Diet culture magazines and a tape measure in a garbage bin. (Image courtesy of Carly Witteman)

Opinion: Why does celebrity weight loss go viral?

Weight — the force that gravity has on a specific object. Our society that promotes the message that the vertical force a body experiences due to gravitation determines one’s worth. Though it is 2020 and individuals may promote body positivity or health at every size, why is weight loss still something that is glorified?

I started this internal debate with myself when the British ballad-singer Adele posted a photo on Instagram. In said photo, it appears that she has lost a significant amount of weight. The average post on her account received about 750,000 to 1,000,000 likes — this photo received over 12 million likes. Viral is an understatement.

One person commented “We love the healthy new look.” Another wrote “Please let me know how you did it because I can’t.” People from every walk of life felt the need to comment on this change, congratulating her on “glowing up.”

I immediately wanted to say something, to speak my truth and share the message that weight loss is not necessarily a good thing, but I stayed silent. I can no longer stay silent when something happened a few days ago.

Actress Rebel Wilson recently posted a photo on Instagram. In said photo, it appears she has lost a significant amount of weight. The post has at least twice as many likes as any other post on her account. One Instagram user commented “All your hard work is paying off.” Another wrote “You look healthy … and HOT!”

As a woman who consumes media in many forms, I am sick and tired of seeing posts like this go viral. One’s weight should not “break the internet.” Gravity’s force on Adele’s body is not headline-worthy news. When I see articles that simply describe celebrity weight loss, I want to vomit. Why do we see weight loss as an immediate positive? Why do we perceive losing weight to be the key to all health, success, and happiness?

I understand that weight loss may be healthy in some ways; treating your body well means having balance in all areas of physical, mental, and spiritually wellness. Eating intuitively and finding the weight at which your body naturally wants to be is a process. But for us as a society to immediately praise celebrities like Adele and Rebel Wilson for losing weight is what perpetuates this idea that thinness equates to happiness.

We do not know what drove them to lose weight or what caused them to change, therefore to praise this change reinforces whatever is driving them to do so. We are reinforcing a culture that tells us diets and weight loss are always a good thing when in reality, they can have detrimental consequences.

According to the National Association for Eating Disorders, 91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting, 22% dieted “often” or “always.” The “obesity industry” (commercial weight-loss programs, weight-loss drug manufacturers and bariatric surgery centers) will likely top $315 billion this year. This is nearly 3% of the overall U.S. economy.

By sharing Adele’s weight loss with one of our girlfriends or reposting Rebel Wilson’s instagram post with the hashtag “glow-up” attached, we are encouraging the idea that weight loss is something to strive for. There is quite a possibility that both of these women lost weight in a healthy way by listening to what their body wanted and needed. Regardless, though, celebrity weight loss going viral is a terrible reflection of how society deems one’s weight to equate to one’s worthiness.

The next time you think about congratulating a friend, family member, or random celebrity on their weight loss, please think twice about the message you are reinforcing.

 

Writer’s note:
I did not attach photos of either of these women because I did not want to further promote “before and after” pictures. If you or someone you know is struggling with body dysmorphia or disordered eating, you are not alone. For resources and information, visit nationaleatingdisorders.org.