Thursday, September 17, 2015

Come Fly With Me

We are back!  We returned after seven fantastic days in Chicago and we're happy to be home. Before I talk about my observations of eating while traveling in my next post, I want to bring attention to little-discussed but important topic of flying while heavy.

Weighing our suitcase at the airport reminded me how much Jordan and I have each lost. It's hard to tell from the photo but the bag weighs exactly 50 pounds and the airport tagged it with that little red and white stripped paper that said "Caution: HEAVY" and I thought to myself that "you have no idea" and was really proud we don't have to lug that around anymore.
Something mortifying happened the last time Jordan and I flew—until now, I've only told one other person about this incident. We were headed to San Diego and I was positively giddy as we boarded our plane. I couldn't wait to play tour guide to Jordan and show off my old stomping grounds. I was busy jabbering about it all the way to our seat and, as per what has been a long-time, pre-flight tradition, I squeezed my hips and bum between the narrow arm rests uncomfortably. I was ready for this and the accompanying discomfort it brings for the duration of the flight but had been a small penance to pay to 1) get to where I was going and 2) for the luxury of eating whatever I wanted when I wanted. Don't get me wrong, I hated it but at least it wasn't a surprise.

I reached for the second pre-flight tradition of pulling the seatbelt to its maximum length then buckling up but as I went to do this the ends wouldn't meet. I resat, thinking maybe one end of it was stuck under me but it wasn't. I hoped against hope that maybe it had wrapped once around Jordan's buckled one and tried to use a light, airy voice as I asked him to unbuckle his and stand up so I could check. It wasn't. I gave the seat belt one more real try, certain I could make it work if I pulled hard enough but it just didn't go and by now Jordan, who's no dummy, was observing my activity (the grunting may have given me away). I accepted defeat, looked him in the eyes, mine instantly filling with hot tears of shame, and said "I can't get my seatbelt buckled. I'm too big." Immediately, Jordan soothed "It's okay," but beyond that we didn't know what to do. I said "they go around and do checks" (as if my husband had never flown or something) so he took my cardigan and draped it over my lap and told me to leave it there. I felt like some kind of criminal or something and prayed that the flight attendant wouldn't insist on my moving my cardi. She passed us by, twice, and once I knew there would be no more checks, I commenced full on, quiet sobbing on Jordan's shoulder. He held my hand and placed long, soft kisses on my temple or forehead but it didn't calm me in the moment (the bittersweet memory of it now, however, makes my chest tight with affection and gratitude for him). I was mortified and I knew I'd done this to myself. I cried myself to sleep on Jordan after about 25 minutes of shirt-soaking crying (I can usually find an "off" valve for my tears faster than that but this was new territory). Aaaaaand that's how we started off our San Diego trip.

Part of what kept me crying was the knowledge that I'd face this again on the flight home.We had a lovely time in Cali but this experience colored the whole trip for me. It chipped at my confidence as I got ready in the mornings, stood before the camera, and met up with old friends and knowing they'd never seen me bigger. Before the return flight home I shakily approached the service desk at the gate and tried and failed to ask for a seatbelt extender without choking up. The lady was so sweet and said "hey, no big deal we give them out all the time but we do it on the plane not here at the podium." I jerkily asked through tears if she could ask the flight attendant to discreetly bring one to my seat and I gave her my seat number and she graciously agreed. To the airline's credit, they very quietly handed off the wrapped up extender to me as everyone was hustling and bustling with their own baggage and getting seated. I only needed about three inches of it but the armrests made sure I didn't forget that I was not the right size for my seat.

So I went home that same summer, lost all the weight and lived comfortably ever after on planes. Right? Nope. BUT I did/do carry that experience and use it as a tool to keep me motivated as I'm on this weight loss journey. Sometimes that exact memory helps me turn down a late-night snack.

This last week, when I got on our Southwest flight I had a not-so-great start to a trip again. The flight attendant suggested I sit between a rather rotund lady (she had her armrest up as she needed the additional hip space—God bless her, I understand!) and a very svelte gentleman in the front row of the plane as I only had a small purse as my carryon and no overhead baggage. I obeyed and sat down in the seat indicated and there's no two ways about it, it was a cozy squeeze to sit by the lady taking up a bit of my seat and my hips butted up uncomfortably against the gentleman's arm rest and into his space. I turned to the lady and was about to ask if she was okay when she unsmilingly said "this isn't going to work, it's too tight," shaking her head at me. I felt a wave of shame, everyone was already seated and almost all other spots were taken. I stayed put waiting for the flight attendant to return and the lady asserted again, "you've got to move, there's no room." The flight attendant returned and I said "I'm sorry but we're a little tight up here, is there another seat?" She reseated me between a couple of nice people without issue but I still felt embarrassed AND I still hadn't discovered whether the seat belt would be an issue or not. I scooched my bottom back into the seat as much as possible (the armrests still uncomfortably squeezing my hips but not as badly as I remembered) and pulled the belt over my lap and it clipped right into place! I tempted fate by pulling a little on the slack and got about an extra inch I didn't need. I exhaled loudly enough that the guy next to me inquired "fear of flying?" I moved to reply in the negative but considering the experiences I've had as a big girl flying I nodded and said "you could say that," and smiled.

I could sit on my seat belt secret but the words of the flight attendant at the desk haunt me "no big deal, we give them out all the time." Weight loss isn't feasible for all (my weight is induced by poor choices) and airlines are notoriously cramped and uncomfortable. This blog post isn't going to make either of those facts better. But if you're reading this and you've had an experience like this (maybe you had to buy a whole extra seat on a plane like my grandma did when she traveled) know that you're not alone. I'm certainly not there yet but life is already so much better at 300 pounds than it was at 350. And if you're someone who has the luxury of being able to take an active role to manage your weight, do it, I know you can (and if you need or would like a dose of encouragement, email, Facebook, or call me and I'll remind you again).


  1. This is such a good, important story to share, Meg - I am cheering wildly for your bravery over here.

  2. I am so proud of you--for telling your secrets, for losing weight and for being your wonderful self. Love and miss you! Love, Linds

  3. Hi Ladies,
    Thank you so much! Let's just say it's not my favorite story but I really appreciate all the people who make sharing it safe and for reading at all, frankly. Flattered by the time you took out of your day to read and thank you again for your support and love!

  4. I want to hug you tighter than any seat belt could possibly squeeze a person. I am SO proud of you, Meg. Keep at it, and keep your head up and your shirt tear-stain free. YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION to people you don't even realize you inspire--believe me on this one. :)

  5. Thank you MissDancyPants (not sure of your real name but this handle is AWESOME)! I swear I could feel your hug—thank you so much for your comforting/uplifting words and for reading at all! It's always so humbling to have someone take precious time out of their day to read what I have to say. I'm flattered and grateful.

  6. You write beautifully and bravely about a not-so-easy but oh-so-real topic. Thank you for sharing! And congrats on finding the courage to take on the challenge of improving yourself. That's incredible! Nunca se olvide que fuerte eres!

  7. Thank you, Anonymous, for reading and your kind/encouraging comment. Estoy agracido por tus palabras dulces.