When weight becomes a deterrent to travel


I read the January 2 anti-‘fat shaming’ post on the #PaxEx Industry Forum with interest. I have written about this issue on my own AviationQueen.com blog. As a woman of size, I’ve always been able to fit within the confines of my seat, so I haven’t always been as sympathetic as I could have been.

I specifically remember a miserable 3.5 hour flight in 2008 where I was stuck in the middle seat with my daughter in her bulky car seat at the window and a man of considerable size next to me in the aisle seat who clearly did not fit in one seat. I should have said something, but I didn’t want to be rude.

BIG mistake. He kept trying to lift the armrest and put his leg in my middle seat space, and seemed insulted when I kept asking him to move. I finally asked the flight attendant if something could be done, but it was too late – the plane had taken off and the flight was full.

Fast forward to 2013, where I continued to comment on stories dealing with people of size, still feeling smug because I was still able to fit in my seat. But this column, which I did comment on, struck a nerve because of two recent developments.

First, during a flight I took in the last quarter of 2013, I actually turned into one of *those* people who can’t fit in one seat. Second – and worse – I can barely fit into the cockpit of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk SP I’ve been training in for the past two years.

In the first case, the gate agents could not have been nicer, but it was still painful and humiliating. I was eventually accommodated without having to buy an extra seat, but it was not fun.

In the second case, when learning to fly, you are doing exercises and tests that will ensure you are a safe and proficient pilot. It is hard to focus on that when that cockpit seat belt is cutting into you like a knife and causing you to feel slightly breathless.

I love to travel and have been doing it since I was five. I have wanted to learn how to fly since I was in my teens; my weight has become a deterrent to me doing both. Although I’ve always been amazingly healthy, I had a scare that made me realize this weight had become a detriment for even more reasons.

There are people of size who have medical issues that cause weight gain, making it difficult to nearly impossible to drop the pounds. I’m not one of those people.

Now, in order to maintain my health, continue to travel and finish my flight training, I’m dropping the weight. I’m enrolled in a medical program where my goal is to lose 100 pounds. I’ve lost 12 pounds so far, and even with that small amount, I can already feel a difference.