Singer-songwriter Adele shocked the world after losing 100 lbs over the past two years, despite being previously unapologetic about her body and a vocal body-positive activist.
Curvy women everywhere raged and lamented Adele’s new size, taking the news as a personal attack against body positivity and all women who aren’t a natural size 4.
But are there times when weight loss can be body positive and healthy?
In this week’s article, I’ll deep dive into why Adele’s weight loss should be celebrated as a victory for health at every size (HEAS) and why weight loss can, in fact, be body positive.
Why did Adele lose weight?
“I did it for myself and not anyone else.”
True to her unapologetic nature, Adele famously quoted in her November 2021 interview with Oprah that she worked on her health for herself, and not as some grand statement to represent women everywhere.
In the interview, Adele opened up that she’d been suffering crippling anxiety in the wake of her separation from her husband in 2019, and later divorce in 2021. “Working out, I would just feel better… It was never about losing weight, it was always about becoming strong.”
Adele confessed to Oprah that her anxiety would give her the most crippling anxiety attacks after she left her marriage. They “paralyzed me so completely and made me so confused because I wouldn’t be able to have any control over my body, but I was aware of that happening because it was kind of still very much there while my whole body was just like, on another planet it felt like.”
And that’s where we see exactly when weight loss can be healthy and body-positive: when it isn’t about losing weight, but instead is about becoming strong, or improving mental health, or eating in a way that nourishes your body.
Adele lost weight primarily due to her fitness routine
When asked how she lost the weight, Adele consistently credited her workouts as the primary source. She worked out with a trainer – something I recommend everyone do for at least a handful of sessions to learn how to do basic exercises properly and use equipment safely. And she worked out three times a day – which can be excessive for many people, unless you manage your energy levels well and the extra exercise is specifically to reduce stress.
But the main reason Adele successfully got into and maintained a regular workout routine? She found forms of exercise she loved.
Adele’s workouts included circuit training, strength training, and boxing. She credits deadlifts as one of the exercises that helped her fall in love with strength training, starting three years ago at 10 lbs and working her way up to an impressive 170 lbs. She also says that boxing helped her get addicted to her workouts. “I’ve got a left hook that could kill you.”
Adele didn’t diet to lose weight
Notably, when asked again and again if she dieted to lose the weight Adele strongly said no. “No intermittent fasting. No dieting. Nothing. If anything, I eat more now than I used to because I work out so hard.”
I always recommend people look at eating healthy foods as something to add rather than subtract.
For instance, instead of using traditional diet logic to restrict which foods you can’t eat, or can only eat at certain times (basically creating a series of strict rules you must abide by or you’re a failure), try looking at where you can add nourishing foods to your existing meals. Maybe that looks like adding a green salad every night at dinner, or an extra serving of protein at each meal.
Adele got fit to improve her mental health
As mentioned above, Adele credits her workouts as a strategy to manage her stress and anxiety, a strategy which research has repeatedly shown to be beneficial at reducing your stress hormones (like cortisol), upping your happy hormones (like serotonin), and improving sleep (which also helps balance hormones).
Using fitness to complete the stress response cycle, Adele found a way to let her body know it was safe and didn’t need to feel stressed anymore.
You can use the same strategy anytime you’re feeling upset, angry, or stressed. As soon as you notice the feeling of tension in your body, take a minute or two (it can sometimes take up to 30 minutes, depending on the severity of the stress) to move your body in some way. It can be squats, jumping jacks, pushups, or even just progressive muscle tension and relaxation. After you’ve finished moving, relax your body in some way. This can mean taking 10 deep belly breaths, or hugging a loved one for 20 seconds, or kissing a partner for 6 seconds – all of which communicate to your body that you’re safe and the “danger” (i.e. stress) has passed.
Adele is a big fan of body-positivity and health at any size
“People have been talking about my body for 12 years. They used to talk about it before I lost weight. But yeah, whatever, I don’t care,” she said. “You don’t need to be overweight to be body-positive, you can be any shape or size.”
And there we see one of the core tenets of health at any size: you are beautiful no matter what shape or size you are.
You’re beautiful when you have a larger body, you’re beautiful if you lose weight, you’re beautiful if you have children and are now living in a new post-baby body, and you’re beautiful if you just had a double mastectomy to treat breast cancer.
No matter what you look like, you are beautiful.
Is Adele’s weight loss healthy?
I know I’m taking a controversial stance in the body-positive community by saying this, but yes – Adele’s weight loss is healthy.
Adele chose to start exercising as a way to manage her anxiety – a very healthy strategy.
She chose to find types of exercise she loves and does them multiple times a day – a very healthy strategy.
She didn’t diet or restrict her eating to lose weight – definitely a healthy strategy.
And she stayed body-positive throughout the process, focusing on loving her body for all the amazing things it allowed her to do rather than what it looked like – also a healthy strategy.
Choosing to treat your body with love and respect – through eating nourishing foods, moving regularly, and working on self-compassion – can sometimes result in weight loss, and sometimes not. But weight loss isn’t the point.
You’re beautiful no matter what size and shape you are.
And knowing and understanding that is one of the healthiest things you can do