Monday, May 11, 2020

Adele's Weight Loss

What should you say when you encounter someone you have not seen in a long time and you discover that he or she has gained or lost a considerable amount of weight?

Andrew Sullivan recommends that you initially say nothing:

It’s always a little awkward when you see someone after a long time and it’s instantly apparent that they have gained or lost a lot of weight. My rule of thumb is never to say anything at all. You never know the full context. There could be an illness or a medication behind a sudden weight change; a psychologically crippling event; a new, successful diet; a job loss; a sudden grief; anorexia; depression; addiction; divorce; early pregnancy; or just the gentle, humanizing curves of age. It may not be something he or she wants to talk about. Open your mouth, and your foot will always hover, quivering in front of your face. So, after a handful of social catastrophes in my younger days, I keep my trap shut.

One is not confident that one would be quite as decorous as Sullivan, and one understands that much of it depends on the state of your relationship with the other person, but I certainly approve of a default to politeness.

The issue does not involve a friend or even a foe. It involves Adele. You know Adele, the wonderful British singer who traded London for Los Angeles, so she could hang out with a-listers and other assorted wastrels. One remarks, because the fact is certainly relevant, that the move cost Adele her marriage to one Simon Konecki. Being as Konecki had to stay in London for work, moving to Los Angele put too much distance between the pair. And also, we must note, Adele and Simon have a son, a boy who was separated from his father, even before the divorce.

Here are the before and after pictures:

 Adele has lost seven stone in weight since transforming her lifestyle

 She showed off her stunning new look this week

None of the stories about Adele’s weight loss, her skinnification, seem to care about the way she conducted her marriage or the way she is bringing up her fatherless son, so I thought the points were worth mentioning. To think that it’s just about weight is short sighted.

Nonetheless, I assume that Sullivan is far too polite, far more polite than your humble blogger. So he does not mention the psychosocial elements. Being as this is a therapy blog, I feel compelled to do so.

When he saw the picture, Sullivan had four notable thoughts:

My first thought was: Wow, she doesn’t look like herself at all. My second was: Good for her. My third was: I actually thought she was cuter carrying more weight. My fourth was: Well, whatever makes her happy. All of that happened in a few seconds in my lizard brain, corrected by whatever moral restraints I had previously attempted to insert there.

Some of the rest of us will also imagine that she is ill. Losing that much weight is often a sign of illness. As noted above, it is also a sign that she is back in the dating market.

But then, Sullivan says that we have taught-- by the thought police-- that we may never, ever, under any circumstance, declare anyone to be FAT. The word has been strictly proscribed. 

The dimwits who devised critical theory explain that fatness is a social construction, or some such:

Take “fat studies” — yet another variety of critical theory — which sees the very concept of fatness as solely a form of structural oppression. In his brilliant encyclopedia of “critical studies,” James Lindsay explains the core argument: “Like disability studies, fat studies draws on the work of Michel Foucault and queer theory to argue that negative attitudes to obesity are socially constructed and the result of systemic power that marginalizes and oppresses fat people (and fat perspectives) and of unjust medicalized narratives in order to justify prejudice against obese people.” As with all critical theories, this brooks no modification. Fatness — like race or gender — is not grounded in physical or biological reality. It is a function of systemic power. The task of fat studies is to “interrogate” this oppressive power and then dismantle it.

Of course, Foucault was a gay activist. At the same time he praised and supported the Iranian ayatollahs who were hanging gay people. A little consistency, please.

Sullivan might have mentioned the fact that social isolation and social distancing produce an increased appetite.

He does mention that fatness is a health hazard. And that it happens to be a risk factor in coronavirus cases. Being overweight makes it more difficult to recover from the disease.

Fatness is an unhealthy lifestyle that can be stopped by people just eating less and better. We haven’t always been this fat, and we should take responsibility for it, and the physical and psychological damage it brings. Some level of stigma is thereby inevitable, and arguably useful. Humans are not healthy when they are badly overweight; and the explosion in obesity in America has become a serious public-health issue. It is, for example, the single biggest comorbidity for non-elderly patients with COVID-19. “When did it become taboo in this country to talk about getting healthy?” my friend Bill Maher asked in a recent monologue. “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end; it needs to make a comeback. Some amount of shame is good. We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts. We shamed them out of littering and most of them out of racism.”

