Sugary Things

I’ve been pretty stressed out today, and while it hasn’t completely passed, I know that I’ll get through it.  I’m not turning to food to comfort me, which feels like a win. I’m sticking to my no doughnuts/macchiatos plan, but there’s still so much that I need to change. When I think of everything that I need to be doing differently, I get overwhelmed. I’m still not ready to look at the big picture, but I’m ready to add another layer to my checklist.

Saying NO to those sweet things is great, but I need to be sure that I’m not replacing them with other sweet things. I’m still at Starbucks regularly, but I’m “indulging” in unsweetened passion tea. It has no calories, and it’s pretty to look at while I work. I can have free refills too (thanks to my gold card status) so it’s a win. I don’t miss the macchiatos most of the time.

I haven’t missed the doughnuts either (probably because I reached the point of total disgust a few weeks ago,) but I have to be careful with other sweet things. Sugar is my weakness. I know that I need to make some adjustments in the way that I consume sugary junk.  I know some people who quit sugar cold turkey, but I’m not that strong. I can’t even think about how hard it would be to enjoy life without sugar at any time. I’m sure some of you are strong enough to do that. I’m not.

I met someone recently who only eats dessert on the weekend. That seems like good plan.   Refraining from sweets during the week (desserts, random offerings of chocolate covered gummy bears, etc.) would greatly impact that way that I consume sugar. I know someone else who eats well all week and allows himself to eat whatever he wants to eat on Saturdays.

I’m not ready to say that I will not eat anything sweet ever again, but I might be willing to refrain from it on the weekdays. If I can manage to do that without going crazy on the weekend, then I’ll consider that a win.

If I want sugary things during the week, I’ll have fruit. I love honey crisp apples.  I keep them stocked in the fall.  I realize that they contain sugar, but let’s be honest. I don’t have hundreds of pounds to lose because of all of the fruit I eat.

I did some walking with girlfriends over the weekend, and I was reminded how awesome and easy it is to enjoy my surroundings.

IMG_3955

I live in a beautiful neighborhood that people come to see from all over the world. I just need to start taking advantage of that more than I have been lately. I have access to a gym with a nice view as well. I’m not sure why I allowed myself to forget all of the awesome tools and experiences that are right under my nose.

Canal St. New Orleans

I’m committed to making some positive changes in the coming weeks and months, and it feels good to be making positive progress now.  I’ll face the numbers on the scale later, but for now, I think that if I limit sweet treats even more and exercise more regularly, I’ll be doing enough to see a positive shift.  I’ve already felt one of in my attitude, and that feels a lot better than what I was feeling until a few weeks ago.

Do you have any tips or tricks for avoiding sweets and/or replacing them with healthier alternatives?

 

 

 

The More I Learn, The More I Realize That There’s So Much That I Don’t Know

There’s no question when it comes to whether or not I am as perfect as I can be already. I’m not. I have so much to learn, but often times, what holds me back is in inability to admit that I still have so much to learn.

I know that I need to eat less, move more, etc. What I struggle to understand is why I want to eat so much so often. Delving into the associated feelings to find an answer threatens to put me in a place in which I have to feel some uncomfortable things.

Why do I feel such a strong urge to go out of my way to make a stop at Krispy Kreme on my way home from a certain man’s house? Am I sabotaging myself since he doesn’t love me quite enough? Am I trying to fill a void? Am I depressed because I’m not getting what I want when I want it?

I could answer yes to all of these questions, but in thinking about these things, I find myself trying to put on a face of bravery or indifference to spare myself from feeling those unhappy feelings.

I have so many reasons to be thankful, and I am. I have so much. I
struggle to admit that I still want more (in relationships, in weight-loss, in everything…) because I don’t want to seem ungrateful for everything that I do have.

Gaining control of my life is obviously a multi-faceted process, and I’m not succeeding in all of the areas yet. Overall, I’m happy more often than I’m sad. I’m thankful more often than I’m envious. I’m at peace more often than I’m stressed.

I’m in a good place, but I’d like to get to an even better place. Can I do that without trudging through some uncomfortable emotions to get there? Probably definitely not.

It’s not always easy to love myself just because (not because I lost some weight or because I’m doing well in school or because I’ve accomplished x, y or z) just because, but it’s getting easier.

I’m learning that my existence (my purpose) is to learn and change and grow. I want to impact others with my positive attitude and with my willingness to try and fail and try again.

