Category Archives: Discrimination

Now That I Have Health Insurance Again…

This has been a productive year, and now that I have health insurance again I’m facing the daunting task of finding a primary care physician. Can we talk about how hard it is to find a doctor who will look at your whole person when you’re obese? (Yeah, I know I’m obese. I know I need to change that. I know that’s all you see, but can we discuss other things as well?)

I’m not saying that every doctor will see my size and nothing else, but the reality is that I’m facing an uphill battle. I haven’t had a lot of experience with doctors or hospitals, which is awesome.  I do know that I do need to get a physical and address a couple of  issues that have bothered me for a while. (I’ve mentioned them here in previous posts.)

Last time my blood pressure was checked it was 138/82, which is the highest it’s ever been…ever. I know that’s not terrible, but it was a reality check for me. I think it will be lower in the coming months because I’m exercising more than I have in a long time. My blood sugar was perfect too, which was good. I  just realize that I’m getting older and that I need to get serious about making some minor changes (at the very least.)

My biggest issue lately has nothing to do with finding a PCP though. I constantly squint because it’s harder to see the screens I stare at for the majority of the day. Even reading books on my iPad is taxing on my eyes, so it’s time for another visit to the eye doctor. Thankfully, that’s no big deal.

Do you have health insurance? If so, are you satisfied with your doctors and coverage?

 

 

 

Enough with the Black Lives Matter and Gender Equality Stuff, Or Why It’s Not Going To Work That Way

Before I share my thoughts I’d like to note that I’m half (yes, 50%) American Indian, and I’m obese. I face harsh and unfiltered discrimination on a regular basis, and I’m actively working on changing the tide (starting with myself.)

I mentioned my chat with Senator Bernie Sanders a few weeks ago, and while I don’t agree with a lot of his political views, I’m pissed about what happened in Seattle on Saturday.

The senator and presidential hopeful was there for a rally that was disrupted and ultimately shut down by Black Lives Matter “activists” who stormed the stage, showing a complete lack of respect for the senator and for the thousands of people who waited all day to hear him speak. 

Of course black lives matter; I have zero tolerance for those who disagree. The fact is all lives matter, and it’s ridiculous and sad that there are people in this nation who disagree.

There’s a serious race issue in this nation that needs to be addressed, but it’s no longer one-sided. Misdirecting anger toward one elected official who actively fights for civil rights seems like a dumb move to me.

Note to the “activists” who showed no remorse for their blatant disregard of everyone else: If you really want to affect change, try showing some respect, as opposed to acting like tempermental lunatics on a stage that isn’t yours. 

And while I’m fired up I’m going to share my feelings on Target’s decision to “move away from gender-based signs.” In my opinion the concept is stupid and mildly offensive.

I’m a woman, and I’m proud to be a woman. I don’t believe that everyone should be forced to be a woman, but I don’t see the problem in being on either.

I have friends who are transgender, and I understand and empathize with their struggle to find contentment because I am keenly aware of the difficulty associated in feeling different than everyone around you. Moving away from gender-based signs is a separate issue.

When I was growing up I didn’t play with baby dolls; I played with my dad’s sermon notes and highlighters. I wanted to be a consultant or an analyst before I was old enough to label myself as such. It didn’t matter to me if my blocks were pink and purple or if they were primary colors. I liked Lincoln Logs and Barbies, though my versatility never led to gender identity issues.

Society (myself included) has become so incredibly weak and overly sensitive that I fear we’ve forgotten that our differences make the world go around.

Men and women are different. We just are. When did that become such a deplorable and unacceptable thing?

 

 

Grocery Shopping and Racist Remarks at Wal-Mart

I was inspired to do some meal planning and grocery shopping over the weekend because my goal for the next week is to prepare every meal and snack at home. I’m healthier when I do that, but it does require a bit more effort and planning than I’ve been accustomed to lately.

I don't know if I'll have a sandwich and chips during the week or not. I didn't buy stuff for that, but it sounds delicious.

I don’t know if I’ll have a sandwich and chips during the week or not. I didn’t buy stuff for that, but it sounds delicious.

It’s much easier to eat out since I’m often 15 or 20 minutes from home when it’s time to eat dinner. It’s also easier to order take out on my way home at the end of a long day than it is to go home and cook, but that convenience has led to major weight gain on my part.

Saturday I went to Wal-Mart to buy groceries. I prefer to go to Target or Whole Foods, but I have a gift card (that I forgot to use.) It was also easier for my aunt, who’s here with my uncle because he’s in the hospital, to get what she needed there.

When the cashier was ringing me up she laughed at the way I shop. I don’t use plastic bags for my produce, but I used one for the chicken breast that I bought. I apologized for inadvertently creating more work for her and explained that I didn’t want to waste bags for produce because they’d end up in the trash as soon as I got home, but I definitely don’t want chicken juice all over everything.

Walmart

I thought that was pretty solid reasoning, but she laughed, pointed at the iced mocha latte in my cart and said, “You’re young and white, baby. It’s all good.” I can’t imagine what my skin color has to do with my shopping methods, but I think it’s nice that she thought I was young. I don’t think she said it to be offensive; it was just an odd response.

Am I the only one who skips the bags when buying produce? Do you think socioeconomic status  plays a role in our shopping habits?

 

 

Making a Difference in a Big Way

I don’t always share the projects that I’m involved in on my blog, but if we’re connected on social media, you might know that I’m involved with a pretty incredible group of people who aren’t afraid to stand up and make a difference.

PlusInc is a nonprofit organization that is committed to giving a voice to people of all sizes, and among other things, I’m honored to be on the Board of Directors.

If you’ve read my blog for very long, then you probably know that I’ve faced some pretty harsh discrimination because  ‘I have the nerve to be plus-sized.’  And you may also know that while my goal is to get to a healthy weight, I believe that we should all be treated with respect regardless of size.

The Declaration of Independence doesn’t say that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as long as we’re not obese.  As Americans, we’re citizens first, and at our core, we’re human beings first.

We’re the only species that is so strongly led by emotions, and I get it.  People fear what they don’t know, but when that fear turns into hatred or misplaced resentment, what started as ignorance becomes completely unnecessary a problem for all of us.

I’ve always been hesitant to affiliate myself with the size-acceptance movement because so many seem to think that we need to stay larger than average to sincerely believe in it, but PlusInc has taken the pressure off by accepting me as I am and allowing me to choose the path thats best for my life, so I’m all in.

To get involved, or to learn more, go to: http://www.plusinc.org/membership.html. You can also check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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.

Guest Blog – The Invisible (Horrible, Lazy, Unattractive) Fat Person

Hello everyone! I am Alexa (I blog about weight, fitness & fat in the media at  The Curvy Nerd), and I am thrilled to be doing a guest post on All The Weigh!

When Kenlie asked me to write a guest post on one of my favorite topics — fat hate in society and the strong influence of media — I was honored and excited. Then I tried to write. Needless to say, this enormous, weighty (ha!) issue ballooned into a post of monstrous proportions. So, I shall preface the following by saying: I edited it down. A lot. I hope to expand on many of the topics I’ve merely touched on in future posts, and through discussion.

For many of you, especially if you’ve lived any portion of your life overweight, that society hates and discriminates against fat people may be horribly obvious and my statements redundant. However, I find that sometimes stating what seems blatantly obvious can set off light-bulbs for others, and yourself. It’s especially important to second-guess the media and how it portrays reality — is something so because the media reflects reality, or because it SHAPES how we perceive and create the world around us?

People like to associate a variety of negative words with "fat people." Most are not true. All of them are hurtful and cruel.

No one likes to talk about discrimination against fat people

We’re a progressive society, constantly making strides against disgusting and demoralizing practices such as racism and homophobia. Minority and underrepresented groups, including but certainly not limited to blacks, Hispanics, Asians and LGBTQ, are becoming increasingly (and rightfully) visible on TV, in film, in music, media and advertising.

Yet hatred continues to be spewed against fat people, in the most extreme incarnation (see: Internet comments). And, more subversively, poking fun at fat people (see: token fat character); making assertions about their bodies, eating, health and fitness habits (fatsplaining, “fat as a lifestyle choice”); and, simply, not including them AT ALL in media, rage in society and culture. Fat people are simultaneously invisible and derided for possessing a number of negative characteristics, thrust upon them by virtue of how they look on the outside.

Fat hate — so bad, we even hate ourselves

The hate that is lobbied against fat people is staggering, pervasive and subversive. It’s so omni-present in media and society that most people don’t notice it, or if they do, they explain it away. Like misogyny which is also so entrenched in society that women themselves don’t realize it most of the time, people tend to have a laundry list of excuses and reasons for why it’s “not that bad” or “you’re just whining” or “you’re too sensitive” when you call them out on fat hate. Fat hate is so pervasive, fat people hate fat people.

No, really. If you are now or have ever been fat, overweight, obese — whatever you want to call it — have a nice, honest think about your past interactions with other fat people. Do you see another fat person — usually one who is bigger than you are — and smugly think to yourself “well, I’d never let myself get that bad!” or “Ugh, they clearly don’t exercise or try to eat right. Put down the cheeseburger.” Or, the slightly more innocuous but just as damning “how did *she* get such a hot guy — she’s fatter than I am!”

Many of these Schadenfreude-esque thoughts are somewhat natural — everyone does it, to almost everyone else — but many people take it beyond the “fleeting, dark thoughts” territory. If a fat person speaks out about discrimination, you certainly do see other large people call that person out for being a whiner, or making waves. Fat people are just as likely to guilt and fat shame as thin people — they do it on The Biggest Loser!

It’s often the fat person who reinforces the fat = bad; thin = good trope, because all our lives, this is what we are taught. One of the best places for this in popular culture? Shows like The Biggest Loser do a lot of good, but next time you watch a season, look at the adjectives the contestants use at the beginning vs. the end, and the clips editors choose to use. I’m not saying obese people can’t be miserable, but the subtle language of weight loss makeover programs is beginning/fat = bad, bad, bad, MISERABLE, unhappy, alone, bad, bad, bad which slowly transitions to thin = I AM SO PRETTY AND HAPPY AND NOTHING IN MY LIFE COULD EVER BE BAD AGAIN.

This just isn’t true! It’s not that you can’t want to be thinner and healthier. But equating being thin with happiness is dangerous. You will have good and happy moments in your life when you are fat, and you will have good and happy moments in your life when you’re thin. Same can be said for misery and feeling rotten.

Why do we think this about ourselves and our lives?

We are taught through relentless skinny images & media messaging that fat = bad... and thin is never thin enough

Blame the media! (no, really, let’s blame the media)

This is because we are taught, through every minutiae of our interaction with each other, through media — TV, film, music, advertisements, magazines, newscasts, etc. — that fat is Ugly. Fat is Bad. Fat is Stupid. Fat is Lazy. Thin (and sexy) = GOOD, LOVELY, AWESOME, BETTER. Most of the time, fat people are invisible. We don’t see people like us in magazines (Plus Size models = size ten. SIZE TEN), or on TV, or in movies. There aren’t fat newscasters (even the friendly, rotund weather man Al Roker is now a Skinny Thing), fat book heroines are few and far between (though better than TV) and, generally, TV and film are a barren wasteland of fat people. We are sent a message every day by the absence of larger people in these positive, informative, fantasy and “beautiful” roles.

Women, especially, rarely see representations of themselves. Teen comedies & dramas feature waif-thin beautiful people having Beautiful People Problems like juggling three boyfriends and finding the perfect dress for Prom. The intrepid, neurotic romantic heroines of rom coms are invariably a size 6 (whittled down the requisite size zero, nowadays), and even when they are meant to be “overweight,” they do it Bridget Jones style and have a size 2 actress “balloon up” to, what?, an eight? There being exceptions to every rule, I concede recent glimmers of hope: Drop Dead Diva & Huge (oh list, you are a short one. And also half cancelled).

In cases where we do see visible fat people, they only come in two “sizes”: trying to lose weight/makeover project and Negative Horrible Foil/Unloveable Sidekick. How many times have you seen the plump, dumpy sidekick crack jokes and end up alone? Invariably, either way, Token Fat Character eats. All the time. Whereas most characters on TV and in movies NEVER EAT (as in, actually chew food)… or use the bathroom (ever notice that?), we always see fat characters chowing down. On Glee, token fat girl Lauren DEMANDS A BRIBE of Cadbury Creme Eggs to join Glee Club. Fellow curvaceous character Mercedes was given an entire plot line about eating cafeteria tater tots. I mean… come on!

