Tag Archives: Too Fat To Fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kenlie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

The Law Suit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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