Come with me on my voyage of brutal self-honesty as I ponder “Perhaps it wasn’t those cheapskate airlines making their seats smaller after all.” 

It has to be more than the seats. It has to be. I tell myself they made them smaller but in truth, I seem to be the only one on my flight that has struggled to find a way to sit comfortably.  If I am sitting by people I don’t know and have the dreaded center seat, I get to spend two to three hours contorting my arms and legs into a fleshy corpulent pretzel for fear I make physical contact. This is vastly multiplied if I am sitting next to a female then I am frightened of not only touching them by accident but having them think I was some sort of masher or something. (This actually happened on a flight to Atlanta last year. I had to release my twisted arm from fatigue and it brushed up on the lady next to me. I was so embarrassed and apologetic. I was blessed as she just laughed and said: “It’s alright, I used to be heavy, I know how difficult these seats can be.”)

Even before the airplane leaves the runway, you already have the first sign that your flight will be a challenging one, the seatbelt test, I average about a 25% success rate. If it is an older model, I can usually suck in enough air to force one on. Mostly though I have to ask the flight attendant for one. So I scan the cabin for a young one because I need someone with good hearing as I am going to whisper my request for a seatbelt extender as quietly as humanly possible. I have to say most flight crewmembers are very cool about the request and even hand it to me discreetly almost like it was contraband. You can even buy one on Amazon, but since I am mostly road tripping these last couple of years I haven’t done so. I might in the next year or so.

Deep Vein Thrombosis is a real concern for overweight travelers on long haul flights.  A long time seated on an airline can develop blood clots in the legs. The heavier you are the more at risk you tend to be, It is vital that if you are a heavier person on a long haul flight over four hours to get up periodically and walk around. The condition is fairly rare given the number of overweight people who fly but you should be aware of the risks.

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Here I am clowning around in Saint Lucia. They wanted me to pose facing forward I refused and insisted they take the picture with my belly occluded.  If I had done the shot face forward, all I would have thought about was how fat I looked. (not that I still don’t,  but it is  less so)

So am I too fat to travel?  Yes. At least internationally via an airline. I have gone on a few cruises which I loved,  and many trips within the US and Canada. But until I get my weight off, I think I won’t head out beyond my continent. (Now if someone were to offer me a free ticket to Europe or Australia or anywhere else far afield, I would feel obliged to go but other than that I feel I am going to put that on hold until I reach or get near my goal weight). The hassle of long term travel has caught up with my body. Let me explain why.

Before I start I should mention that many people who are overweight and even obese travel frequently and have a grand time doing so. Nor am I discouraging you to not travel if you have extra body weight. I am not trying to body shame anyone.  This is just my own personal opinion for me. Truth is, if you are heavy and love to travel you should go. For me, there are just getting to be some major aesthetic obstacles to traveling in comfort. Here are some nuisances I have encountered and some ways I have attempted to remedy them.

Towels in most hotels are way too small. The hard truth is many Westerners (especially Americans like myself) are heavy. Most Europeans and almost all Asians are not. Just about everything is in scale for the smaller body type. Bringing my own towels is a must. If you want a souvenir T-shirt many places outside the US don’t have anything beyond large (so if you require something from the land of the X’s, I am currently a 3x, you are just plain out of luck) Ditto just about any clothes you purchase outside of the country.

The smaller scale clothes are just starters. Everything seems smaller, train seats, bus seats, the portions in the restaurants, the beds in the hotels and hostels, everything. It was rare for me to find anything proportion to my girth. Also given my comfort zone was disturbed just on an air flight, it was obliterated on city buses and trains. It was a touch free for all. I was rubbing sweat with everyone. And I was sure every svelte person I was rubbing was giving me dirty looks.

And speaking of dirty looks, you have to remember different cultures have different mores about weight. Here in the US, it is generally considered not PC to address a person’s weight, Others countries not so much.  what may be considered “rude” in one country may not be the same elsewhere. Depending on the place, you may have people openly talk to you about “being fat”.

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Blurry and a ways back, is how i generally have someone take my photo when I travel. besides the background (in this case, the Thetford ruins in Norfolk UK) is much more interesting than me.

Mobility can be an issue too. This is doubly difficult f you are overweight and older. I can not skydive, zip line, horseback ride, or go on a hot air balloon because of the weight restrictions. (I would do any of them in a second if I didn’t have the weight). Also, more walking, stair climbing, and standing tend to be the norm when you travel. If you do a group venture, you might cause your fellow travelers to have to wait while you catch up. Which can be annoying for you and them. I want to go somewhere and not worry about what I can and can not do physically. I want to be able to dive in.

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I found that since I got over 350, the only really comforting way I can travel abroad is on cruises. I am not strapped into anything other than my lifevest on muster drill. And they usually set up all the excursions with larger sized people in mind.

