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Adele's Weight Loss Reminds Us Change Can Be Both Upsetting and Necessary

In December of 2019, I wrote an article about the uproar and celebration of Adele’s weight loss, which was apparent from photos she posted to social media, yet not directly addressed by her herself. I discussed how weight loss is not always a positive thing, as eating disorders are used as maladaptive coping behaviors, yet yield results that society wants to celebrate. I concluded that we should be mindful to only celebrate weight loss if the individual brings it up themselves. If we compliment someone’s weight loss every single time, we may very well also be complimenting mental illness like depression or an eating disorder, physical or chronic illness, substance abuse, grief or even trauma. It is best to let people use their voice in their own time and when they are ready, rather than assuming weight loss always deserves praise.

Adele recently spoke to Vogue about her feelings over the controversy and celebration of her weight loss. While I felt Adele was a wonderful representation of a successful plus-size woman, and that representation is valuable for all plus-size people to know, we must respect each and every person’s path of wellness, as it is their body, their rules. Being under as much public scrutiny as Adele is, I can understand how she must have felt confused and upset by mixed messages from the public. Some were celebrating her wellness, some were celebrating just her appearance and some were upset the plus-size community no longer had her as positive representation. It is so easy to judge from the outside, but we never know what people are facing. As I closed with in my initial article, I am so glad Adele cleared some of it up when she was ready.

As I said in 2019, “Our culture loves sensationalistic tales of weight loss marketed as ‘inspiration,’ but what would happen if we broke away? What if we actively decided to focus on what people think, feel, do and create rather than what they look like? Perhaps we’d live in a more grounded world. We lose our touch with reality when we put all our focus and worth on what we look like. Adele is still the same talented and captivating woman as she was before.” Adele echoes this sentiment in her own words in Vogue, “My body’s been objectified my entire career. It’s not just now. I understand why it’s a shock. I understand why some women especially were hurt. Visually I represented a lot of women. But I’m still the same person.”

I believe in body autonomy, so each and every person has a right to do with their body in whatever way they’d like as long as it’s not harming anyone else. Adele does not have to remain plus-size just because she has paved a path as a successful plus-size woman; contrarily, it is important to note that she was plus-size and she can still speak on her valid past experiences on how she was shamed and treated unfairly due to her body size. The difference is she now benefits from thin privilege.

Adele also possibly addresses the women who were upset she is no longer plus-size, “The most brutal conversations were being had by other women about my body. I was very fucking disappointed with that. That hurt my feelings.”

As a woman in recovery from an eating disorder who is always on her path of wellness and has both gained and lost weight over the years, it becomes a tricky thing to vouch for the side that is upset that a plus-size person is no longer plus-size. Change is a great fear for many people, and we may worry Adele losing weight changes who she is and the space she carved out for plus-size women, but she still holds the struggles of being a plus-size woman in the public eye. She still holds the baseless, vile hatred thrown at her where she was just living life, existing in a larger body. One could say it was by some miracle she is talented and successful as a musician because she once lived in a larger body, which is not true. Plenty of plus-size people can be successful. It is assumed people living in larger bodies are lazy and useless, but we prove people wrong every day. The side that is upset about her no longer being plus-size is valid in their feelings and so is Adele. We were rooting for Adele as a talented, award-winning individual, and we were especially rooting for her as a plus-size woman. Dialectics in DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), which is a therapy I learned in treatment in my eating disorder recovery, tells us that we can hold two opposing truths at the same time, and both can be true: we can be upset that Adele no longer represents us as a plus-size person and Adele is also allowed to change.

Adele benefits from thin privilege now, which is defined by fitting into society more easily, not being fat-shamed, having doctor’s take you seriously and often being treated properly medically, having access to many more clothing options in your size, etc.; however, she still understands the other side. We must trust that Adele will continue to hold onto that understanding and ideally use her voice to declare she understands systemic fat shaming from past experiences.

My hope is that if she feels she could one day, to speak on her current thin privilege and reflect on how she was treated differently when she was in a larger body — that would be powerful. Skinny shaming can be comparable to bullying; however, fat shaming is vastly different as it is systemic and about the oppression of people in larger bodies. Adele does not owe us anything, but I would personally love to see that dialogue unfold because it could shed some light on body shaming and fatphobia, as well as help her connect with people who may not understand the depths of this conversation.

There is always nuance to these discussions, so be mindful of other perspectives other than your own. We all deserve to speak about how we feel in our own time. We all deserve to pursue our individual wellness journeys and be free in our body autonomy.

Image via Adele’s Instagram