The intention behind Adele’s Instagram post on May 5th was to celebrate her birthday. Instead, it turned into a free-for-all discussion about her body. This is nothing new for Adele. Since she arrived on the music scene at the tender age of nineteen, her body has been a hot topic for tabloids and listeners. Then, it was about her being fat, including people marvelling that her talent was so great she could “make it” despite not having a “desirable” body.
Now that she is thin, the discussion is split between how good she looks, and how she did it.
When you search “Adele birthday” on Google, the “People also ask” feature suggests, “How has Adele lost weight?” “How much weight has Adele lost?” and “Has Adele lost a lot of weight?” None of these are related to her birthday, of course, but they are questions the people want to know.
Here’s the honest truth about Adele’s weight – it doesn’t matter.
It is the least interesting thing about her. She is an incredible singer, a brilliant songwriter, an artist who made her first album as a teenager and became a superstar at twenty-one, a dynamic human being – and all of this is true regardless of her dress size.
So why the obsession?
It didn’t start with Adele. Scrutiny of body size and weight gain or loss has been fodder for gossip for as far back as documented gossip goes. I’m sure if Cleopatra put on a few pounds, the ancient Egyptians would have made it a hot topic. The size of a person – especially a woman’s body – is deemed fair-game for public opinion, whether that body is fat or thin. Consider Celine Dion’s recent weight loss. Unlike the “She looks amazing” chorus that followed Adele’s body changes, Celine’s weight loss has been met with comments like, “Scary” and “Skeletal”. Just as Adele used to be “too fat”, Celine is now “too thin”. And of course, it is cloaked in concern. When people go after fat bodies, it’s often under the guise of being worried about the person’s health, despite having no way of knowing the health status of anyone from a picture alone. The same is true for Celine. The comments are defended as being worried for her, but they are really a chance to gawk at a body they find grotesque, like a modern-day sideshow.
Weight gain and weight loss are especially juicy. Weight gain because it humanizes celebrities, and weight loss because it gives us regular people hope that we too can have a full-body transformation. Neither of those are real either. We don’t know how celebrities lose weight. It’s well-known that many tout special supplements to make money off their weight loss, which was never a result of those supplements. Many have resources we don’t have, like personal trainers, chefs, and top doctors.
Adele has given no indication of her method for weight loss. She hasn’t commented on her weight period, because it’s no one’s business. This hasn’t stopped every news outlet from speculating. I won’t name the theories being posed as to how she did it because I refuse to perpetuate this diet culture – but everyone has a guess. Are any of them right? Who the hell cares?
Does Adele look better thin or fat? Is she healthier now than she was then? It’s none of our damn business. Just as we shouldn’t vilify celebrities for gaining weight, we shouldn’t celebrate them losing it. In addition to it being none of our business, it adds to the already damaging diatribe of which bodies are acceptable and which are not. If she “looks amazing” now, how did she look before? What message does that send people struggling with their own body image?
The size of Adele’s body is irrelevant to her talent. We came to hear her sing. She is not talented or popular because of her body now or in spite of her body then. Adele is not her body, and neither is anyone else, celebrity or not. The only person who gets an opinion on someone’s body is the person inside it.
Does this mean weight loss is bad?
Nope. If Adele, or anyone else, wants to lose weight and feels good doing so, more power to them. People should be happy and comfortable with their bodies, no matter what size they are, and make changes if they want to. But we don’t know why or how Adele lost weight. When I had gallstones, I lost thirty pounds in less than two months. I was told over and over again how good I looked. I was the sickest I had ever been in my life. Weight loss on its own is not something to be celebrated.
Even if we did know how and why Adele lost the weight, it would still be up to her to decide if it was an accomplishment. Working hard to develop healthy lifestyle habits is certainly something to promote, whether or not it results in weight loss – but it doesn’t change the value of the person, and it doesn’t make the person a fair target for commentary.
Happy birthday, Adele. You were a whole person when you were fat, you are a whole person now that you are thin, and you will be a whole person no matter what other changes your body goes through. Your value is not tied to your body.
And neither is anyone else’s.
Photo credit: Instagram