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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
EDITORS NOTE: Since this post was written, I have been actively dieting and have been working out under the supervision of a personal trainer. I have lost 50 pounds since the beginning of September. I still have a long way to go, but it’s a start. I believe in starts, once you have that the rest is inevitable. With the COVID outbreak, international travel has been dicey so I am hoping when I resume traveling outside of the US (maybe this year??) I will be fitting into the seats much easier.