Probably the only positive plus size character I can think of from the last 27 years I’ve been on earth is Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray.

Fat girls = 1;Thin People: ELEVENTY-BILLION.

In the one arena where arguably Americans get to see overweight women in highly visible roles — daytime talk show hosts — we get a) Oprah (on a perpetual diet cycle) b) Ricki Lake (couldn’t get work post-Hairspray/fat; starved herself to get her show) c) Star Jones (evil wench who got gastric bypass) d) Rosie O’Donnell (ridiculed in pop-culture for being fat/unattractive when she came out as a lesbian). Yes, we all love Oprah (and her positive contributions to fat issues I think are notable), but she’s Oprah. Daytime TV’s Goddess can be any damn size she wants. Everyone else? Get skinny, then maybe you’ll get work.

I mean, REALLY?

In the end, the message that not only fat people, but thin people get is: fat people are invisible/bad, and only thin, beautiful people deserve happiness/love/positive attention. It trickles down and is pervasive (and equally tied to disturbing trends of misogyny in society), and leads to the real problem: the Othering of fat people, and the rise of flat-out hatred of them.

People are horrible; aka: the Internet kills the filter of basic human decency

You don’t have to go far to see this ugly, judgmental attitude in people — just read the comments on any mainstream article relating to weight loss topics. On my blog, The Curvy Nerd, rather than engage with asinine comments on blogs such as The Huffington Post, Gawker and The Daily Beast, I highlight and poke fun at the worst of the worst — feel free to browse through some of my finds, so far.

Generally, you see the same key phrases over and over again: “fat is a choice,” (aka: Fat As A Lifestyle Choice) “eat less, exercise more,” “I don’t want a fat person to infringe on MY space/life/whatever”.

It’s amazing how little empathy people have for overweight & obese people. They don’t hesitate to dehumanize, denigrate and attack fat people, usually with comments that draw the most outrageous conclusions about fat people in general as well as specific larger individuals (usually in response to commenters and/or public figures who appear to be or confess to be large). These things include, but are certainly not limited to: that you are unhealthy, lazy, ugly, miserable, stupid, entitled (no, really!), dirty, sexless, alone and undeserving of love. Many people will flat out say these things.

Then there are the “concern trolls.” These are people who Don’t Like Fat People, but they translate this into acceptable terms, ie: Fat Is Unhealthy. Then they fatsplain to you/fat people how being fat should make you feel, how it’s essential you Get Healthy and Stop Being Fat. Because they care about you, they do!

People we love can also communicate the message that fat = bad, though generally they do not hate fat people, or you, and will unconsciously say things that hurt you. My favorite is “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful!” Translation (on your end): you’re not fat! Fat is BAD, and you are NICE and I LIKE you… so let’s talk about how BEAUTIFUL you are (to me). I didn’t realize what an insidious phrase this was until recently. I do it too! We need to divorce the ideas that being fat = bad. But it’s a deeply ingrained thought within society (see; media).

Let’s get academic for a moment

Beyond the anecdotal evidence of people being hateful on the Internet, numerous studies have been done on the attitudes people hold towards the obese. One study found that children not only ascribed patently negative attributes to fat people (and positive ones to thin people), but that their views were reflective of their parents (who also participated in the study). An indicative pull-quote:

“Specifically, research shows that children are reluctant to play with overweight peers and are more likely to assign negative adjectives such as lonely, lazy, sad, stupid, ugly, and dirty to an overweight child than to an average weight or lean child.”

We pick up these attitudes young, and hold them for life.

More gems to illustrate a wide-spread trend of discrimination and hatred held against fat people:

Where does all this leave us? Well, the current trend is Let’s Beat Everyone Over The Head With Obesity As A Health Epidemic and OMGSHITTONS of fat reality shows. Instead of approaching the core issue of people hating fat people, the cycle of negativity, issues of food/eating portrayal in advertising, and Healthy At Any Size, we are trying to SHAME fat people into being less fat. Oi vey. But that’s another topic for another (LONG) post. 🙂

So thank you for having me, and sorry for the essay! I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts — what has your personal experience been, with the media and with other people’s attitudes and expectations?

