Adele's birthday photo is all over social media, but some say complimenting her smaller body is fat-phobic

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Adele's birthday photo is all over social media, but some say complimenting her smaller body is fat-phobic
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  • British singer-songwriter Adele recently posted a photo of her 32nd birthday celebration in isolation, thanking first responders.
  • Some fans took this opportunity to comment on the the star's apparent weight loss, which has been publically followed since she posted pictures at Drake's birthday party in October, and then again at a Christmas party.
  • But the compliments have prompted continued discussion over the potential harms of celebrating weight loss, how to discuss weight in a healthy way, and whether it's appropriate to comment at all.
  • An expert told Insider context is key when determining what's appropriate to say about someone's weight loss. And a pandemic might be a particularly bad time to focus on weight.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Adele has caused a stir on social media after posting photos of her 32nd birthday celebration in isolation, and thanking first responders and essential workers for their service during the pandemic.

Fans (and fellow celebrities) complimented her perceived "glow up" in the photo, in which she looks particularly slender.

The British singer has apparently been on a weight-loss journey since her divorce in September, and credits a special diet and a lot of pilates. There was a buzz around photos of the singer looking slender after Drake's birthday party in October, at a Christmas party, and then again on a beach in January.

Through the process, many have commented that the singer looks "gorgeous" and "unrecognizable," by way of a compliment.

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But the photo has also sparked a new controversy over what it means to celebrate a person's weight loss. Fans have voiced concerns about whether it's appropriate to comment at all, and whether there's a healthy way to do so.

Speaking to Insider, an expert said the answer to all of the questions raised depends on context.

Fans voiced concerns that complimenting someone's weight-loss sends a dangerous message

Fans on social media were quick to create memes about Adele's photo, but some also voiced concerns that the emphasis on weight-loss could be unhealthy and harmful to people.

Writer Roisin Ingle pointed out that weight loss isn't an indicator of worth and that Adele should be celebrated for her talent.

Writer Sherronda Brown has written about the problems of complimenting weight loss, in part because it assumes thinner bodies are more valuable, but also because it can put commentators' own insecurities on the person they're ostensibly celebrating.

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"My body is not better now than it was six months ago just because it happens to take up less space, and I need people to stop trying to make me carry the weight of their own fat hatred," Brown wrote for Wear Your Voice magazine.

In response to previous posts about Adele's body, Toronto-based writer Audra Williams pointed out in a viral Twitter post that weight loss can be a sign of serious physical or mental health issues, and complimenting it out of context it could send a dangerous message that how you look is more important than whether you are healthy.

Research shows appearance is not a good indication of health

Research does indeed show that while weight can be a component of health, factors like blood pressure, insulin resistance, and cholesterol levels are more important.

Fat-shaming has also been shown to raise health risks, rather than motivate people to lose weight. And people with poorer body image face a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, research shows, regardless of their body mass index, or height-to-weight ratio.

Pursuing weight loss no matter the health costs can also increase the risk of dangerous eating disorders and worsen health. And during a global pandemic, people can be particularly vulnerable to disordered eating.

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Weight loss can also potentially weaken your immune system, so even more caution than usual is important when considering or discussing weight loss goals right now.

It can be supportive to comment on someone's weight-loss, but context is everything

Since weight loss is complex, discussions about it should be, too, according to Kelly Coffey, a certified personal trainer and health coach. "To make a blanket statement that commenting on someone's weight is horrible is shortsighted," Coffey previously told Insider.

Coffey said that for people who have made an effort to lose weight or become fit, compliments can be an important source of validation and support, particularly when they come from people they care about.

"It can be incredibly validating and invigorating to have someone that you love notice and celebrate it if you've been trying to lose weight," she said.

But where comments can be problematic is if you know someone has a history of disordered eating or health problems, mental or physical, related to food, Coffey added.

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And, as Brown writes, some people may prefer to be left alone entirely, particularly if it's not someone you know personally or well. In that case, comments about their body in any way are likely better left unsaid.

If it is someone you're close to, and you aren't sure about whether your compliment will be well-received or not, Coffey said the best approach is to ask the person directly what they're proud of, and how they'd like to be supported.

"Ask them what they doing, how they're feeling, and then celebrate whatever thing they express pride in," she said. "Let them tell you what they want you to be excited about for them."

That might include weight loss, but it could also involve things like feeling more energetic or being stronger.

Read more:

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It's OK to feel hurt by 'quarantine 15' memes. Here's how to deal with weight gain jokes, according to experts.

Coronavirus anxiety and quarantining could increase eating disorder risk. Here's what to look out for.

The science behind Adele's 'sirtfood' diet and 24 other bizarre celebrity weight-loss plans

Read the original article on Insider
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