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Weight and Travel

In my junior year of college, I did a study abroad in London for 3 months. I was so excited about the trip, since l had never been overseas, but I didn't think much about the reality of the travel itself and what it would mean for me to fly when I weighed 240 pounds. l didn't even think about seat assignments, since I had only flown once before, and that was 60 pounds lighter and only a short trip from Portland, Maine to NYC.

I can barely even describe the ensuing agony. l had ended up with a middle seat, and while international planes have a little more room than domestic, it wasn't enough. Once I managed to get my bag under my seat I couldn't get anything out of it. I had no room to bend down, not with my own bulk taking up the space. Similarly, when I squished into my narrow seat, I felt horrible and conspicuous when parts of me spilled over into the other seats. (As an aside, l didn't know anyone around me, which made it that much worse.)

Then came the awful moment when I really thought the seatbelt wouldn't fit. It did, but only barely. It pressed against my bladder, which was very unfortunate because it made me need to get up more regularly, an awful attempted slither behind the reclined seats that turned into a graceless bumble. The bathrooms themselves had barely enough space for me. But my humiliation wasn't complete until I tried to put down my tray table - and it couldn't level out because my stomach was in the way. When we landed, I was so relieved I barely noticed how my hips bumped up against the seats on both sides as I walked down the aisle.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, for a couple of reasons. The primary one is that I've had 2 work trips recently, and I'm looking ahead to my Iceland vacation in September. My trip this past week gave me an especially useful experience to compare and contrast, particularly on the part of the trip in a window seat.

These days, I fit easily into the seats and even have a little extra room. I can get things out of my bag, although even now, if the seat in front of me is reclined, it's very tight. I never have to worry about the seatbelts, and the tray tables fold down the way they’re supposed to. The bathrooms are still cramped but manageable. And when I walk down the aisle, my only concern is that I might clip someone with my backpack.

The difference is night and day, and I am always grateful to be my current size when l travel. I also often wonder, would I have kept up with traveling had I not lost weight? In reality, probably not, although I could still be heavier than l am and be okay. At a certain point, though, I think there's a threshold when the difficulty outweighs the fun of seeing a new place, at least for me.

But I have another reason for thinking about all this, which is to say I understand why people may want to loose weight. While I fully support fostering healthy body images and self-esteem, focusing on health rather than weight, and not judging anyone based on their size, the reality is that certain activities are more achievable and enjoyable at certain sizes.

The caveat, of course, is that not everyone wants to do the same things. If you have no interest in travel, or don't mind the logistics of it then this is likely a non-issue for you. But for me, easier travel has consistently been one of the biggest areas of improvement for me with weight loss, and I'm very happy for it.

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