Oprah Winfrey recently made one of the most courageous statements of our times. She has said, "I will never diet again." That's a declaration that belongs right up there with "Give me liberty or give me death" and "Read my lips: no new taxes."

In a world of plastic food pouches, powders and pills, stationary rowing machines, treadmills to oblivion and stairways to nowhere, it's like a breath of fresh air.Women in this country are not happy. Half of them are overweight and live in fear they cannot lose a pound. The other half are thin but terrified they won't be able to stay that way. They are resentful because they're starving and miserable when they eat, knowing every olive will leave a bulge in its wake.

Basically, dieters are incapable of admitting the truth to themselves. Monday's pledge turns into Tuesday's hedge; New Year's resolutions are February's disillusions. The rest of the time we beat ourselves to death with the feeling that we have failed at something. But if our weight is not a threat to good health, we have failed at nothing.

At some point in our lives we have to come to terms with the way we look. Eleanor Roosevelt did not have the body of a nymph who graces the pages of a Victoria's Secret catalog. What she did have was one of the finest minds of any century. I interviewed her once and was awed.

In the hall of first ladies in the Smithsonian, Eleanor Roosevelt is depicted as a size 10. All first ladies there are a size 10 because someone a long time ago decreed that all first ladies should be created equal and thin. Why?

The symbol of our country, the Statue of Liberty, has a 420-inch waist and she's breathtaking. Peter Paul Rubens' wife was termed "ample," but she was beautiful enough to appear in 19 of his famed canvases.

Susan B. Anthony and Golda Meir had a little meat on their bones. So do Barbara Jordan, Rosemary Clooney and Helen Hayes. But that is not what they will be remembered for.

They will be noted as women who had something more important in their lives to do than fall on their knees over a Dove Bar, beating their chests and chanting, "Forgive me my sins."

They are women of vision who one day saw a sparrow on their windowsill and said, "I have seen my future . . . and you are not it."

1991, Erma Bombeck

Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate