Category Archives: Airlines

Fat Shaming Is A Thing, But It’s Not A Helpful Thing

Fat shaming has never made anyone healthy…ever. I doubt that it has ever made anyone skinny either, and before I go any further, I want to highlight the fact that these adjectives are not synonymous with each other.

Being skinny doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy, and being fat doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re unhealthy. My blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, resting heart rate, etc. is all excellent now. There are a lot of risk factors associated with someone my  size, but you can’t judge a person’s health based on how they look.

You can’t look at me and know that I significantly reduced my chances of having a heart attack or stroke by dropping a significant amount of weight or that I exercised today, nor can you know that I’ve struggled to keep a lot of it off because of thoughts that swirl around in my mind. You can’t know the reasons why.

One of a few significant reasons is that I allowed an airline’s perception of me to take up space in my mind. I allowed one seemingly disgruntled gate agent’s blanket prejudice to define me long after his hurtful comments were an old headline in the news, and it didn’t cause me to lose weight. I didn’t thrive off of the negative attention that followed his comments either; I caved.

I take responsibility for that. I am the only one who can make a decision to change or to let others define me, and I accept that. It’s all on me to change what I need to change for myself, but if fat shaming worked I’d be skinny by now.

On of the reasons that I stopped blogging as much is that I no longer wished to put myself on a chopping block for trolls who think I shouldn’t exist or that I don’t have a right to share my story because I’m obese. That’s nonsense, of course, but eradicating that negativity has been good for me.

I’ve been quiet here for quite some time. I’ve shared opinions, pissed people off and taken a break, but that break is over because it’s time to stand with other voices and to say, Hey, it’s none of your beeswax if I’m fat or not. Your opinion of me doesn’t define me; it defines you.”

kenlie

I’m not skinny…not even close, but I love myself.

I’m lucky to have a supportive group of people in my life who love me and accept me. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to undo the damage that I allowed to take root in my heart and mind when I allowed society’s opinions to define who I was.

I gained a significant amount of weight that I had lost, and I’ve felt a lot of shame as a result. Never has that led to a lower number on the scale. It doesn’t work that way, nor should it.

The last few weeks have been healthier and more successful for me because I’m enjoying my life. I’m reclaiming a lot of the confidence I lost thanks to my friends and family, a significant other who loves to remind me that I’m brilliant and sexy, and I’m making healthier decisions because it makes me feel good (not because people think I should feel bad.)

I don’t hate myself, so that will never be a driving force in my fight for better health. I exercised today because I value my life. I shopped for groceries and prepared for a healthy week of meals because I want to be around for a long time to love people, and I can only hope (and assume) that these small positive steps will lead to other positive steps.

If you truly care about my health go for a walk in the park with me, or take me to lunch and order something healthy and delicious. There are people in my life who do that. There are people who want me around for a long time, and they offer support, not criticism.

I’m not going to link to that newest fat shaming video that’s making its way around the internet  because plenty of others are doing that. I don’t know when it became acceptable to spew hatred on social media, but I do know that there’s no end in sight.

I do know that the responsibility for my life falls on me, not on a skinny girl who could benefit from some acting classes or a gate agent who was probably having a really crappy day. I get to decide what I’m worth. I’m just sorry that I didn’t always know that.

At our core, we’re all the same. We desire to be loved and accepted (even the jerks who spew hatred…especially the jerks who spew hatred.) One important lesson I’ve learned is that I’m lovable, and I don’t have to care if others agree with that or not.

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Things

Last week I represented PlusInc at an airline conference in Washington, D.C., and it was an honor to speak to airline executives, on behalf of plus-size people.  You can read all about it here.

For years I’ve had a love-hate relationship with our nation’s capital, but this time I fell in love with it.  Looking back it seems as though every time I tried to enjoy the day as a tourist in D.C., something would either go wrong or distract me from my plans, but this trip was different.

This time I didn’t break any bones and spend the day in the emergency room, nor did I spend all day and night swooning over a man who never fails to make me feel sexy and awesome. (I might have done that if he hadn’t been out of town on business in Chicago.)  I spoke at the conference, went out with a cool guy who treated me to one of the best burgers in D.C., spent time with Brandon (who is one of my favorite people on the entire planet,) went to dinner with an awesome and inspirational friend and visited with executives who were interested in hearing what they could do to make air travel better for people of size.

Westin City Center DC

When the conference was over and Brandon left, I decided to take a walk down to the White House.  I hadn’t been there in about two years, and there’s something magical about being at the home of the most powerful person in the free world.  I nerd out for it every time.

The White House was about a mile from my hotel, and it was about another mile to the Lincoln Memorial (which is easily my favorite spot in the city.)  I stopped in front of the White House to take a photo, of course, and a few minutes later I stopped by the Washington Monument to post it on Facebook.

Kenlie White House

When I opened the app, I saw a message from someone who used to mean the world to me.  She was a close friend when I lived in New York, and our relationship suffered because I couldn’t be honest with her.  I’ve talked about this many times on my blog.  She doesn’t have a blog, nor are we connected online.  She just sent a message that said, “Hey, are you in front of the White House?”

She was there visiting from New York with her husband and saw me, but I didn’t see or hear her because I was wearing headphones and listening to Maroon 5’s latest album (which is awesome, by the way.)  I walked back up Constitution, and I can’t tell you how amazing it was to hug her.  I apologized for being a piece of crap, and we walked to the Lincoln Memorial together.  In some ways, it felt like ages since I last saw her (almost 4 years ago,) and in some ways it felt like yesterday.

I don’t know if we’ll ever be friends again, but it was so good to spend time with her.  It felt as though something in my heart was mended that day, and it felt good to say ‘I’m sorry’ in person.

My trip, which included stops in Boston and New York as well, was one of the best I’ve experienced in recent memory.  I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to cultivate change and to be surrounded by close friends and inspirational game-changers. Now I’m back in New Orleans, and I’m looking forward to fall and all of the good things that come with it.

Airplanes and Food

Blogging is one of my favorite things to do on an airplane, and right now I’m fired up so I want to discuss the ridiculousness that is food choices. (Don’t judge me. It’s 9:22 pm, and I haven’t had dinner.)

I’m on a flight from New York to New Orleans. We were delayed over an hour one we boarded, which is nothing compared to the several hours of delays I faced on the way to New York. Now it’s time for dinner, and I don’t have any reasonable options.

While visiting the city that never sleeps, I found myself in bed relatively early every night. I slept so well every night, and I’m looking forward to climbing under the blankets in my own bed tonight.

Going to bed significantly earlier means that I need to eat dinner earlier too, but that’s not going to happen tonight. My options on the plane, apart from the complimentary pretzels, cookies and peanuts, are potato chips or trail mix. (Really, Delta?)

It’s not just Delta though. Sadly, apart from first-class flights from L.A. to New York, I’ve never had very good options, and that’s aggravating. They serve up drinks that I’m not interested in so I ask for water, which is fine. They’re not flying us around for free so I just wonder why the airlines can’t do better than overpriced Pringles and trail mix.

I’d be willing to pay ten bucks for a sandwich, snap peas and hummus or something similar on a 3-hour evening flight, but that’s not an option today. Instead I’ll just sit back, relax and be happy that I’ll be able to make better choices tomorrow.

What do you think about airplane food? Do you have any ideas regarding how they could offer better choices in flight?

The Law Suit

Whether you’re new to my blog or not, here are some facts about what’s going on in my life right now.  I’m suing Southwest Airlines.  I’m seeking an injunction because their policy needs to be less open to interpretation by their employees at the ticket counter and at the gate.   Now… before you make assumptions and/or draw conclusions, I’m asking you to listen to what I have to say.

I am not advocating obesity.  This blog only exists because I am taking steps to change my health and my life.  I’ve lost over 100 pounds, and I’m not saying that obese people should receive special treatment.  I’m simply saying that they deserve equal treatment and the opportunity to clearly understand the rules.

It's a long road, but I'm moving in the right direction...

It’s not about money.  I didn’t seek damages in the law suit that I filed Pro Se (on my own.)   But when this is over Southwest will (hopefully) owe overweight and obese Americans a clear definition of their rules at the point of purchase.  Eyeballing people at the gate won’t cut it as I’ve said on a few different occasions (here and here.)

After the initial Southwest incident last year, I blogged about it, and a representative contacted me to apologize.  I accepted the apology and agreed to fly on Southwest again.  I flew from Baltimore to New Orleans and had no problems, then I flew from New Orleans to Los Angeles, and I had no problems.  A few months later I took another flight, and  I was once again told that I was “too fat to fly.”

Actually, her words were “Well, look at you.  Obviously you need two seats.”   It’s interesting though…As soon as the agents saw the letter of apology that I received from Southwest’s HQ regarding the last incident, their tune changed.  I was allowed to board without issue, but at that point I knew I had to do something about it.

Once again, Southwest reached out to me via e-mail before I even reached my destination.  Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail:

“Moving forward, when flying with Southwest Airlines and falling under our Customer of Size policy, we will require the purchase of a second seat for travel.”

What I need Southwest to tell me is when exactly do I “fall under” that policy?  Why does it apply one day and not on another day?  I certainly didn’t fall under it according to gate agents on the two prior flights.

The problem I have with Southwest is not that they may want me to purchase two seats.  It’s that sometimes they want that, and other times they don’t.  I don’t know about you, but I fly a lot.  And paying double because a gate agent may or may not have something against overweight people is not realistic…nor should it be necessary.  

Perhaps the solution isn’t simple, but it is definitely an issue that needs attention.   The fact that the agents in my experiences were unaware of the policy is unacceptable.  And humiliating people at the gate (or in private for that matter) simply should not be an option.

As a lay person I recognize that there are engineers and rocket scientists working for this company that figure out how to make these giant machines fly around in the air everyday without crashing into each other.  Surely, they can work to create a finite policy that takes away the gate agent’s right to discriminate against overweight people.

Again, I’m not advocating obesity.  I’m working to change my body, but it is not my right to judge someone else’s circumstances.  And that’s not the point anyway.

Clearly, Southwest wants us to be a certain size, but no one (including Southwest) seems to know what that size is.  While we may not be born with an innate privilege of flying on a plane, as paying consumers we do have the right to fly if we’re willing to follow the rules.  And in order to do that, we need to know the rules.  

Southwest cannot discriminate against people because of race or gender.  People fought for those human rights, and now I’m fighting for the rights of every American, even larger ones.  More than thirty percent of Americans are obese, and you don’t have to understand or advocate obesity to know that what’s fair for one American should be fair for all Americans.  

I hope you’ll join me in my desire to seek positive change, but even if you don’t, I’ll still be here.  I’ll be fighting for what I know is right because someone has to, and I’ve learned through my journey thus far that change is possible.  And it starts with me.

 

 

To hear more, check out what I said in my latest interview with Siemny Chhuon at WDSU  in New Orleans here.

 

 

Should I Wear Spanx When I Fly?

Southwest and their vague and discriminatory “Customer of Size” policy is old news around here, but I have some new things to say after a flight I took last week.

According  Southwest, the scale cannot tell me if I’m too fat to fly. That would be discriminatory.  Instead, they allow their ticketing agents to do it.  And it seems they prefer not to discriminate until you’ve paid for your seat and arrived at the gate!  At that point, they seem content to allow their gate agents to eyeball fat people and single them out in front of other passengers.  Somehow, this practice is widely acceptable at Southwest.  We see it in the news constantly!  And I’ve experienced it…again.

I realize that flying via Southwest after what happened earlier this year makes me foolish, but after being urged by a representative from Southwest’s HQ who contacted me after my original blog post, I agreed to give them another chance.  And I did.  After taking countless trips on JetBlue as well as flights on American Airlines and even utilizing two seats on a smaller US Airways commuter flight, I took a chance and flew with Southwest again. I flew from New Orleans to LA to workout with Richard Simmons, and I also flew from Baltimore to New Orleans without questions/harassment by Southwest employees.  Is it part of their policy to treat overweight passengers with respect only when cameras are rolling?  That’s certainly what it looks like to me.

Last week I decided to join my mom on a flight to my sister’s house using my free pass courtesy of Southwest. And while I felt some anxiety about doing it, I made the decision to fly with her, telling myself that this would be a different flight. I would not have to face public humiliation again. My bad….just call me naive.

When the woman at the check-in counter began explaining that I would not be able to fly today (in front of everyone at the gate) I firmly suggested that she move the conversation about my size to a private area.  She refused to move the conversation to a private area and proceeded to explain that from her view ( “Well, look at you.” Really? Okay…) I’d have to purchase an additional seat at full market value or not fly.

After a few moments that felt much longer to me as I revisited the hurt and anger already caused by SW, she called a supervisor who moved the conversation to a different kiosk – a different kiosk…still in front of everyone in the check-in line.  Clearly, the folks at Southwest Airlines do not understand the definition of the word “private.”  Of course, if you watch the news, that probably doesn’t surprise you.  When the conversation with the supervising agent commenced, she looked me up and down and said that I’d need to purchase an extra seat and that they’d refund the money at some point later if the flight was not overbooked. (Yeah, I know that’s part of their  “Customer of Size” policy. I’m quite familiar with it at this point.)

Standing there in front of hundreds of people, once again I was experiencing feelings of anger, embarrassment and resentment toward an airline that has already caused an incredible amount of anxiety and mental anguish for me personally.  Forgetting that their representative told me that it would not be necessary to purchase a second seat on future flights, and forgetting that he said he’d personally book me on another airline if I had additional problems flying with SW, all I wanted to do was fold and take an extra seat.  It was about 5am…and if you know me, you know that I’m not a fan of early mornings and/or confrontation. I prefer to deal with the folks that can actually make changes as opposed to the folks at the gate.

My biggest problem with Southwest now is not that I was humiliated once again, though I was….Being told to look at myself in front of everyone at the check-in desk only enhanced my feelings of failure and embarrassment while giving a lot of strangers the opportunity to agree that I don’t deserve even a modicum of respect, is unacceptable.

My biggest problems with Southwest now is their lack of respect, sensitivity and consistency.  Should I wear Spanx when I travel?  Seriously…As someone who fills my seat, but doesn’t spill into the seat next to me, I want to know what I have to do to see some consistency when I travel.  The short answer, I know, is to fly with another airline, and I will.  But that doesn’t help the 30% of Americans who are overweight – some of whom will find themselves in my situation at this airline.

Southwest’s “Customer of Size” policy needs to change.  Southwest’s employees need to go through sensitivity training just as the representative from their headquarters said they would.  Why do I feel like that was just lip service?  Read their broken policy then ask yourself… Why did they ignore my request to speak about this in private?  Why was I denied the opportunity to prove that I could fit into one seat with the arm rests down after offering to do so? What did I do to piss these people off? (That’s rhetorical, of course.)

Once I arrived in Colorado, I received a message from Southwest.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Moving forward, when flying with Southwest Airlines and falling under our Customer of Size policy, we will require the purchase of a second seat for travel.  If a second seat has not been purchased prior to day of travel, you will likely be asked to do so at the ticket counter or gate.”

Who decided that I fall under their Customer of Size policy now?  And why did they decide now as opposed to May when I weighed a bit more than I did at this time?  And why didn’t they decide that the man next to me (who was a few inches taller and noticeably rounder) needed an additional seat?  How is it that I could fly from New Orleans to LA on Southwest without embarrassing issues and from Baltimore to New Orleans as well?  Why is it only an issue sometimes?

I should also note that on my return flight, Southwest booked an additional seat for me.  And at check-in, they could’t figure out how to combine the seats to create one boarding pass so after 20 minutes or so, they gave me two boarding passes.  The SW agent at the ticket counter told me “not to confuse TSA by showing them two boarding passes,” but I did because I didn’t want any issues to arise at the gate.  The TSA agent said “Which seat will you be using?”  And my response was “I don’t know. Southwest just requires that I have two on this flight.”  The agent said “Why?”  I said “because I’m so fat.”  She looked me up and down and said “that’s weird…ridiculous. hang in there.”  She thought it was ridiculous that Southwest required me to have a second seat which made me feel good because she sees as many passengers as they do.

The bottom line is that I’m tired of showing up at the airport and being humiliated. All I want to do is fly. All I want is some consistency. I do not want to pay full market value for a ticket two days before Thanksgiving because one agent thinks I need to while another does not.

This is how I sit on every flight...

I will not fly with Southwest again. I gave them another chance (a few chances actually) and they have proven that they don’t want my business. They do not want the business of overweight passengers (unless, of course, you’re willing to pay for an extra seat or two – or you’re a minority.)  I am not going to pay for an extra seat every time I fly because Southwest sometimes hires fat-phobic employees.

I fill my seat, but I do not spill over into the next seat. I don't use the armrest either since there's only room for one arm.

And one more thing…I took a lot of flack for making a similar point last time, but I have to do it again because it bears evidence of their discriminatory policy.  The man checking in at the kiosk next to me was taller and clearly more robust than I. He was also a minority. Is that why his gate agent didn’t tell him that he couldn’t fly today? Or is it because, in the eyes of that particular agent, someone his size (someone taller and proportionately larger than I – in the hips and shoulder and stomach) wouldn’t require an extra seat?  Am I being targeted because I’m a woman?  Or because I was willing to stand up to Southwest after being discriminated against?

The reasons why don’t matter as much as the need for change.  Southwest may never grant equal rights to equal access. They may never create a finite policy that defines their terms for those of us who may not need two seats any longer. But I’m going to do my best to see to it that they do because I deserve it…and there are thousands of other consumers and would-be consumers who deserve it too.

This isn’t over Southwest…in fact, it’s just beginning.

A Simple Solution to a Major Problem

I’m back in New York, and I’ve been a bit quiet about this topic lately because I needed a little time to think on everything that has been happening as a result of my story that has been featured on MSNBC, The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, AOL.com and several other major networks.

Several major news organizations have picked up my story, and since then, I have received hundreds of e-mails, comments and tweets – many of which have been supportive. Of course, I’ve also been on the receiving end of thousands comments by people who have simply missed the point completely so it’s time for me to address this…again.

As I said, I am back in New York to discuss this issue on The Today Show this morning. The first part of my interview took place place Saturday morning in Beverly Hills with Richard Simmons before our workout. You can see me on The Today Show during the 7 o’clock hour before I do interviews with CNN and other news programs.

I’ve spent the last two years blogging about anything and everything pertaining to my weight-loss, but right now, there’s a much bigger issue than how Kenz was treated at the airport. And there seems to be some major misunderstandings about this issue that affects millions of people across the nation.

Let me start by addressing those of you who do not have a weight problem. This is not about me asserting that I have the right to encroach on your space. This is a problem with the design of airline seating that can, in fact, be fixed.

It is a matter of equal rights to equal access. Equal rights to equal access.

Our society has come to accept what the airlines deem as the correct size of a human being without regard to the actual size of human beings. One third of Americans are obese.

We are, historically, a nation that evolves and addresses its shortcomings so it is time to consider that the airlines could change the size of some of the seats to accommodate its passengers.

At 400 pounds (and at 300 pounds) I purchased two tickets. And it never occurred to me that I could do anything other than purchase those tickets. I had to fly so I did it.

But in the last week, I have received hundreds of e-mails, tweets and comments from people who refuse to fly because they are afraid to face the same experience that I faced when I was singled out and openly criticized. I have also spoken with those who dread flying because of the agonizing discomfort as well as those who stay at home because they simply cannot afford to buy two tickets.

One reader commented that she regrettably passed up a weeklong, all expenses paid vacation by her employer because of her uncertainty and fear of public humiliation.

Another shared his story in which he missed his daughter’s wedding that was across the country because he simply could not afford to purchase two seats.

And I have heard from people this week that opt to drive 20 or more hours rather than board an airplane. If these people are driving over 20 hours then that means that they can afford to fly and the airlines have just lost a sale.

I am a free market capitalist. I understand that the airlines’ goals are to make money, but it has become blatantly obvious through this, that the airline industry would make considerably more money if they could accommodate all passengers. And it would not require a major restructuring. It’s as simple as changing out a few seats.

The fact is that airlines are simply not required to accommodate all members of the public. Instead, they fail to recognize that as a nation, we are bigger than we were 50 years ago. They cram us into small seats and offer us snacks and drinks that are loaded with fat and calories and preservatives. Does that really make sense?

If they became more aware of their passengers, we would not be discussing this. We would not be worried about encountering public humiliation, and no one would be asking me to appear on a news program.

It is in the interest of airlines to accommodate every guest. Americans who have the money to pay for flights are waiting for someone to create a solution to this problem, and the solution is simple. The airline industry, which is a public service, should provide that public service by providing equal rights to equal access to those who are currently excluded. It would relieve passengers of size and increase sales while relieving those passengers who are smaller in stature, easing the potential discomfort of being encroached upon.

It’s time to address this problem, which can be a win-win situation. It’s time to fix what is broken in the airline industry, and as consumers, it is our responsibility to express desire for change.

Update: Click here to see my appearance on the Today Show.  Please note that Southwest Airlines did not provide “monetary compensation” to my mother or myself apart from refunding the cost of the tickets we purchased for that flight which I stated in a previous post.  Again, this is not about monetary compensation.  It’s about equal rights to equal access.