Adele’s new photo on her birthday last week broke the internet. The discourse around her physical transformation is so predictable- fitness influencers came out with their thinly veiled fatphobia and made her weight loss about “fitness.” They asked if the body positivity movement was going to come after them for being concerned for her “fitness.” There are three implicit problems I see around this discourse

  1. In making this statement, they showed their internalized fatphobia. (The nail in the coffin was when they placed themselves diametrically across from the body positivity movement on this issue.) The body pos movement was created to normalize representations of natural bodies across the shape-color-size spectra and call out the culture that had idealized a rake thin white woman and immortalized her on silver screens and celluloid. Their motive was never about belittling anybody’s journey with their bodies. It was simply to have women exist as they are, without any unrealistic standards thrust on them.
  2. Nowhere in her picture or caption were fitness or health implied – these were conclusions they reached all by themselves. Weight and fitness correlations made through hacky science and a common refrain of fitness influencers have become self-care through weight loss.
  3. The very existence of this sort of congratulatory post on weight loss has become a norm, and celebrities are easy fodder. This kind of culture tries to make weight loss about will power, instead of privilege and weight itself an enemy.

So many of the fitness conversations people are having this quarantine are incredibly short-sighted and fatphobic. The cult of fitness that arises in a time of a global pandemic tells you that weight & fitness are a concern of privilege and class. Having good mental health in a crisis for food, jobs, rent, health- a privilege. Having a backyard to work out in or not having cranky downstairs neighbours? A privilege. Having time to work out and participate in paid fitness sessions? A privilege. Having access to good foods and cooking & eating clean? Incredible privilege. The cult has arisen to prove how much will power people have at a time of crisis. To find their best selves. To be able to maintain their weight/ figure/ diets despite going through a period of extreme stress.

The pandemic shows that weight loss has become the marker of fitness even when these are actively bad messages to put out. People with a history of eating disorders are likely to be triggered worse at this time compared to any other. Making fitness a challenge and congratulating yourselves for achieving it on Instagram may be a flex, but it feels ableist and insensitive to me. As someone who has been on diets imposed by insensitive dieticians who did not care about my energy levels or fitness, simply my weight, I know how guilty it feels to eat like a normal person even for a single meal. It felt like cheating. It felt like I was a traitor to my own body.

Diets are stressful. Fitness can be mentally exhausting. Eating clean can feel good, and exercise and movement can feel very liberating in these times, but it needs to be shown for what it is. Not as a means to weight loss, but to cope with the stress of every day. Fitness influencers making it their job to promote an unreachable lifestyle are getting it wrong. Never has it been more apparent than during this pandemic.

Thank you for reading this, I hope you can find what routines ground you during the quarantine. The goal is not to win, the goal is to thrive as best as we can. <3