Success isn’t about getting from point A to point B without making mistakes. It’s about continuing to fight through obstacles and starting over when necessary. It’s about understanding who you are and what your purpose is, and then turning those thoughts into action.

This Is My Life, Not Yours…

Last weekend I was told that my biological clock was ticking.  I even received links (that I didn’t bother reading) about the risks involved in having a child after 35.  No…it was not my family hounding me about having a baby, but I felt personally attacked by someone who would tell you he loves me.

First, let’s take a breather and remember that I’m only 32 years old.  I’m not too old to have a kid, start a new career or to wear bright blue nail polish, even if some people in my life see fit to make me believe otherwise.  I’m in my early thirties.  I live alone, and I take care of myself, and I’m proud of myself for making major changes in my life.  I’ve experienced tremendous emotional growth, and I’m still changing.  I went back to school last year to pursue a degree in a field that has opened up an entirely new world to me, and I have recommitted to finishing what I started in weight-loss.

I’m 32 years old.  I don’t have a husband, nor am I in a healthy, happy relationship that would make me consider bringing a little human into the world at this point.  I’m not sure why it’s so important to married and unmarried people with kids to project those desires on me.  I’m a terrific aunt, and I love my niece as much as I could ever love a person.  Of course I’d like to experience that kind of love with a child of my own, but I’m not ready.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready, and that’s okay with me right now.

Having a child has never been a serious consideration for me because I’ve never been married, and for most of my adult life, I have been obese.  I realize that women my size often give birth, but I personally don’t see a reason to put myself and a tiny, helpless life at risk because of my size.  I feel more comfortable at this weight than I did at 400 pounds, but a child wouldn’t be on my agenda at this point, even if I had already fallen in love and married The Future Mrs. Kenz whom I’ve discussed here before.

It’s not easy to express how hurtful it was to hear that I have a couple of good years left before I should turn to adoption, or simply not bother.  (Adoption sounds like a wonderful idea, by the way.)  I know that the person who shared the statistics wasn’t being cruel intentionally, but he failed to see why his assertion that the only way to do it is to do so by 35, hit a nerve with me.

I would love to fall in love, get married, move back to the city I want to live in most, buy a place and live happily ever after – all in the next 2.25 years, but who knows if that’s in the cards for me?  What I do know is that shoving statistics down my throat from doctors who have never met me or examined me, and reminding me that 35 is the cut off before I’m “high risk” definitely won’t make anything happen any faster.  If anything, it will just squelch my desire to make any of it happen because I’m already “too late.”

Whether we are sharing our lives on the internet, or we are simply opening up to people that we deem trustworthy, we subject ourselves to thoughtless judgment.  If you know me, you know I’m no stranger to that realization, but I have also learned throughout my journey that sometimes showing love and respect to someone is more important than being right.  Sometimes taking feelings into consideration is more important than winning a debate, especially since changing someone’s mind is a difficult thing to do.

So if you think I’m too old to have a family, get a new job or paint my fingernails bright blue, then get ready for some major disappointment.  I’ve created goals and achieved success in my life before, but I’ve done it on my terms and in my own time.  This is my life, and I will live it in a way that brings joy and happiness to me and the people I’m lucky enough to love.

Until then…I’ll continue to wear blue nail polish if I want to.

nails

I Don’t Know

When I think about this blog, I always just assume that it will be here.  It has been almost 3 years since I began writing it, at the time I began my journey to a healthier lifestyle.  A lot has changed in my life since then, and I realize that I am 100 pounds lighter than I was when I started, at least in part, because of my blog and the people reading it.   I also realize that in spite of my intense and consistent workouts, my weight hasn’t changed much in almost a year.  And I maintain that I am pleased to have kept 100 pounds off since losing it, but I’m not sure what I have to offer here right now.

When I started this blog, it was all about me, and I wrote whatever I felt like writing because no one was reading it anyway.  Now I know that people read it and that some of you take time to reach out regularly through comments and emails and tweets, and I appreciate it so much more than I could every convey with words.  But I don’t know where to go from here.

Should I forget that people are reading and write whatever comes to mind regardless of the topic?  Should I whine about why this has been more difficult in the last year than it was at first?  Should I drone on about how terrifying it is to look at my overall goal?  Should I keep posting weekly weigh-ins with tiny little decreases and gains hoping that the good will outweigh the bad?  Should I just stop blogging?

