I am not a media junkie. I don’t watch Netflix or read magazines. I prefer documentaries to movies and I have no interest in keeping up with celeb stories. I couldn’t care less who’s dating who or who’s cheating on who or who’s wearing what label to whichever star-studded event. I love music but unless they’re saving whales or rescuing old dogs, I’m not at all interested in the lives of the people who make it, but even I have not been able to miss the big hoo-hah about how much weight Adele has lost and how “amazing” she looks “now”.
I’m not going to comment on Adele’s body, there are no shortage of opinions on that and we don’t need another. I will just say that I don’t think her weight loss has improved her amazing voice or her extraordinary song-writing ability or the remarkable gift she has of being able to connect with people all over the world through her music. These things earned her the love, adoration and accolade of millions of fans and other music professionals for whom the size of her body wasn’t part of the equation. But now it seems the size of her body is the biggest part of the equation, it’s like it’s become the most spectacular thing about her and I don’t think that can end well.
I don’t know if Adele orchestrated the media hype about herself or if it was her agent, her trainer or just tabloid journalism having a field day but like so many before her, Adele has now been reduced to little more than her body. All the talk is about how she did it and of course, her trainer cordially obliged and provided the details. And, it’s scary. For any of us familiar with eating disorders, we know how dangerous a restrictive 1000 calorie a day, green juice diet is. Add in the numerous daily Pilates workouts and well, you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen. Your average three year old needs 1300 – 1500 calories a day to survive – you do the math. Add in the psychological changes that occur in a nutritionally starved brain and the physiological changes that occur in a starved body and the behavioural changes that occur because of a starved endocrine and nervous system and well, there’s a fair bit that can go awry.
There’s another frightening piece to this and that’s the scale of the huge accolade and prestige that was heaped on Adele merely for changing her body size and shape. It sends a very clear message about what we value in our society and an equally clear message about who we value in our society. Many vulnerable women and girls, desperate to be accepted and approved of will latch on to this story. They’ll see the validation weight loss brought Adele, as if validation through her voice and musical ability wasn’t enough, and the message will be driven home with gusto. And that message is, the way you look is more important than anything else you have to offer the world.
One last point. Any time any of us changes something about ourselves that earns us huge congratulations, praise, esteem, recognition, approval or a marked elevation in status, it also puts immense pressure on us to keep it. It’s like being in a vice, where we’re held between two opposing forces that keep us trapped in the middle with barely any room at all to wiggle around. Often the pressure to maintain all the reward heaped on us is greater than the pressure that drove us to achieve it in the first place. A fall from the top of a public pedestal is a painful one. Personal humiliation and shame are amongst the most difficult emotions for humans to endure and can lead to mental health issues, self-harming and sometimes fatal behaviours.
Fast and vast weight loss has earned Adele a big gold star with the media and a large percentage of the public but shocking your body into submission in this way is downright dangerous and could backfire in a number of ways. I’m not shaming Adele, she has sovereignty over her body and what she does is really no one else’s business. But, my hope is for a future where bodies of all shapes and sizes are respected and valued and where the toxic diet culture that is responsible for incalculable suffering is booted firmly out of our conversations and our psyches.