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May 12, 2020

Adele's Weight Loss Sparked a Heated Debate

After a long break from social media, successful singer/songwriter Adele burst back onto the social scene with a big surprise. Much to her 35.1m followers’ shock and delight, Adele posted a stunning birthday photo showing off her new bod after losing about 100 pounds.

She posted the photo to celebrate her birthday and used the opportunity to thank first responders who have been working to help those infected with COVID-19. But the photo drew a lot of attention for a completely different reason: her weight loss. Not surprisingly, controversy over the “right way” to respond to Adele’s photo started right away. While some influential voices pointed out that Adele is probably “healthier” at this weight, others argued that it was “fat-phobic” and “body-shaming” to conclude that the singer is more beautiful at her slimmed-down size.

So while some celebrities and fans gushed over her new look—“I mean are you kidding me,” said model Chrissy Teigen— others were shocked at the alleged body-shaming of Adele’s old look. And though many of the comments praising Adele’s weight loss were well-intentioned, they reignited the long debate over the association between beauty and weight.

How can we help our teens navigate this?

In 1 Timothy 4:8, the Apostle Paul writes, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” First, he doesn’t say physical training is the most valuable thing, and he also doesn’t say that it has no value. It has some value. But in our culture of shame and body hatred, where hashtags like #promia and #proana exist to promote bulimia and anorexia, for some people, “some value” quickly turns into a body-destroying quest to meet impossible standards.

Not that any of this is Adele’s fault—but these are the lenses through which posts like hers are often evaluated. In Christianity, we are called to steward our bodies to the best of our ability—which sometimes means exercising, and sometimes means letting ourselves eat. For some, eating disorders will make this confusing (see our Parent’s Guide for a more thorough discussion)—but what if instead of letting the first half of 1 Timothy 4:8 determine our whole discussion, the community of faith could be determined more by the second half?

The second half, again, is: “…but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Godliness means, simply, “conforming to the laws and wishes of God”—and this may in fact include physical training. But when godliness is the goal, then exercise and nutrition become a means of stewarding the lives that He’s given us, not an end in themselves used to determine our value.

What does your teen think?

This is a complex conversation, and one worth having with your teen. Here are a few questions you can use to get the ball rolling: 

  • Why do you think people are so opinionated about Adele’s weight loss?
  • Do you think celebrating weight loss can be harmful? Why or why not? 
  • Do you view Adele’s weight loss as a “glow up?” Why or why not?
  • What makes someone beautiful?
  • Other than exercising, what do you think it takes to be healthy?
  • Where is the balance in staying body positive and living a healthy lifestyle?

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