I’ve always spilled my guts here.  AndI can’t imagine not posting (almost) everyday. I can’t imagine not knowing the incredible people that I’ve met as a result.  So I’m not saying goodbye…I couldn’t do that.  I’m just not sure what to say exactly.

 

Thursdays Matter Too

I’ve been doing things differently over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been feeling healthy and strong as a result!   Earlier this week I shared my decision to eat with more regularity on Thursdays, and I did.  I also decided to workout before attending my meeting, another thing that I have never been comfortable doing before stepping on the scale.  And I was down 0.6 pounds.

Since I started my weight-loss journey, I’ve heard all kinds of advice from folks who have similar goals and interests.  My first trainer told me not to workout just before stepping on the scale because I’d weigh a few pounds more.  Several fellow weight-loss friends shared that they don’t drink as much or eat as much before the step on the scale….Some don’t eat foods that are high in sodium the day before weigh-in, etc.  You get the idea, and I’ve done all of these things too.

But I threw all of that out of the window yesterday, and I’m glad I did.  I am no longer afraid to be active or to fuel my body because it’s Thursday.  It was ridiculous to ever feel that way, but hey…I can admit it when I need to change.  And I’ve admitted it.

So instead of spending the majority of my day being sedentary (which is really unnatural and uncomfortable) I opted to hit the gym to do another 10 miles on the elliptical before I headed to my meeting.  Next time I’ll try to allow enough time to shower, dry my hair and change into my weigh-in outfit because I’d rather not show up drenched in sweat again.  (Sorry WW friends….Thanks for understanding!)  Seriously, I was soaked from head to toe when I arrived, but I felt good about doing what I needed to do for myself.

When the machine made me start over I did what I did last time. During the last mile, I did as much as I could going backwards...It's slower, but it works different muscles.

So…..I wish I had shown a bigger loss this week. (Don’t we always wish for that?)  But I’m satisfied with the loss and with my efforts.  I really can’t tell you how hard it has been to change these habits knowing that the scale wouldn’t reflect the work I’ve done all week.  But now it’s done, and I’m proud of myself which is really the most important part anyway.  I probably won’t drink a gallon of water or do 10 miles before every weigh-in, but I won’t be afraid to anymore either because if I’m eating well and exercising the scale will reflect that eventually.

Cooling off, but my hair was soaked, and my clothes were too...

What are your thoughts on exercising right before weighing in?  Do you do it, or do you believe it’s smarter to wait?  And if waiting is your answer, then how long do you wait?

 

 

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.

Not Really Sure What I’m Doing

Yesterday was a fun day for me. Cal came over late afternoon, and he accompanied me to the gym before heading back to my place to help me make dinner.  He grilled steak for fajitas and I chopped and sauteed vegetables.  And we even made salsa with my KitchenAid blender.  Have I ever mentioned that I love fresh cilantro?  It’s true.  Our dinner was amazing, and I was so ready to eat it that I forgot to take a picture…Can you believe that? ;)

After dinner we watched the Presidential debate on Bloomberg (which is so much fun when I can watch with someone who understands what’s going on in my head!) But I have to admit that I was pretty self-conscious before that  (when we arrived at the gym.)   He’s never really seen me sweat (apart from a slight glisten when we took a walk near the Mississippi River) until yesterday, but it’s a big part of who I am so I didn’t hold back.  I tore up the elliptical for a few minutes before working my upper body, and I felt great at the end.

My workouts have been pretty solid since I joined Anytime Fitness.  And while I know I’ll experience a gain on the scale this week (after how I ate last week when Uncle W was in the hospital,)  I’m still pleased with the direction I’m moving in now.  And I know that the scale will start reflecting my efforts soon.  I’ve been killing it at the gym this week, but I worry that I may not be making the most of my time at the gym. I did managed to climb the height of the Empire State Building 2.89 times before hitting the weights.  (Thanks for calculating it Ron and for pointing it out, Anne!)

On the elliptical....