My Latest Flight on Southwest Airlines

If you read my blog then you know I felt some anxiety as I prepared to head to the airport yesterday.  My friend, Britt, and I booked this flight on Southwest Airlines from Baltimore long before the news covered my story.  And when the reality set in that my incredible weekend would soon come to an end, I felt sick to my stomach.

I wondered if people at the airport would recognize me as they did on the streets of NYC and if they’d be friendly or mean…I wondered if I’d face angry flight attendants or fellow passengers.  And I wondered if I would be singled out by gate attendants.  I shared these concerns on my blog and with friends at Fitbloggin’ and decided that I would walk into the airport just as I have on many other flights – without the fear of being singled out. Perhaps I’ll share my thoughts on how the airline industry could alleviate that fear for all passengers later, but for now I’m pleased to say that everything  went smoothly.

My flight on Southwest Airlines yesterday was fantastic from start to finish. From the courtesy I received at check-in, to the gate attendant who promptly and effectively answered my questions, everyone was well-mannered and friendly.  I was not asked to purchase an additional ticket nor was I singled out in any other way.  It was clear, after checking in and walking to my gate, that I would have a good flight, and I did.

I’m not sure when or how often I’ll travel with Southwest in the future, but I can confidently say – based on yesterday’s experience – that I would fly with them again.  For now, I will continue to seek consistency from the airline industry as a whole, but I will also put my top priority back on the forefront of my blog and life – to continue living a healthy life while working toward my personal health and weight-loss goals.

In the last few weeks, I’ve realized that I have reason to feel confident and strong, but I’ve also been reminded that I have a long road ahead.  I’m ready to use the strength and determination that I had in losing the first 127 pounds to lose the last 130 pounds.  So if you’re new to my blog, welcome.  If you can be courteous and respectful, please feel free to stick around and watch me change my life.  And if you’ve been here all along then give yourself a big hug for me 😉  because I’m utterly thankful for your unwavering support, and I’m looking forward to more of it as I continue on my quest to go all the weigh…

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.

The Day Southwest Airlines Turned My Old Fears Into A New Nightmare

I fly pretty regularly and, perhaps, a bit more than the average person.  Over the last few years, I would guess that I’ve been on about 50 flights, and never have I experienced the kind of public disrespect, humiliation and blatant discrimination that I experienced last night on my Southwest Airlines flight

A few years ago I weighed over 400 pounds.  I tried to avoid flying, but when I had to do it, I purchased two seats – even after being told that it was unnecessary by customer service representatives from my airline of choice – JetBlue.  I choose JetBlue as often as possible because the jets feel more spacious and the customer service is consistently extraordinary.  But yesterday, I could not fly JetBlue.  They don’t offer service between my location points so I traveled with my family on Southwest Airlines.  It was, by far, the worst experience that I’ve ever had – even before they made it personal.

At the time the first photo was taken, I purchased two seats.  I weigh less now than in the smaller pic here.

My mom and I missed our original connecting flight due to delays  and weren’t sure when our bags would arrive at our destination.  When I asked the man at the gate before the last leg of our flight, he cursed under his breath and called me stupid for not remembering my first flight number.  That was annoying so I responded by asking him why he bothered whispering that I was stupid because I was right there.  He looked away, and that, believe it or not,  was not the worst part of my experience at Southwest Airlines.

At that point, Mom and I asked (as directed by the gate representative in our departure city) to be placed on the next flight out of Dallas which was scheduled to leave approximately 15 minutes from the time we asked.  We were told that it would be no problem.  The flight was not full, and we were given new boarding passes

My mom and I typically board early so we were waiting in line when we noticed the gate representative (who had just printed our new tickets) publicly and loudly discuss the weight of a larger woman and clearly distraught woman who was brought to tears.  The woman, Barbara, was told in front of everyone at the gate (including Mom and me) that she would have to purchase an additional seat to return to her home city.  As a self-proclaimed frequent Southwest flyer, she said that she had never been so embarrassed, nor had she ever been asked to purchase an additional seat.  Then she said “what about those ladies?!”  Enter Mom and me.

