By Harriet Seedhouse
Women face criticism in nearly every aspect of their life, from their career choices to their appearance, so when a celebrity is praised it can seem like a good thing that people are not openly abusing them.
When multi-Grammy Award winner Adele shared a celebratory birthday post on her Instagram, in which she thanked first responders and essential workers for “keeping us safe while risking their lives”, the majority of the 234,000 comments focus on her drastic weight loss.
According to her fans, she should be proud of how much better she looks and how healthy she is now compared to herself at her previous weight; these seemingly positive words serve as a reminder that you can be as talented as Adele, but society will glorify weight loss over talent.
She did not mention her weight anywhere within the post or in any media releases since, yet her weight loss, theories about her diet, and assumptions of her mental health are at the forefront of discussions around the artist. Diet culture is rampant in today’s media, with fad weight loss products and quick results diets being promoted by social media influencers every day. It can seem hard to escape the message that thinner is better.
Conversations about Adele’s weight loss can be upsetting and triggering to those with eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder, as it further fuels the idea that their eating disorders may be healthy.
Adele has said nothing about her weight or size, so we are not aware whether her weight loss is a healthy thing, if she is happy with it or if this was even intentional or not. Even if she had commented on it, the health and body of someone should be discussed by them, their doctor and any people close to them that are invited into those conversations, not by strangers on the internet.
Discussions about her weight are happening without her consent or participation and as @yrfatfriend – a plus size and body positivity activist on Instagram – states: “commenting on Adele’s body in praise is a projection of what you think, not about her wishes or work ethic.” Celebrities all over social media and television have taken it upon themselves to discuss her weight, which in turn has brought wider issues to the forefront of these debates. While some have celebrated her appearance change, others have – rightly so – mentioned that conversations about weight loss without the input or support from the person in question can be detrimental to them and others that hear this.
On ‘The Talk’, an American talk show, Sharon Osbourne commented on how “absolutely fantastic [Adele] looks” and how happy she is for her; Sharon also felt the need to speculate the reason as to why Adele lost weight, stating “for health I am sure”. All this is showing to those at home, especially those who are plus size, that no matter how healthy you are, your worth is tied to your weight loss. These fatphobic messages that are ever-present in the media are constantly framed as concerns over people’s health, yet similar concerns are frequently not voiced over those that are extremely slim; since skinny is seen as desirable. On the show, Sharon also talked about her own weight loss journey which led to her making the statement that people that are overweight “are not happy”.
When talking about herself she said that she was only ever happy on the surface when overweight and that she welcomed Adele’s change since it was “[her] time” to lose weight. Her comments on how every overweight person must be inherently miserable simply illustrates that fat people are seen to be nothing more than a failed thin person. This discourse comes at a time when fatphobic comments are prevalent on social media, with posts about quarantine weight gain and how this should be seen as a bad thing. However, people rarely stop to think about how these messages affect those who are overweight or struggling with eating disorders.
People are allowed to be happy with their body at any size and they deserve to be. If someone decides to lose or gain weight, or if it happens without intention, it should not be open for discussion by anyone other than themselves. Many plus size people face the struggle of knowing that society sees their body as the ‘before’ photo and that people are continually waiting to see the ‘after’ shots of them having lost what can sometimes be classed as an unhealthy amount of weight. These thoughts being followed by the discussion that Adele now is more attractive than before, and people like Sharon Osbourne denying one’s right to be happy in their body, can be detrimental to people’s mental health.
So before you reduce anyone to no more than a body or a story about their weight, stop to think about whether they have invited you into this conversation, whether you really have their best interests at heart and whether you are harming them or anyone else by making these statements.
Harriet Seedhouse is a third year Aerospace engineering student at the University of Surrey.