And ultimately, our reactions to Adele's weight loss may reveal more about us than about her. With a lack of information about their weight loss (after all, it's none of our business anyway), many have assumed that Adele's weight loss was desirable, intended, and that our praise for her changing body will be positive for her. In the absence of any evidence or comment, we have all decided not only to comment on a woman's appearance without her request or consent, but that the comment is welcome and appreciated. Adele's smaller body was a stinging reminder that when you grow thin , earn as much (if not more) recognition and admiration as your achievements in life or work. Adele has won 1
While Adele is the main person affected by this conversation, she is not the only one who is. Millions of tabloid readers, social media users and fans around the world also hear us discussing Adele's body. For some, this conversation is a confirmation of their weight loss goals. And for others, it's a harmful and troubling return to old ways of thinking that they haven't been able to leave for a long time.
For those who are recovering from bulimia, anorexia, orthorexia or any other eating disorder, their mental health may be a matter of survival, fighting thought disorders that can prove fatal. Talks like this pull national talks back into a binary that insists that weight loss is reliably good and weight gain is necessarily bad. This way, they can retreat eating disorder survivors in a similar way to the zero-sum thoughts that so many of us have trouble escaping. Suddenly we are faced with the proof that we are not the only ones who are not only fixated on our size, but also on the way we have to shrink our bodies forever – this is how everyone is around us. Conversations like this, however complementary they may seem, whisper many in poor recovery that their eating disorders might be correct – that weight loss is a viable way to affirm, praise, love, and be at home in your own skin feel. For many people, it seems to be the only one.
This public conversation also sends a strong message to fat people. It tells us that even if we create beautiful, moving music, even if we build a career empire, even if we sell millions of records and consolidate ourselves as titanium in our field, we are still seen as failed thin people. It tells us that we are only as valuable as we look and that no performance can replace the praise and celebration that can only be achieved when you become thin.
Yes, many people want weight loss and would like to be praised for it. And some are not harmed by this public conversation. But for fat people, for people with eating disorders and possibly for Adele himself, this conversation holds the potential for immense damage. For some, it could be one of the things that trigger an eating disorder relapse. Others might do the same for severe depression or social anxiety. As anyone dealing with eating disorder recovery can tell you, restoring a constant rush of weight loss messages in a thinly obsessed world can make recovery an even more gigantic task. But when this news arrives on our doorstep – like during this conversation about Adele – it becomes a heat-seeking missile that appears to be determined to destroy our stability and sanity. These concerns are anything but a niche. At least 30 million people in the United States have an eating disorder.