At that time, the man who said that we’d have no problem and the flight wasn’t full as he printed our new boarding passes, asked to speak to us.  He asked if we had ever been approached about buying an extra ticket.  Mom said “No, and I’m insulted that you asked since this is our return flight! If it’s an issue now, why wasn’t it an issue on my first flight? And why has your conversation with that woman has been so public?”  After talking down to my mother, Barbara and myself for the next several minutes, Mom was angered and crying which made me angry.

The woman is Barbara, and the man was Dale or Dell, the 2nd gate rep.

At that point, I chimed in. I urged Mom to stay calm and let me sort it out.  I asked what the official weight restrictions were, and his response was that he was unaware of any particular standard and that we were just “too big to fly without an additional ticket.”  So the representative said “Look, let’s make a deal. If you three ladies sit together then we can just forget this ever happened, and I’ll let you board.”  I probably don’t need to tell you what happened next.

I agreed to do it though my mother and the other woman, Barbara, said that it was ridiculous to suggest that we pay for tickets and not sit where we wanted to sit on an open boarding flight.  Barbara prefers to sit at the back of the plane while my mother prefers to sit close to the front.

My mother and Barbara agreed that they should be able to choose their own seats so at that point, Jennifer – a supervisor –  entered the picture.  She said it was “their policy to makeoverweight people pay extra” though she could not provide the actual policy or specifics related to that policy.  At that point, I was livid.  I kept my cool though I did remind the original overweight representative, Mr. D. Bucchanan, that I could complete a half marathon and probably faster than he could. 😉

Jennifer, the supervisor who later admits enjoys shows like The Biggest Loser and offered us $200 vouchers after we mentioned that they might be breaking a law or two. 

Note: There were several other very large people waiting at the gate.  As I looked at them, they looked away, perhaps hoping I wouldn’t drag them into the conversation.  At no point during this half hour ordeal did anyone  from Southwest say anything to the gigantic African American male who plays football for LSU.  For the record, according to his roster stats, that football player is 6’5″ and weighs 315 pounds!   That makes him well over a foot taller than me and almost 50 pounds heavier! Hey Southwest Airlines, are you kidding me?!

I typically pre-board because on some flights, I still require an extension, and it’s far less embarrassing to ask for one in front of 10 people than 110 people.  It helps to ease my anxiety, and makes it easier for the people around me.  I like to be seated with my extension (if applicable) before the plane is filled because when I’m settled in my seat, it’s less awkward than trying to climb over other people.

For the record, I can sit in any seat on the plane with the armrests down.  I can use the seat tray table to place my laptop or water comfortably in front of me.  I can cross my legs, read a book and/or listen to my iPod without encroaching on the seat next to me. 

I couldn’t comfortably sit in one seat when I weighed 400 pounds, but I can now.  I can do many things now that I couldn’t do at 400 pounds.

 Back to the conversation at the gate…

When we mentioned that discussing these things in public was humiliating, unacceptable and potentially against the law due to their public discussion of our medical issues, their tunes completely changed.  The supervisor, asked for our tickets then returned moments later with $200 credits for each of us to use on a later flight.

They began apologizing profusely, offering to bring us cokes.  Look Southwest Airlines…I don’t drink sodas – diet or otherwise.  And by the way, I’ve lost over 114 pounds which helps me fit into your stupid airplane seats so no thanks.  I would not like a coke, but I would love it if you’d give my dignity back.  I’d also appreciate you wiping the tears from my mother’s face that YOU put there – a woman who has battled her weight most of her life – who stays out of the way on flights and fits into her seat.

I am acutely aware, as a result of my personal experience, that it is socially acceptable to mock people who are overweight.  And there was a point in my life when being insulted because of my size was a daily occurrence.  And while it is no longer a daily occurrence, it was infuriating to be publicly humiliated in front of an airport full of strangers as I was asked to share my weight, my clothing size and my reasons for weight gain and weight loss. 

