When you type “Adele” in Google, the search bar tries to automatically fill in the rest of your sentence with, “lost weight” and “weight loss." This is probably because Adele recently posted on her social media for her 32nd birthday, which showed a change in her appearance. As a result, tabloids and social media accounts alike have been talking about her weight loss nonstop, mostly in praises. There are side-by-side comparisons of Adele throughout the years and captions talking about how beautiful and healthy she looks now.
So as our society celebrates Adele's weight loss, where does that leave us in this pandemic? How does this praise represent the projection of productivity we are forcing down our throats while in quarantine?
It's no secret our society loves to value women based on their weight. I wanted to type into Google, "Is Adele okay?" or "How is Adele handling her divorce?" or "Is Adele happy being a mom?" Of course, I wouldn't get a direct answer to this. But does anyone actually care? Aside from begging for more music, people only seem to be talking about her weight, as if it's the second-most defining thing about her. This isn't about "glowing up." Society's obsession with Adele's weight is the tip of the broken foundation that is body image in America.
Celebrities are often put up on a pedestal for having a certain aesthetic with their bodies. This "celebrity standard" is toxic and completely unreasonable. Women with unattainable bodies, like the Kardashians, are consistently praised for their figures. We see them plastered all over the front pages of magazines, 100 ft tall billboards in Times Square and every television channel. Even at the prestigious 2019 Met Gala, Kim Kardashian's waist was the main focus of her look. Not the dimensionality of her dress, not the hundreds of crystals hanging off of her, not even how she looked like she just walked out of the ocean — all eyes were fixed on her impossibly tiny waistline.
But this isn't about pitting women against one another. Society is already doing that for us. This is about the fact that body-shaming comes in a variety of ways, even praise. Adele posted on her Instagram May 5th, and according to Google Trends, the topic of weight loss spiked to peak popularity of 98-100 the following two days compared to its usual little-over-half popularity of 58. In Google Trends, the numbers are put on a chart from 0 to 100 to represent the popularity of a topic. 100 means that the topic is at its most popular, while 50 means that the topic is half as popular. The related topic of ‘Adele’ had a dramatic increase in searches related to the term ‘weight loss,’ along with the most popular queries being “how did Adele lose all her weight?” and “Adele weight loss plan”.
In "Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture" by Amy Erdman, talks about how in modern days, weight gain is associated with negativity and loss of societal place. Meanwhile, weight loss has the total opposite result. Losing weight means you’ve gained approval and have improved your place in society.
The bias against gaining weight is evident in aspects and habits of American society, particularly through the microaggressions of commenting on the weight changes of celebrities.
Even though we're in the middle of a global pandemic, it seems as though everyone is capitalizing on how productivity is not only encouraged, but expected, as we continue staying at home. Even after we put together all of our puzzle sets and play all of the board games we own, we are still faced with the notion that we should be doing something useful, important, with our time. It feels as if we need to prove our worth with the results we produce by the end of quarantine. There are countless memes about coming out of quarantine with either a beach body or having gained weight. Meanwhile, the internet seems to ignore how hard it is staying at home for so long, and how this impacts one's body image and mental health.
American society is obsessed with always accomplishing and always being in motion. The work culture of this country is constantly driving people to do more, be more, even if it’s beyond our current limitation. Reactions to Adele weight loss are a prime example of how we tend to twist personal narratives to fit harmful biases; the bias of having to do anything productive with the crumbs of free time we get, even during a pandemic. It feels as though that if we don’t come out of quarantine with a beach body, then we wasted the time we got indoors, even though things like mental health and finances are rarely brought into the picture of these biases. Adele lost weight; that doesn't mean you need to buy a gym membership and start doing online work-out sessions in your living room. It's easy to get lost in our own body image issues, especially while in quarantine. It's scary. But weight shouldn't be a life-sentence to how someone is treated.
Instead of focusing on Adele’s weight, maybe we should focus on what we can do for ourselves during this pandemic, not what we’re being pushed to do by toxic standards.
While quarantined, I’ve written lists for daily activities I want to accomplish, most of which surrounded my weight. Whether it was ‘30 minute workout’ or ‘one hour walk,’ this list hung over my head every day, in addition to the guilt I felt if I didn’t check off each box. The other items on the list were productivity-related, too. I wanted to write a book of poetry during quarantine, learn electric guitar, get into film photography, record what life was like during a pandemic so I can show my kids one day. These are all things I sincerely want to do, but the feeling of having to do it almost ruins the appeal in the first place. These activities used to be outlets, and now, I’m forcing myself to enjoy them for the sake of productivity.
I recognize I need to be kinder to myself during quarantine. It’s taken me years to get to a place where I can accept my body, even if that’s still on shaky grounds. But I don’t have to be productive through lists and tasks. Accepting my body is active and on-going, and I need to value that relationship more than how this society expects me to look.
Editor's Note: The views presented in this story belong to the writer and are not necessarily reflective of North by Northwestern as a whole.
Article Thumbnail: Marc E. / CC BY