Am I Too Fat to Go on Holiday? The Fat Fear of Travel
Have you ever had a panic attack because you're worried you won't fit into a seat?
It could be any seat. At a restaurant, in a theatre, on an aeroplane.
The sight of a chair with arms brings gut-wrenching feelings of full-on dread whenever I see one. Don’t even get me started on booths at a restaurant or deck chairs outside. Forget ghosts and boogeymen, I am totally, unbelivably petrified of chairs.
It may sound dramatic to get so het up over a seat. But for fat people, it's a reality. We are forced to squeeze ourselves into a world that isn’t big enough for us. To cram ourselves into corners and live in abject fear of taking up space.
It's enough to make you never want to leave the house.
And to be honest, a lot of us don’t. So many people choose to stay home instead of going out, because it's easier, because home is safe. You can’t be laughed at at home. You can’t feel the jeering stairs on your back as you walk down a crowded street. You can’t feel the embarrassment asking for a seat belt extender on a plane, and worry what the reaction will be when you do.
Living your life
So many moments in life that should be normal are tainted by the fact that I’m bigger. That there's no room for my body, so I should just be ashamed.
This is why travelling is a minefield for fat people. Holidays are supposed to be fun. To be a chance to relax while exploring new places, soaking up culture and new experiences and eating amazing food. But when the world judges you purely on the way your body looks, you don’t get to have your dream holiday. If you can even muscle up the courage to go outside it's fraught with anxiety and stress.
There have been countless times when I’ve just wanted to cancel a trip. I’ve gotten myself so worked up about being able to travel on a plane that I just think why do I bother?
I had a bad experience once on the way back from Japan, where the young man in the seat next to me made the cabin crew find him another seat, after spending half an hour sitting next to my seemingly gargantuan body, huffing and puffing about the fact I was too big.
I was mortified.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to take up your space. For 16 hours I was prepared to hold myself in as best as I could, to tuck my arms into myself, never get up and make myself as small and insignificant as possible so this man could have a reasonably comfortable flight.
This wasn’t enough, and I felt terrible. I felt terrible that he had to move, but I felt terrible for me too. And at that time I was a size 22, I dread to think what he’d say now if he was stuck next to all my size 28 glory.
It’s experiences like these that make you never set foot on a plane again. To put you off going away for life in fear of being confronted by feelings of shame and embarrassment.
But even if by some miracle you do fit into the seat, it certainly won’t be comfortable. On the last few plane rides I’ve taken I couldn’t even put the seat table down because my tummy was in the way. I had to pass on eating dinner on my long haul to America as I had nowhere to put it.
“Are you sure!?” a concerned air hostess asked.
“I’m not hungry I said,” I said.
I have no choice I thought, blinking back tears.
"Just lose weight"
I’m sure many of you will be thinking “Well if it's such an issue then just lose weight”, and god do I wish it was that simple. Losing weight is hard, and takes time. Am I supposed to just hide in a cupboard until then? Until society deems me worthy of its time and space?
And even if you do lose the weight, 90% of people end up putting it all back on. So it’s safe to say, I’m going to be fat for a while. Do I wish I wasn’t? Every single day of my life. But that's not going to stop me from actually having fun. You won’t catch me sitting at home in a dark room just waiting for the day to pass.
I’m going to get out there and live, and if that means I have to feel sick and blink back tears of anxiety and embarrassment while doing it then I guess that's what I have to do.
But I wish it wasn’t so hard.
Because until you’ve cried in a restaurant because you physically can’t fit into the stool they’ve provided, or nursed bruises on your thighs from cramming yourself into a seat at the theatre, or worried so much about fitting into a plane seat that you feel like you’re going to be sick at any moment, and think you may as well not go on holiday to save yourself the hassle.
Until you’ve gone through that, you have absolutely no idea what it's like.
I wish it was different. Travel is not ‘one size fits all’ and I wish people would realise that. Fat people have every right to travel as anyone else. They have every right to take up space like everyone else. If only people could be a little kinder as I try to navigate the minefield that is my summer holiday, maybe I wouldn’t have to feel so scared.
I hope the world will be different. I hope one day, I fit.