In case you missed it, the singer Adele posted a photo on Instagram last week thanking folks for birthday wishes and thanking essential workers for all that they do. The Internet then did what it does, and blew up. What was so controversial about what she said? Nothing. It was the picture. Adele has slimmed down a bit, which apparently is cause for a firestorm.
People were flooding her with compliments and others were shaming them for not acknowledging that Adele has always been gorgeous. It was a hot mess, but really mirrors what seems to happen to everyone these days, whether they are a celebrity or not. The “controversy” is still going strong on Twitter. You can check it out, but I advise steering clear.
I’m a yo-yo dieter. And like most people reading this, I have probably tried every diet that has trended through society in the last forty years. I have been both thin, muscular, and super fit to obese and am usually somewhere in the middle of that.
I can say from experience people are really weird about losing weight. Some people are complimentary, which is great because who doesn’t like hearing nice words when you have been putting in hard work on yourself? Other people, however, can be downright nasty about it.
The Changing Zeitgeist
Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, people talked a lot about how super thin models gave us unattainable ideals to achieve, but those decades also gave us droves of guys walking around on beaches in t-shirts that said “No Fat Chicks” (Remember those? May they rest at the bottom of the dustbin of history).
The Body Positivity Movement
It wasn’t until the last couple of decades that we really actually began to see larger models with real bodies, or that they started to feature realistic looking women in TV shows, movies and acknowledged that you didn’t have to be a size 2 to be attractive.
The whole body-positivity movement has really helped me personally. I can’t pinpoint when exactly it hit me, but growing up I was embarrassed by my larger than average boobs and butt and did my best to hide them under baggy clothes or diet them away. Thanks to people talking about body positivity and a shift in the conversation I came to realize those things I hated about my physique were the ones both men and women thought were attractive about me, and somewhere along the line I began to appreciate what I was born with.
Has it Gone too Far?
But has the whole body positivity movement gotten carried away? As much as I now appreciate my curves, I can still acknowledge that I need to lose a few pounds for both my health and because I think I look better at a lighter weight. Let me put that in context, I’m 5 foot 6 and I think I’m at my best at around 145 pounds. This is not at the bottom end of anyone’s weight scale, and yet I have been criticized for trying to get “too skinny” when I’ve been near that level.
I’ve also been criticized for vocalizing that I want to lose weight. That’s a taboo subject these days because it means you are not on board with “loving yourself”. But isn’t doing whatever is right for you the ultimate way of loving yourself?
I have spent a lot of my adult life living in different countries and in certain places they are a lot more blunt about personal appearance than they are in America. I remember talking to a Russian friend and telling her I needed to lose about ten pounds. Her response was “I am so happy to hear you say that! You do, but all the American women I know always talk about how they are happy just like they are, and that’s not okay if you aren’t healthy. Do you want to work on a diet with me?”
An American friend who overheard it shot me a text saying how mean she thought that was. I actually really liked what my Russian friend had said. It sort of hit all the problems wrapped up in the body-positivity versus what I actually want for myself in one short, succinct statement. I wasn’t fishing for her to tell me I didn’t need to lose weight – I was stating a fact, and she was there ready to support me and offer help. The response, for me, was perfect.
Back to Adele
So all this comes down to what was the correct way to respond to Adele’s post? That’s easy: “Thank you for recognizing first responders and essential workers.” Because that is what the post was about.
Laura has been writing and editing for more than 25 years, a fact which more than a source of pride, sends her running to the wrinkle cream aisle of CVS. She has worked for CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, The Economist Intelligence Unit, and CBS radio. She has three children, and you will either find her thoroughly enjoying their company or yelling at them to clean up after themselves and turn off the lights.