Adele Large, Adele Medium, Adele Small: Glorifying Weight Loss

Amongst the pop, rap, and, most recently, TikTok popularized songs that have graced our top charts these past two decades, a few songs are not like the others. Top 40s hits, though undoubtedly catchy, are typically little more than fleeting trends that eventually trickle their way down the ranks until they are but mere wispy memories of the past—always a nice throwback, never substantial enough to be as hailed as the powerhouses of our parents’ eras have been. Yet, amidst the fickle bops that define popular culture’s music taste, a couple of gems of truly high caliber glisten. One of these gems of the 2000s was one that we found Rolling in the Deep—Adele. 

spotify, phone, headphones, music

Most recently, it hasn’t been her skillful voice or her classic, soulful music that has caught the public’s attention. Instead, her latest Instagram post showcasing her new, slim physique reeled minds and sparked controversy throughout the Twitter-verse and in the comments section of her photo. Though her caption had no mention of her weight loss journey and was meant to celebrate her 32nd birthday, her dramatic physical change was practically the only thing on everyone’s mind. 

Since rising to global fame during the first decade of this century, Adele has always been considered a “plus-size” woman. Beautiful, nonetheless, but she was never really seen as a mainstream sex symbol. Thus, when she popped up on our feeds with her first post in nearly five months looking like a completely different person, of course, everyone’s first reaction was to comment on the blatant difference. 

“You were ALWAYS beautiful, but DAMN this transformation has me WEAK! YOU GO GIRL. You are absolutely glowing!” - @todrick​

“Wow you look amazing….. so happy for you.” - @carmenortega​

One could say that her transformation broke the internet with comments along these lines. The main crux of the whole reason I decided to write about this comes into play here. These kinds of comments, though I have no doubt that they were well-intentioned, perpetuate a skinny-equals-beautiful narrative. Here, I must highlight that I am not speaking on the merit of Adele’s weight loss—what one wants to do with his or her body is up to their discretion and no one else has a right to say anything about it (save for the caveat of detrimental, unhealthy behaviors, which should be dealt with accordingly). I’m simply arguing that we promulgate an inadvertently fat-shaming culture whenever we glorify dramatic weight loss. 

It’s never a bad thing to pursue health. Eating right and exercising and working hard to lead a healthy lifestyle are things that all of us should pursue. What’s not healthy is the idea that someone is more beautiful when they are thinner—but outpourings of compliments upon slimming down support exactly that sentiment. By gushing over weight loss, we unintentionally align the thinner image with higher levels of beauty and happiness by calling it a “glow-up,” as if the individual only got more attractive once they lost the weight. A glow-up implies that what came before was ugly and undesirable. We as a society expatiate messages of body positivity, but when it comes down to it, we still see bigger bodies as lesser. 

If you don’t understand my contention and why it’s so important to grasp this pattern, take the time to imagine this scenario: You are a young, insecure teen. You are bigger than you wish to be and far bigger than the sex symbols of the media are. You believe that no one will find you desirable unless you lose weight. No one gives you compliments on your body or looks at you like they look at the skinny people. Over summer vacation, you decide to go on a strict weight loss plan. You exercise rigorously and the discipline doesn’t let down in the kitchen either. When you come back to school, you’ve lost a significant amount of weight. Immediately, the compliments start rolling in, statements of awe gassing you up, talking about “You look amazing!” and “You are GLOWING!” As proud as you might feel, you also feel a sickening sense of confirmation—you are only more attractive because you are thinner. 

This is why glorification of weight loss is astoundingly detrimental to our body positivity mantra. It’s amazing when people set goals for their physiques and reach them. It’s certainly fantastic to celebrate newfound confidence. However, it’s not fantastic that for many people, they only feel confident once their weight has been shed. It’s not fantastic that beauty standards, as much as they’re struggling to change, have largely remained the same. 

Tapestry Bare Back Blonde Girl 2

Perhaps, we’ve simply not been working hard enough in questioning these long-held beliefs about what beauty should look like. Maybe we should intentionally and intently question why exactly we want to celebrate Adele’s weight loss so enthusiastically. Are our intentions to support her in achieving a personal goal? Or are we simply drooling over her because she fits better into our mold of attractiveness? It’s only when we start questioning our own inclinations that we’ve always taken at face value that we can actually incur change.