As embarrassed as I was for myself – and I was – I was even more embarrassed for my mother and the 65-year old woman who was visibly larger than myself.  I agree, in that, if you cannot fit into the seat that you should buy another.  I’ve done it before, but not since losing the first 100 pounds.  My mother and I both fit into our seats, and I can’t speak for Barbara because she sat at the back of the plane.  But I don’t have to because regardless of size, number of seats and/or medical issues that allow for pre-boarding, etc.  the utter lack of disrespect and humiliation in lieu of decent customer service is unacceptable. 

I have come a long way, and I weigh less right now than I weighed when I arrived in New York last week.  And I weigh much less than I weighed when I first posted about my flight anxiety due to size.  What happened yesterday was something I feared for years, but I was apparently naive in thinking that I could release those fears at this point.  I am still a moving target, and the people at Southwest struck firmly yesterday – turning what used to be my worst fear into a real-life nightmare.

I realize that, for myself, this will eventually be a memory of my heavier days.  I am changing.  I have changed.  And now I have to figure out how to process this humiliating slap in the face by Southwest Airlines. 

If I had been asked to purchase another ticket in the same manner at 400 pounds, I would have graciously paid the price, understanding that it was only fair while believing that I wasn’t worthy of respect and/or human decency.  I did pay the price.  I used to buy two seats!  But as someone who can fit into her seat and has a shred of confidence in herself, I think it’s deplorable that they publicly embarrassed us rather than speaking to us in a private room or even around the corner in the empty hallway.  Calling me stupid is not okay. Announcing that I’m “too fat to fly” is not okay.  Turning an issue with one passenger into an issue with other passengers that were minding their own business is not okay. 

So here’s my biggest problem with the flight yesterday. If the folks at Southwest in Dallas had such a big problem then why didn’t the folks at Southwest in New York City have a problem first?  And why didn’t Southwest in Denver have any problems with us either?  Both flights were completely full yet no one suggested that I purchase an additional ticket.  What gives, Southwest? Why is it that this was not an issue until the last part of the return flight?  Why didn’t someone say something sooner?  How do you charge an additional ticket for the fourth flight purchased as one trip?  And, again because it bears repeating,  why didn’t they attempt to handle privately as opposed to handling it in front of the other approximately 132 people counted at the gate?  My answer: they didn’t see the need to treat overweight humans with the human decency because they don’t see us as regular people.

So Southwest Airlines, if you don’t want overweight passengers on board then state it in your next commercial.  If you do have a policy that excludes passengers and/or requires the purchase of a second ticket then post it on the front page of your website, tweet about it or make the small print bigger.

As your flight attendant said at the end of each flight, you know that I have choices when I fly so I will not be choosing to fly on Southwest.  And your $200 voucher is laughable at best.  It’s not even enough to cover a round-trip flight.  And can you promise me that I won’t face the same harassment on the next flight if I did fly Southwest again?

The personal attack after what had already been a tumultuous travel day is unforgivable.  And, in truth, I doubt anyone at Southwest Airlines cares that my mother and I suffered through humiliation and discriminatory behavior via Southwest.

It is sad, unacceptable and unforgivable.  They cannot give back the pain that they put us through yesterday.  They wouldn’t be allowed to disrespect me in such a way if I were black or gay or an alcoholic, but because I weigh more than average (for now) I’m an open target.

I plan to fight back.  My mother and I will be filing separate formal complaints against the airline, and that’s the just the beginning for me.  I’ve been fighting for myself for two years, and I’m going to continue doing just that.  But I want Southwest to know that every passenger willing for fork out the dough for a flight on their planes deserves equal respect.

I deserved respect yesterday.  My mother deserved respect and so did Barbara, but we did not get it.  I did receive one video apology, but if you watch, you’ll see Mr. Bucchanan laugh as I ask him why he’s saying he’s sorry.

I’m sorry for one thing.  I’m sorry that I wasted my money for such a horrific travel experience.  In short, I’m sorry that I chose Southwest Airlines.

Monday evening update: 

Shortly after I blogged about my experience, a small outpouring of tweets and comments caught the attention of @southwestair – the official twitter account for Southwest Airlines.

I received a tweet and an email and have learned that I will be contacted by Southwest in the morning.  For now, I will say that I’m glad they’re reaching out, and I’m willing to listen to what they have to say tomorrow.  I will, of course, keep you all posted.

And thank you to each of you, as always, for your opulent and unwavering support. 

