Last week, multi-award winning singer Adele broke the internet. No, she didn't release a new album. But she did post a photo of herself on Instagram on her 32nd birthday, thanking key workers, looking like she'd lost even more weight.
Sources claim the star is now feeling self-conscious about her appearance and embarrassed by all the attention her body has been getting. In time I predict that she may well start to feel the same pressures and anxieties that I have.
While I'm no celebrity, I know a little of what Adele might well be going through. In October 2018 I lost 50lbs as a by-product of changing my diet after gallbladder surgery. At first, I hadn't set out to lose weight, but what I weighed seemed to be the only thing that friends and work colleagues wanted to talk about. "Wow you look great, you've lost so much weight", "Keep up the good work", "You've always had such a beautiful face, but now you look amazing", are just some of the seemingly flattering comments I received on a daily basis.
Yet these unsolicited "compliments" only served to make me rethink every compliment I'd been given pre-weight loss. Had they all come with a caveat? "You look great – for a person of your size", is perhaps what they had really meant?
As time went on, I became increasingly agitated by people's reactions and felt self-conscious by the praise I was getting for my appearance, being made to feel as though weighing less somehow made me a better, more desirable version of myself, triggering food-related anxiety, a fear of weight gain and negative body image issues I thought I'd long put to bed.
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It's always worth considering whether the person you're complimenting could be in the throws of an eating disorder, where constant praise could encourage them to carry on abusing their body. Or, like me, their weight loss might be a by-product of a physical illness. It could also be linked to stress, or a bereavement and have nothing to do with the "hard work" and effort people assume it stems from.
It could also simply be a change in lifestyle. Adele herself posted a workout pic on her Instagram last October that said "I used to cry. Now I sweat", perhaps a hint at how a consistent exercise regime and healthier eating habits have become her version of self-care while going through a divorce. Who knows?
And while unsolicited compliments were all I had to contend with, Adele is also having to deal with the backlash of her weight loss too. Her size made her a prominent face of the body positivity movement, and now there are those who feel angered by this change in her appearance, slamming her for losing too much weight, and looking "too thin". "For me, I prefer the plumper Adele," wrote one person on Twitter.
We've seen this in recent years when curvy model and body positivity activist Ashley Graham was slammed for losing weight, and almost two decades before when supermodel Sophie Dahl did the same. In 2002 she went from a size 16 to a size 8-10 and was widely criticised. One columnist said she had lost her "defiant voluptuous loveliness," which "embodied every woman's hopes for a diet-less, body-fascist-free tomorrow". "Industry insiders" were also quick to claim the supermodel had lost her "USP" (unique selling point). But as Dahl herself has since said, "I was the big model. I was meant to eat, a lot. It gave other people hope and cheered them as they enjoyed their chocolate."
Whether it's weight loss or weight gain, what Adele, Dahl, or any other woman does with her body should be a private matter, but the concept is not a simple one.
Sadly, just when you think we've made major strides in how we as a society talk about and view our bodies, the current obsession with Adele's size makes it clear we haven't moved forward much at all. It's made me feel even more firmly that unsolicited praising of somebody's weight loss simply reinforces the status quo, that thin is the ideal body type, locking us into a cycle of measuring our self-esteem through a number on a scale.