I’ll be honest..there are times I completely forget that I’m plus sized. I just don’t think about it all the time because there are plenty of moments in my day where it really doesn’t matter. I’m proud of the life I live as a plus size person. I’m confident (most of the time) and that is a hard thing to be for anyone.
However, I’m not perfect and even with my years of experience handling situations as a plus size person, I still have my fears; especially when traveling. These may seem silly, if not paranoid, to someone who isn’t plus sized. But remember that experiences shape people. When you experience something frequently and consistently enough, it leaves lasting impressions.
Maybe there aren’t solutions for all of them, but I figured putting my fears out there is a step in the right direction. I’m hoping that other travelers will be able to find comfort in the fact that someone else share’s their fears.
Not fitting on the plane
I remember this fear bubbling up when I was flying alone for the first time. I was 22 and the last time I was on a plane, I was a freshman in high school. There was a BIG difference (pun intended) in the sizes of 14 year old me, and 22 year old me.
A couple of days before the flight, I managed to watch an episode of a reality TV show based in an airport. There was a segment with this plus sized woman being forced to buy a 2nd seat because she was too big. It was devastating to watch, especially because this was before all the self-love and body-positivity movements. It was before I was even conscious of the idea that being fat might affect my trip. This is when fat people were still seen as, ironically, “less than,” and I feared for myself because I identified with this woman.
Fast forward to the airport..
My seat was called to board and I handed over my ticket and walked to the plane. The aisle was a little small and not only did I realize, but everyone who was already seated realized I was having a little more difficulty than most. Through the glares and slight embarrassment I still managed to keep my cool. All I had to do was get my seatbelt on and I would be fine. No matter how tight, as long as I could hear that punctuated “click,” everything would be fine.
Guys…IT DIDN’T CLICK.
It came so close to clicking, and I worked for the entire boarding process to make it fit. I wiggled and heaved from side to side, I sucked in my gut, I sat too far up, I sat too far down. My erratic movements caught the eye of the woman across the aisle from me and I saw petty in her face. Nothing was working.
Over walks a flight attendant, and my mouth started working before my brain could realize what was happening.
I looked up at her like a child who had just let go of their balloon.
“My belt doesn’t fit..”
She replied, “That’s alright, I can get an extender for you.”
I DIDN’T KNOW EXTENDERS WERE A THING. I had no clue this was possible and all at once most of my embarrasment melted off. I was relieved that I wasn’t going to be kicked off the flight and my rejection made into a reality TV episode.
The trip went beautifully after that and I’ve never hesitated to ask for an extender as soon as I step on board. I’m even considering purchasing my own extender with the recent realization that not all airlines offer them.
Packing light is a goal I make for myself for every trip. But, when you’re a bigger person, your stuff is bigger. A smaller person’s 4 shirts might take up the same space as my 1 or 2 shirts. It truly is an art and a science to pack lightly as a plus size person.
When I went to England and Ireland, it was the lightest I had packed. I was away for almost 10 days and had 4 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 shoes, a zip up sweatshirt, and a scarf. This plus my guide books, underwear, socks, maps, and toiletries took an entire large duffle bag. It was heavy and a pain to carry around.
Ok, so maybe not a fear, but it is definitely a point of stress.
Packing light isn’t the same for me, and I worry that I’ll never be able to actually “pack light” because “light” is something that has never been used to describe me or the way I live.
Sticking out in foreign countries
Foreigners have an eye for Americans..or maybe Americans have a way of making sure everyone knows we’re American. Regardless of how much I actually don’t consider myself to be a typical American, they can still spot me.
What makes it worse is that I am a walking example of Americans being the heaviest country in the world. It isn’t like an accent I can hide. I’m here in a big way.
I always worry that someone will say something about my weight. I’m aware that social manners are different in each country and what is considered rude in America could just be a general statement in other places.
How are you supposed to react if someone, without mallace, just comes up and says..
“You need to lose weight. You’re too big.”
Being turned away from stores
In my memory, this has actually only happened once and it was in America.
I was in a store with my best friend who was shopping for herself. I was helping her look for things when an employee of the store started looking over at me. She hesitated for a few moments but then came over to me and informed me that I was not going to fit in anything they have. I just said ok and walked away.
Being the loyal bestie she is, my friend immediately responded with “what the f*** was that??” And as I’m used to doing, I explained that she didn’t say it to be cruel, but rather to be informative. And she was right, I wasn’t going to fit into anything in that store.
This is one of those fears I still have on an almost daily basis. Walking into any store that isn’t a plus sized specific store, or doesn’t have a distinct “plus size section” puts a little tension in my spine. Will someone say something? Are the customers staring at me thinking I’m too oblivious to realize I don’t belong here?
Resting while traveling
Everyone has their own style of traveling. Some like to take cruises, stay in fancy hotels, visit a spa…(more like “vacationing” than traveling, in my opinion.) I like to stay in hostels, use public transportation, get up early enough to leave by 8am, and drive along the coast or through the country-side.
This can be exhausting, especially when you’re doing it for 10 days in a row with full days of activities. My way of traveling isn’t like my way of living and I often find myself exhausted by the 3rd or 4th day. Even though I haven’t taken a full rest day out of any of my previous trips, long-term traveling would change this.
I worry that when I travel for longer periods of time, and if with others, taking a day off would be connected to me being overweight. I fear that if I want to do this while traveling with others, they might start to think otherwise about traveling with me again.
“She’s slowing everyone down because she can’t NOT eat dessert” “She’s missing a full day in this country because she’s not fit.” “I feel bad for her.”
Conquering my Fears
I’ve done a lot to get over and deal with everything I shared in this post. Some of my fears are still around, some are completely dissapated, and some have branched off into other paranoias. But what I think sums up my most common, and most successful approach to conquering all of this is best stated in an instagram post I put up the other day.
“I just saved 100% on stress by switching to not giving a f***.”
And let me tell you, not giving one single f*** has turned my life around. However, most of the time I forgo this phrase for a favorite word of mine.
I’m indifferent about a lot of things simply because I know thinking about, and getting involved with them is only going to stress me out. If you haven’t noticed from previous posts, I have a tendency to be paranoid. Focusing on someone calling me fat, or having to use bigger luggage is only going to ruin all the good I’ve done for myself so far. Instead, I choose to be indifferent about the things that once caused me so much anxiety and fueled my fears.
So my general advice is to be indifferent, but just don’t forget to care about yourself and your happiness in the process of learning not to care so much about the fears that hold you back.