It’s Weigh-In Day and I’ve Come To Realize…

It’s Thursday again which means I’ll weigh-in later today. I’m excited because I did pretty well this week, but I’m always nervous because I hope the scale reflects that. So instead of focusing on what if, I’ll just wait for the results and do this fun little survey instead. Thank you Andrea, you are the queen of blog fun.

************

I’ve come to realize that my body works a lot better than I thought it did! It has been changing so much in the last year, and it’s going strong. 🙂


I’ve come to realize that when I’m driving I should not be text messaging or holding the phone to my ear or checking Facebook…or twitter…

I’ve come to realize that I need to workout 5-6 days per week to feel as good about myself as possible.

I’ve come to realize that I have lost a lot of weight! Seriously..it’s awesome. I can do this! 🙂

I’ve come to realize that I hate it when I don’t make a good impression.

I’ve come to realize that if I’m drunk I ‘love’ everyone around me. Ha.

I’ve come to realize that money
isn’t as important to me as it used to be, but I like it..a lot. And sometimes, I take it for granted.

I’ve come to realize that certain people are going to be memories and nothing more…

I’ve come to realize that I’ll always remember
what it felt like to be at my heaviest weight – sad and afraid that maybe I just couldn’t change…now I know I can because I am. Just saying.

I’ve come to realize that my sibling is a beautiful woman and a brilliant mother who is actually pretty fun to be around. 🙂 I’m sooooooooo excited that she and my niece will be visiting Mom when I visit. She got a job yesterday (yay!) that we thought would keep that from happening then it just worked out..so awesome.


I’ve come to realize that my mom is a worrier and a giver and the glue that binds our family.

I’ve come to realize that my cell phone is an addiction, and I’m oddly okay with that. Seriously, iPhone users, have you played Words with Friends? It’s awesome.

When I woke up this morning I realized that I still don’t feel 100%, but the sun is shining…and that makes me feel a little better.

Before bed last night I realized that I needed to take NyQuil so I did.

Right now I am thinking about the fact that I will not see Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden tonight. And while my heart aches because of it, I know that if I really wanted to be there I would be. I’ve spent some time bouncing ideas around in my head as to why I’m not going, and I think I know the answer.

I’ve come to realize that my dad is wise, loving and hard working.

I’ve come to realize that when I get on Facebook I’m disappointed if I don’t have new notifications. What? Just keepin’ it real. 😉

I’ve come to realize that today is the day that I could maybe say that I’ve lost 100 pounds though I know it will most likely be next week instead.

I’ve come to realize that tonight will be an outstanding night with The Amish Outlaws and friends even though part of my heart will be at Madison Square Garden…


I’ve come to realize that tomorrow could be the day that I see Pearl Jam at MSG…they’re here two nights in a row. 😉

I’ve come to realize that I really want to win the hearts of other men and women who are similar journeys to change and become the person they want to be…:)

I’ve come to realize that life is about accepting who I am and loving myself without apology. I’m still working on that, but I’ve come a long, long way..:)

I’ve come to realize that this weekend will be a good one.

I’ve realized the best music to listen to when I am upset is Pearl Jam. I listen to them when I’m happy, sad, angry, in love, motivated, unmotivated, etc.

I’ve come to realize that my friends take me as I am – faults and all. 🙂 For the first time in my life I am surrounded by people who truly ‘get’ me…and I am thankful for this everyday.

I’ve come to realize that this year has been incredible so far. And I think there are more exciting things on the horizon.

I’ve come to realize that my husband is non-existent, but I know who he will be. And I think that might be part of the “exciting things on the horizon.” Just saying.

I’ve come to realize that maybe I should start scrapbooking more often. It’s a hobby that I love, but I don’t spend enough time doing it anymore. I did a little with girlfriends last week, but there’s so much that I want to do. I just need to get started! 🙂

I’ve come to realize that I love my niece more than life itself.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t understand how people can be so cruel and judgmental. But for every person out there like that, I meet many who are just the opposite.

I’ve come to realize my past is just that – past. It does not define who I am today unless I let it.

I’ve come to realize that parties are one of my favorite things. I love being with friends, presents and games.

I’ve come to realize that my life is better than I ever could have imagined. 🙂