When Bill Maher is the voice of reason, something is wrong with American intellectual life. But, clearly Maher is right. Shaming is not an unalloyed bad thing and it is not an unalloyed good. It depends. And being obese is unhealthy. It is also costly for our health care system. We are fully aware of how smoking increases the cost for health care. Surely, we can make the same argument for obesity.

But then, Sullivan continues, the truth is, that Adele, when slightly overweight, looked very good. She did not look like she was suffering from obesity. And certainly not from morbid obesity. 

There is a huge amount of subjectivity on the question of beauty, and this helps. But this is also probably why Adele touched such a nerve. She really helped pioneer a greater appreciation of the beauty of plumpness. She didn’t just look good as a plus-size woman; she looked fantastic. She seemed to expand the window of unconventional beauty for a while, and now she seems to have retreated into a more familiar style. It seems perfectly natural to regret some of this dynamic, and the way in which it can torment women and girls.

And, of course, looks matter. They matter especially for women. You can inveigh against this all you want, but clearly it is true.

So, Sullivan wisely claims that we should reject extremes, of skeletally thin and morbidly obese. Not a bad idea, all told:

We are neither angels nor beasts, but we partake of both. We can rarely make the ugly beautiful, and if we do, it’s a moral achievement. However much we try, we will never correct the core natural inequalities and differences of our mammalian existence. But we can hazard a moral middle, seeing beauty in many ways, acknowledging the humanity of all shapes and sizes, while managing our health and weight in ways that are not totally subject to the gaze of others.

And we can greet the newly thin or newly fat in ways that do not fit any ideological rubric. To paraphrase Philip Larkin, we can try in these matters to be both true and kind. Or at least not untrue, and not unkind.


urbane legend said...

Adele's life is Adele's life, about which I do not care. About her son, unfortunately, people of legal age ( notice I did not say adults; that has a different meaning ) make selfish decisions which affect children badly. That is today's world.

Now, her weight loss is probably a good thing. All of the medical studies show obesity doesn't help anything. As to the way she looks, all super skinny people look like scarecrows. It looks worse on women. They don't look real. Women a little fat look human. But that's just my opinion.

Where does all that stretched skin go?

370H55V said...

Agree that she does look cuter in the top photo--the lower one makes her look skeletal. Too bad we can't combine the face on top with the body below.

Dan Patterson said...

Larkin is exactly correct though his instruction is difficult to manage. Unfiltered truth is acceptable from a child but not from another adult with at least some social consideration.

Speaking of the Lizard Brain (a descriptor I often use as well) there are some things he will not allow. Such as the deception of modern women that size doesn't matter. Well, honey you might believe that lie but I sure don't. My size, and I mean the size of the thing that matters most, my bank account, certainly matters to the women I meet. And the other important article's size also matters quite a lot and Lizard knows that to his cold-blooded core. The size of the female is quite an important feature: Fat chicks cannot rouse The Lizard from his rest no matter how good the conversation, how sumptuous the meal, or how strong the drink. Nope. Hence the down-size of poor Adele and her piteous attempt to capture the appeal of a 20-something hardbody. Again, nope.

Urbane Legend said it and I will repeat: Such a dastardly and selfish action by a shallow and empty fool. Other singers, equally as gifted and on an equally swollen career have made good decisions about children and family, and kept both intact. Sade (Helen Folsade Adu I'm told by wikipedia) comes immediately to mind. But there are others, careers kept local and talent know to fewer perhaps but they sing with their souls intact.

Poor Adele.

Sam L. said...

Personally, I prefer the way she looks now. These are the only two pictures I have ever seen of her. I have never, to my knowledge, have ever heard her sing. My local radio stations only play oldies, '60s thru '80s. And speaking of how people look, I like George Thorogood's song, "Get A Haircut And Get A Real Job".

UbuMaccabee said...

She will become fat again. That is her default condition. This is a blip in the curve.