I’ve been on twitter a lot lately, because frankly, what else is there to do? While I really think that twitter humor is at peak, (I mean come on, the meme game is out of this world right now) there has been one thing that I’ve noticed and simply cannot ignore.
I’m talking about Adele’s weight loss.
If you keep up with pop culture, you’ve probably seen the captions accompanying pictures of a now very slim and trim, smiling Adele. The comments are filled with praise, saying how “beautiful” and “healthy” she looks. There’s something about this that bothers me, and for a while I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I want to make it clear that Adele’s weight loss doesn’t bother me. Honestly, her weight is none of my business and any changes to her body don’t affect me at all. If she loses weight, okay. If she gains weight, okay. She’s the same person either way.
What bothers me is the public’s reaction to her weight loss. After reading through comments praising her beauty and her new “skinny” body, I couldn’t help but wonder: ‘Why do we as a society love when fat people become skinny so much?’. I think I’ve come to a conclusion, and I would love to hear your thoughts.
I think the reason that people are so excited about Adele’s weight loss because we have long viewed fat bodies as “before” photos and skinny bodies as “after” photos. Whether it’s a Weight Watchers commercial, a gym progress photo, or your old friend from high school who swears by intermittent fasting, we have been conditioned to see the transformation of fat bodies and to offer praise thereafter. The problem with this is that the “after” photo implies success, which means that the “before” photo implies failure.
Let’s get real here, Adele was anything but a failure before her weight loss. As the winner of multiple Academy Awards, Grammy’s, Golden Globes, and more, she had (and still has) a powerhouse voice and many breathtaking albums that have inspired millions of people. So why is her weight loss garnering more praise and admiration than her artistic accomplishments?
I think it just goes to show how much emphasis society has placed on our outward appearances. Our value is assessed by what we look like on the outside first, and then the gifts that we have to offer the world second. It seems that Adele’s thin frame has deemed her more valuable to the world now than when she was in her “fat” frame, even though she is the exact same person now as she was before. So how can we combat this?
I have always championed “diet-free” vocabulary. This is essentially using words and engaging in conversations that put people and who they are first, not their weight. This includes steering clear of comments about people’s bodies, even if you think you’re being nice. If a friend has been working out, commenting on how “toned” or “skinny” they look doesn’t fit with diet-free vocabulary. Asking a bride if she is going to start working out before the “big day”, is also not in line with diet-free vocabulary, because it implies that her current physical appearance is not already worthy of experiencing the special day.
This type of vocabulary also includes cutting comments out of your vocabulary that support dieting and “food labeling” (“good” vs “bad” foods). Talking with your friends about how you are going to cut out certain foods because they are “bad” for you does not align with diet-free vocabulary, because it suggests that eating certain foods is morally wrong or inferior.
The fact of the matter is; we can be happy for people like Adele for reaching their health goals. What’s important is to distinguish if we are happy because they reached the goal itself or if we are happy because they look how we as a society want and expect them to. Once we make this distinction, we can better reframe our words and thoughts to put a stop to diet culture and fat-phobia.
Believe me, I know I probably sound like I’m on a soapbox. One of my favorite advocates for body acceptance, Jameela Jamil, has always said that you can’t create change unless you’re really freakin’ annoying about the issue at hand. So I’m fine with being annoying once in a while. It’s also important to include that my diet-free vocabulary isn’t perfect, but I continue working on it. I want to live in a world where the pressure to achieve the perfect “after” body is less important than the value that we ourselves can offer.