Adele Isn’t Discussing Her Weight So Why Are We?
- August 28, 2020
And ultimately, our responses to Adele’s weight loss reveal more about us than they do about her. With a dearth of information about her weight loss (after all, it’s none of our business anyway), many have made the assumption that Adele’s weight loss is desired and was intentional, and that our praise for her changing body will be affirming for her. In the absence of any evidence or comment, we all collectively decided not just to comment on a woman’s appearance without her request or consent, but that the commentary will be welcome and appreciated.
As a fat person, the outpouring of celebration of Adele’s smaller body was a stinging reminder that becoming thin will earn you just as much (if not more) recognition and admiration as your accomplishments in life or work. Adele has won 15 Grammys and holds the number-one spot on the Greatest of All Time Billboard 200 Albums list for 21. Yet for several days the media and commenters on social media were fixated on her body.
While Adele is the primary person impacted by this conversation, she’s not the only one who is. Millions of tabloid readers, social media users, and fans around the world are also hearing the ways in which we discuss Adele’s body. For some this conversation is an affirmation of their weight loss goals. And for others it is a harmful and troubling slide back into old ways of thinking that they’ve long struggled to leave behind.
For those recovering from bulimia, anorexia, orthorexia, or another eating disorder, their mental health can be a matter of survival, fighting disordered thinking that can prove fatal. Conversations like this one drag national focus back into a binary that insists that weight loss is reliably good and weight gain is necessarily bad. In doing so, these comments can similarly drag eating disorder survivors back into the zero-sum thinking that so many of us struggle to escape. Suddenly we’re confronted with what feels like proof positive that we aren’t the only ones fixated not only on our size, but also on the ways in which we must forever shrink our bodies—everyone around us is too. Conversations like these, complimentary as they may seem, whisper to many in tenuous recovery that their eating disorders might be right—that weight loss is a viable path to affirmation, to praise, to love, and to feeling at home in your own skin. For many people, it might seem like the only one.
This public conversation also sends a powerful message to fat people. It tells us that even if we create beautiful, moving music, even if we build an empire of a career, even if we sell millions of records and cement ourselves as a titan in our field, we will still be seen as failed thin people. It tells us that we are only as valuable as we look, and that no accomplishment will bring us the praise and celebration that can only be achieved by becoming thin.
Yes, many people desire weight loss and want to be praised for it. And some aren’t harmed by this public conversation. But for fat people, for people with eating disorders, and possibly for Adele herself, this conversation holds the potential for immense harm. For some, it could be one of the things that helps trigger a relapse in an eating disorder. For others, it could do the same for major depression or social anxiety. As anyone in eating disorder recovery can tell you, wading through a constant onslaught of weight loss messages in a thin-obsessed world can make recovery an even more gargantuan task. But when those messages arrive on our doorstep—as they did during this conversation about Adele—they become heat-seeking missiles, seemingly determined to obliterate our stability and mental health. Those concerns are far from niche. At least 30 million people in the U.S. have an eating disorder.