Which leads me to pictures. Sadly once you reach a certain weight, your obesity becomes the first thing people notice when they meet me. I have deep brown eyes, and dimples too, but they are usually secondary to my size. And it isn’t just others it’s me too. I see myself in pictures and I don’t like what I see. If I am standing next to Westminster Abbey, I want people to see Westminster Abbey, not fat Darryl standing by something. I have very few travel photos of me by something. I don’t want to be a distraction. And sometimes when I see myself all I think about is how heavy I look.

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Blocking my belly with a guitar, I can see my smile. Most of my favorite pictures are ones where my body is partially covered up.
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I learned a fat person’s photo trick. Lift your chin and have the person taking the picture shoot downward. It makes your face seem smaller. That and black. Black clothing is your friend. I can look at this picture and not cringe.
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Full body shots don’t work for me even at a distance.

I love traveling. Just about more than anything. More than being sedentary and especially more than food. And if I can’t travel like I used to, I find that distressing. There isn’t one thing about being overweight I find appealing. I wish it was as easy as just not wanting to be fat. I’d have been trim years ago. And now it is keeping me from comfortably doing something I dearly love.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the doctors and got some upsetting news. I was officially pre-diabetic and this was already causing stress on my kidneys. I am scared as I really think this is my last chance before I reach a point where my weight brings about a serious physical decline. We have worked out a diet and exercise plan that has worked for others. I plan to write about that tomorrow.  I weighed in at 350 pounds. The ideal weight for me is around 170. I want to do this. Yes, I know it is 180 pounds away, and I know to do this safely it will take somewhere less than two years, but I feel like I have no other choice than dying or not traveling. Which for me would be worse than dying.

Tomorrow I will discuss the plan of attack and what I am eating (and not eating) to get to my goal and also some exercises I am trying. So stay tuned. 

10 Replies to “Am I too fat to travel?”

  1. There are so many places to explore in the USA, don’t give up. And while traveling wreaks havoc on a diet if you let it, it is good for getting in more steps. I hear you on the judgmental looks in other countries…years ago, I went back to France to christen my godson. I’d packed on some weight in the years since they’d seen me and there was one particularly uncomfortable moment when my friend had to tell some of the other guests that even though I don’t speak French, I could understand the mean things they were saying about me and that they shouldn’t speak about me as if I weren’t there. I haven’t been back to France since…though I am certainly better at defending myself these days, I will never feel thin or well-dressed enough to go to France again.
    Good luck to you on your journey to getting healthy! I’ll be struggling with it, too. You are not alone.

    1. That’s an awful way for someone to treat you. I’m so sorry. I think weight and other body shaming is the last refuge of bigotry. You are right about wonderful things to see in the USA. Your blog does such a wonderful job of highlighting many of these places. And your photography work is first rate. Thanks for your support T. I appreciate very much.

      1. Aww thanks! There are mean/rude people in every culture. We can’t allow them to determine our sense of self worth. Being overweight doesn’t negate all the good qualities we have.

  2. I just want to send you some support. Not sure how to do it. You are being very honest with yourself and us. I would say the only thing remaining for you to do is to find a counselor to help you understand how you got here, understand the underlying mechanism of your obesity. Maybe it’s chemical, maybe it’s “addictive behavior,” maybe it’s a family pattern. I don’t know. And maybe you already understand this. Belonging to a support group can do wonders for achieving goals.

    But whatever, I send you a heartfelt wish, not for loosing all your extra weight, but for steering your body towards losing weight, no matter at what speed. For the sake of your health and happiness. The prospect of a “downward spiral” in your health is very scary. Your health is your biggest gift (and I believe from God). It is precious and you should guard it and treat it as such.

    I had great success with a few simple rules: weigh yourself at the same time every day and chart the weight. It is a very graphic picture of how you are doing. I tacked my weekly charts on the refrigerator. I “made friends” with feeling hungry. “Hunger is my friend.” I counted calories, but I know that’s not the right approach for everyone. I said often “Eat less and exercise more.” But I also said, “Tune into and take care of yourself.” But that was 2004 and I lost 35 pounds and kept it off. I could lose more, but I am no longer over-weight for me.

    You are really a great travel blogger and refreshingly honest. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you for your support Jym. I agree, that the psychological challenges to weight loss could even be vaster than the physical ones. Especially more me as I (LOrd willing) get closer to my goal weight. Even now as I am working out, I sometimes get hit with a wave of anger or sadness. I know it is just something toxic I am buring off with the excess fat, but it can be overwhelming. I am right with you as far as the charting, it is the only way I can stay focased. Congradulations of the 35 pounds I am glad it got you to the point where you were comfortable with yourself. (Which is really the point of weight loss or at least should be)

  3. I feel your struggle. I joined Weight Watchers and the support I have received is amazing. I lost about 50lbs on my own but the last 25 I really struggled and Weight Watchers helped. I still have problems keeping it off though. My problem too has been cholesterol. I’ve finally went from 257 to 214. Not perfect but I’m happy. Not with meds but walking and eating more veggies. My motivation is to be healthy enough to travel. Don’t give up

  4. I too feel stifled in travel. I am an introvert but curious about the world. My body size complicates all the ideas I have for fun.

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