Adele Live 2016

Permission to Lose, Gain, or Maintain Weight

Butt out. It seems like such simple advice. Yet it’s rarely heeded. Especially when it comes to people clucking about someone else’s size and weight. Two recent examples are top of mind. First, we have Adele who quietly lost some weight without first getting permission. And then we have Abby Ellin wondering aloud in the New York Times about being body positive and yet wanting to lose weight. She takes a hard look at fat acceptance, diet, and health advocates and explains the dilemma:

“The tension among fat-shamers and fat-accepters can be wrenching for the swath of people who are overweight and trying to figure out whether they need to strive for self-acceptance or start another diet.”

Compelled to Comment on Adele

Adele celebrated her 32nd birthday last week and posted the first photo of herself on Instagram in more than four months. People could not help themselves from commenting on her body weight. She appears quite a bit smaller in a black minidress and heels. She has nothing to say about her size, just good wishes for her fans to stay safe and sane.

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A post shared by Adele (@adele) on

But of course, that doesn’t stop the rest of the world. “Looking gorgeous!” says her friend Rita Wilson. Others express disappointment. “I want the old Adele. Chubbier, prettier.” It’s the inevitable product of celebrity culture. When a celebrity put herself out there as an icon, people think they own her. Adele has told people:

“I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines. I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that.”

All the drama about Adele’s size tells us only one thing. You can’t live your life for other people.

Making Sense of Body Positivity and Health

In her Times article, Ellin does a good job of explaining this impossible conflict. She talks with fat acceptance activists and with OAC’s Sarah Bramblette, who tells her:

“I kind of feel stuck between people bashing me for having obesity and telling me I should lose weight, and the other half that says you should love yourself and that means you shouldn’t lose weight. I’m bad for wanting to lose weight, and I’m bad for not losing weight.”

Unfortunately, Ellin slips in a half-truth along the way, saying that weight cycling (losing and regaining weight) is a risk factor for hypertension, diabetes, and other problems. “Risk factor” is a slippery term. The truth of the matter is that losing and regaining weight has not been shown to increase the risk of these conditions. All we have is an association, not cause and effect. Very similar to the association between drinking diet soda and a higher body weight.

So in the end, people need to make their own decisions and do the best they can to take care of their own bodies. Obesity has real effects on a person’s health and quality of life. But it’s not something that people can choose to banish. It’s a chronic medical condition that’s manageable, though seldom “curable.” It’s your physiology that gets the deciding vote on how it’s going to store fat.

The best we can do is try to nudge it in a healthier direction.

Click here for the article by Ellin and here for more on the response to Adele’s experiences.

Adele Live 2016, photograph © Egghead06 / Wikimedia Commons

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May 10, 2020

6 Responses to “Permission to Lose, Gain, or Maintain Weight”

  1. May 10, 2020 at 9:52 am, Allen Browne said:

    True It’s your physiology that gets the deciding vote on how it’s going to store fat.- but the good news is that we recognize the physiology and that we can nudge it to a healthier state.

    • May 10, 2020 at 10:02 am, Ted said:

      You’re right, Allen. Thanks!

  2. May 10, 2020 at 10:25 am, Susan Burke March said:

    Thanks so much for this thoughtful commentary, Ted. You put into words what I’ve been musing about for the past week – and your pointing out that “weight cycling” has not been shown to be a “risk factor” is so important. I’ve had many clients who were fearful of trying to change their weight by “dieting” because they’d “failed” before and were fearful of failing again because they thought that ‘yo-yoing’ was worse. Moving away from “dieting” toward living a healthy lifestyle with making choices, exploring choices.

  3. May 10, 2020 at 10:35 am, Cathy A Arsenault said:

    Obesity is the most misunderstood disease today. Everyone is an expert but in reality, most have not a clue. Social acceptance of weight shaming continues as people suffer in silence many all too familiar with the isolation that many are now just starting to understand under a totally different circumstance. It has to stop.

  4. May 11, 2020 at 5:42 am, Mary-Jo said:

    Another message, to me, from this latest discussion of losing weight or not and why should I or not is that if and when someone wants to seek help for EITHER, whether to lose weight in way that matches your situation OR to do what’s needed to deal with shame and stigma associated with being a larger size in a world that equates being thin with strength, beauty, intelligence, etc., one is more so on their own UNLESS one has the pocketbook of Adele. NO ONE wants to live life feeling rejected by society and/or burdened by self-rejection. As a person who has lived with obesity most of my life, if I had a dollar for every time I sought help and was told I was smart, knowledgeable, professional and I knew what to do and just do it, wink, wink, maybe I’d be rich enough to pay for proper help! Also, as a HCP, it was maddening working with people with obesity who I knew needed more than just lifestyle change, and I knew they COULD get help, but only if they paid out of pocket! I KNOW things have been changing and I am certainly uplifted and admire all the folks out there making these changes happen, but often it’s still 2 steps forward,10 steps backwards.

  5. May 11, 2020 at 6:00 am, Vicki Mooney said:

    Thank you for this highly refreshing and on point article Ted.
    The comments around weight cycling brings up a whole new conversation that needs to take place on a larger stage 👏