Losing over 45 kilos is equivalent to shedding an entire person. In finally setting them down, you might imagine you’d feel free, happy and unburdened. But if you’re world-famous singer Adele, it seems, your astonishing weight loss is a sign that you’ve “sold out”, “fallen for the lies of the diet industry” and “given into misogynist messaging about body shape”.
For every “you go, girl!” message in response to the recent pictures of the 32-year-old singer resembling a miniskirted Sixties icon, there’s been a disappointed grumble. The millennial-led body positivity movement loved Adele for being a larger woman in the spotlight.
In an age where not accepting yourself, at any size, is viewed as an irresponsible, unfeminist act, Adele has been both brave and determined to diet and exercise her way to the body she wanted.
“My clients who attain the body they’ve been wishing for do feel happier and healthier,” says award-winning psychotherapist Natasha Tiwari (natashatiwari.co.uk). “There’s the pride in overcoming a challenge and achieving something that they didn’t think would be possible. They also feel that their external body now matches their internal identity, and have the confidence that comes with looking the way you want to.”
When, some years ago, I also dieted and exercised down to a size 8-10, I was equally proud of myself. I had about 10kg to lose, but it took several months and felt like a great personal achievement. I hated being overweight – once slim, I looked and felt better, I had more energy and, according to the NHS charts, I was finally the perfect weight and BMI for my small 5ft 2in frame.
I was also much healthier – because significant weight loss isn’t just about vanity, it’s often triggered by a health scare, or the gradual realisation that you’re risking chronic illness. Adele is a single mum to a seven-year-old, too, and being able to run around with your child without wheezing, is another massive motivator.
Having slimmed down and become healthier, however, I was surprised when several of my friends commented that I was now “too thin”. I looked “gaunt”, according to one old pal; “a few cakes won’t kill you”, said another. For a while, it was like living among a Feeders Anonymous cult.
“Many people who lose a lot of weight, have to change their lifestyles to do so,” says Tiwari. “If those around them are judgemental of things like new eating habits, or fitness habits, it’s often coming from a place of insecurity: Do I still fit into their life? Do we still have things in common? Are they now judging me because they’re skinny and I’m fat?”
It wasn’t that I thought they were jealous, more that anyone who makes significant life changes can feel like a threat – and as I discovered, a friend who loses a lot of weight can highlight your own negative feelings about your body. If you’re not feeling enthused to do the same, shame can lead to defensiveness – and an urge to return to the status quo, by encouraging them to put on weight. (Don’t worry, readers, I did.)
“I call it ‘compare and despair’ syndrome,” agrees health coach and therapist Geraldine Oxenham (hypnoswellbeing.com). “It’s a lot easier to ignore our bad habits when everyone else is doing the same.” Any anger around Adele’s weight loss “is not a logical response”, she adds. “People are having a gut emotional reaction to something they are already unhappy and sensitive about.”
Oxenham admits to “really mixed feelings about the body positive movement. I’m a great believer in people finding happiness with themselves, yet I don’t want it to be used to shut down the facts about the risk factors linked with obesity.”
And they are significant. Research from the University of Liverpool found that obesity increased the risk of dying from coronavirus by 37 per cent.
Even that subtle warning was enough to cause a Twitter storm, as many ranted that highlighting the connection was tantamount to “fatphobia” and “body shaming”.
“Talking about bodies, body size and body image is hugely triggering for many people,” agrees Tiwari. “Often people feel – whether based on truth or not – that healthcare professionals believe being overweight is a choice, rather than what it actually is: a product of a complex interplay of factors, including genetics and socioeconomic indicators.”
Yet with our health under threat as never before, if there was ever a time to look after ourselves, it’s surely now. And if Adele has the willpower to swap her self-described diet of “McDonald’s strawberry milkshakes, custard creams and cheap alcohol” for walnuts and olive oil, she should be treated as an inspiration – not a traitor.
The Daily Telegraph