely unstoppable! I lost 40 pounds, got off my bioidentical hormones, had a clear mind and felt like a million bucks. But, six months later, I find myself back on the SAD diet and back to my old weight. How could I do that? How could I have that much “will power” for short periods of time only to return to a way of life that does not serve me? Wait… Here it comes… “What is wrong with me?!” What I’m learning right now is that I MUST address that mental programming. It’s a key piece. Then, I won’t just Do the Greens. Consuming greens and fresh raw plant based foods will become Who I Am. If you’ve got any info on how to get there, I’d love to hear it. Before I dip into the Halloween candy. Thanks for doing what you do.

  24. Ya, it makes me wonder about Oprah…with all her money to be able to hire a full-time cook/meal preparer. To erase past unhealthy food-associations, it seems that one of the biggest ‘solutions’ would be to create New food-associations. Oprah could do that surely. –with someone in the kitchen to prepare food on demand. That’s why so many people resort to fast food, I believe…the food is quick and ready and ‘there’. And somebody Else did the work! I really think she would lose weight even If she ‘over’ate 100% raw foods.

    James Simmons, in his book “Original Fast Foods”, recommends eating MORE leafy greens to LOSE weight, as opposed to the amount he recommends for Maintaining weight.

    As far as overeating raw foods goes, if one did 100% raw, especially coming off the Standard American Diet, I’m guessing that the weight would still drop, even When ‘over’-eating. I wouldn’t worry about it. Desire for junk foods gets replaced when one begins to eat right. Plus, once the weight drops, the amount of food needed, to feel satisfied, is less.

    Joel Furmann(sp?), in his book (ahh–forgot the title…just ate the wrong food–ha!), advocates eating a HUGE salad for every(?) meal. He says to put a sign on your fridge, “The Salad is the Main Course”. He treats people (back east–New Jersey) who are morbidly obese. They lose weight. I wouldn’t worry about ‘overeating’ raw–esp. if it’s the dark leafy greens–even eating HUGE! salads. Sure, if it’s nuts, oils, grains, etc. then, ya, limit those.

    I know of a man who weighed a LOT…400-500lbs?. He was also tall. Anyway, since he was a self-proclaimed ‘food addict’, he just switched from eating ‘crap foods’ (sorry–you know the ones…’bad’ fats, lots of animal protein, and sugars of all sorts) to …CELERY! All day long. –as his eat-non-stop, I’m-addicted-to-food food. Of course, he ate meals in between. But celery replaced his former addiction. He Lost a TON of weight.

    Another man my husband knows did the same thing. He switched to eating raw foods all day long (for snacking on in between meals). Also, he went on a hike every day. He lost a TON of weight too. At least, initially, I would say, sure!…go ahead and ‘over’eat raw foods. –until balance comes (naturally).

    My former mother-in-law suffered serious weight issues due to incest. She seemed to overcome the (overweight) effects here and there throughout her life. But never overcame them permanently. Just like Oprah. She was VERY huge the entire time I knew her (–she died of cancer at 54), but I saw photos of her at different times during her life, and there Were certainly thin years.

    Emotions run Deep! –especially when we ‘block’ them and refuse to let them come up; & feel them.

    Weight can be a ‘protection’ for abuse victims; weight is a nice ‘hiding place’. Two purposes it’s used for (I believe) are hiding behind our own lack of boundaries and also our feelings of lack of control (–imposed upon us by those who have power over us–esp. when we’re young and vulnerable and really Don’t have control over our lives. Our parents literally keep us alive by providing us with food. They are the ones in control of our lives when we are young. We are at the mercy of those who have charge over us. If they abuse that power and position of authority, well,…read the scriptures to find out what’s in store for them.)

    Oprah has enough money to hire The BEST psychologist. And yet, she reverts. Interesting. Some things are just too painful to let ourselves feel. People may carry those throughout (this) life.

    OK. Next time it’ll be shorter. (Sorry.) –struck an emotional chord.

  25. Lala, I tried to email you. Please contact me via email about what you posted. thanks,


    Good comments about the possibility that emotional issues may contribute to Oprah’s struggles. Possibly true. I have heard/read her say publicly that her upbringing with the fried foods of the South are powerful “comfort foods” and run deep in her psyche. That was what I intended to explore, but certainly didn’t mean that it’s the whole answer. “Food issues” certainly can be complicated and wrapped around painful events from the past.

    Jutta, I will write a new blog entry on your question right now.

    Thanks for your contributions everyone–I do read them all!


  26. Hi Robyn,

    This is my first time to blog with you, but I do read your information often and enjoy and have put to practice many things that you teach. I also spread the word about your web-site to many others,which was given to me by my niece.

    Some of the blogger’s having trouble reverting back to their old ways, along with Oprah, might want to check into a 12-step program that has to do with over eating or eating disorders in general. My husband and I are service missionaries for a 12-step program at our church and the program is amazing. If you don’t mind having a little spiritual guidance in your life, along with a program that helps you remain focused on your issue’s, problems, or DESIRE’s , one of these programs might help. You could goggle and probably find out more info on where they are held in your community. Please let me know if anyone needs help finding such a place and I’d be glad to do that for them. Addictions are becoming more prevalent in our society and there are wonderful programs out there to help. If you don’t believe you have an addiction, but want to improve or move forward in your life, the classes are also wonderful for building back self-esteem and self worth. Eating right, staying fit, feeling good, and your mental and spiritual awareness in check, is a blessing for anyone.

    Thanks for your site. It’s great


  27. Hi Robyn,

    Can give an update on the group buy please. I live in the Northeast and some folks on these parts are trying to get a group together and I would like to know when we should place our order.



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