Begin searching the name “Adele” into Google, and the words “weight loss” are the first that will follow. Yes, this is the Adele who wrote her first album at 16 which went platinum 11 times. The same woman that broke the record for the fastest-selling US album ever. The only artist in Grammy history to have taken home the three most prominent awards in one night… twice; all of which she did while sticking two fingers up at the establishment, smoking 25 cigarettes and drinking ten sugary cups of tea a day. So why is it that her recent weight loss is what defines her?
British tabloids have long since become associated with perpetuating harmful body image ideals for women, fat-shaming reality TV stars in bikinis on holiday and releasing diet plans to “trim-down” pre-wedding/ holiday or post-birthday/ Christmas/ Easter. Essentially, there seems to be no time in the year where women should be willing, able or allowed to simply enjoy the bodies they were born with. The recent discourse surrounding Adele has been no different. It facilitates a very dangerous, real and harmful narrative that society has created, pitting women in an eternal war against themselves and their waistlines. The underlying premise behind the reaction to Adele’s “before and after” photos was the assumption that her “old” body was in some way wrong. And that, by being skinnier, she is healthier and happier, despite no evidence to support the latter or the former.
This is problematic for several reasons – the primary one being that it perpetuates the message that women are defined by their appearance. Or, more specifically, how thin they are. Thinness is often sold as the key to happiness, beauty and success, with tabloid media outlets often failing to acknowledge the reasons behind celebrities’ weight loss, regardless of whether or not it stems from a negative place of bereavement, illness or stress. Thousands of women internalise such messages on a daily basis, believing that their body is a commodity that can be moulded and shaped to suit the latest beauty trends.
Such rhetoric also supports societal fatphobic behaviour, with obese people frequently being told to lose weight “for their health”, despite their unnaturally thin counterparts being celebrated, while living on unhealthy and unsustainable diets. It is this voice, instilled into little girls’ heads that tells them they are not good enough, which manifests itself in teenagers as eating disorders and insecurities and into adulthood, with guilt surrounding indulgence and decadence.
Rather than celebrating and building women up, tabloid headlines which applaud celebrities for their “weight loss journeys” purely serve to tear them down, undermining their quantifiable successes, and telling them that their value is equated with their attractiveness. In Adele’s case, she has had a child and then gone on to write her smash-hit album, ’25’. But instead of focusing on her inspirational success, the media decide to profit from society’s obsession with being thin.
So, the next time you consider buying a tabloid selling you a celebrity’s cellulite, diet regime or skinny tea, I’d ask you to take your £2 to the nearest bakery, order your favourite cake, and eat it knowing you’re great as you are and need no incentive to change.
Image Credit: GRAMMY.com