I’m trying to get comfortable with the weight machines at my new gym, and while I have pretty good form, I am trying to utilize machines that I haven’t used up this point.  And now that I’m comfortable with how, I really need to know how much.  I’d like to hire a trainer soon, but I’m not sure where to start with that so I’ve been taking notes and using google to figure out what I should be doing.  I’ve also been keeping a journal of my workouts.  (Yes, I carry a little notebook to the gym so I can remember what I did.)  I write in it after every set.  But there’s no rhyme or reason to my weight training, and I need to change that.  I’ve been feeling sore over the last few days, but not overly sore so I wonder if I’m doing too much or not enough.  I really don’t know.  If you click on the picture below, you’ll see that I’m putting in effort.  But you’ll also see that I’m making it up as I go along.

There's a bicycle on the front of my book, and it says "Life's a Journey." Just saying...

 

Richard Simmons, while famous for his cardio workouts, teaches the importance of weight training in his classes.  Did you know that he makes toning videos too?   He ends every class with weight training and floor exercises,  And though I’m not at Slimmons every week anymore, I strive to do the kind of workouts that would make Richard proud.  And it’s important to me to make the most out of the time I spend at the gym so it’s my goal to make a better plan.

Uh, for the record, I'm not usually looking up and smiling while I do leg curls.

I’m doing my best right now, but if anyone has advice to offer, I’m willing to listen.  Until then, I’ll just keep doing what I think is right and hoping that I can start seeing the reflection of my efforts on the scale and in the mirror.  Is weight training part of your routine?  Are you nervous to try it because you’re not sure where to start?  Do you have any advice to offer yours truly? :)

0 + 0 + 1 =6, Or I Think I’ve Been Doing This Wrong

If you read back through the archives of this blog, you would see an incredible difference between Kenlie who attends weekly WW meetings (regardless of rain, snow, etc) and Kenlie who’s trying to do it on her own.  You’d also see a stark difference in the amount of weight I lose when attending meetings versus not attending meetings.  And you stick around, you’re going to see that extraordinary shift again in the coming months.

After attending a new meeting Thursday night, I’ve found myself excited to cook food again and to get the most bang for my buck (in p+ values) though this time there’s an added layer.  I’m challenging myself to eat vegetables as the majority of my points.   You might be thinking “What is she babbling about? Veggies are free!”  But hear me out…

When you combine zero p+ foods in the recipe builder they’re no longer zero points because the value actually changes when the points for each item are calculated together.   In short, I’ve been tracking incorrectly.  I already knew that PointsPlus values could change when I combine two servings of something, but I’ve never tracked fruits and vegetables that way until now.  And it seems that most people don’t do it that way, but if I’m eating fresh fruit salads or meals that are vegetable dense, I need to track properly to reach my goal.

For lunch today, I ate a giant salad then logged it in the recipe builder before I tracked it.  Check out the details:

1 c baby spinach (o)

1/4 carrot (o)

1/4 large zucchini (o)

1 small apple (o)

1/4 c red onion (o)

1/4 cucumber (o)

1/2 c tomato (o)

1/2 c broccoli (o)

When these zero p+ foods were added up together, they totaled 4 p+ as opposed to zero because when foods are prepared and consumed together, they’re calculated in totals rather than separately.   It makes sense, but am I the only one who didn’t realize this until recently?

0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 1 + 3 =11

And here are some details on the smoothie that I made today.  I don’t regret utilizing my PointsPlus to eat it, but it does make me keenly aware of the fact that fruits are not always free.  Check out these details:

1 c strawberries (o)

1 large banana (0)

1/2 c skim milk (1)

0 + 0 + 1 =6

When consumed separately, these fruits and this milk are only worth 1 p+, but eat them together and they become 6 p+!  That’s a big difference!  And while it makes a lot more sense this way, it’s important to know that this is how it works because if I had eaten the smoothie (which was fantastic by the way) without calculating the points properly, I would have exceeded my points for the day.

And earlier this evening, I wanted a snack and needed some protein so I considered having peanut butter and banana on toast, but after adding the ingredients into the recipe builder I decided to make some adjustments because the points were so different than I thought they’d be. (I’m glad I checked!)

5 + 0 =9

Last year, when Weight Watchers unrelieved the PointsPlus plan, I was frustrated because I had learned so much about what a proper portion looked like through Momentum.  And I didn’t understand how fruits could be counted as zero p+, but now I think I understand!  And knowing that while fruits when eaten alone can occasionally be zero p+, I’m much more comfortable with PointsPlus based on my new understanding.  I had trouble wrapping my head around the fact that fruits and veggies were zero so I’m okay with this new knowledge.  And in addition to working out hard, this new information helps me feel like I’m back on the right track.

 

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.