Obesity and weight is a worldwide problem. WHO (n.d.) notes that there are approximately 1 billion people who are overweight around the globe. In America alone, over 70% of the adult population is categorized as overweight (CDC, n.d.) and 39% of those adults are obese (CDC, n.d). With waistbands expanding, stereotypes become more and more pronounced in the media. At some point in our lives, many of us struggle with our weight, whether it’s from having a baby, the freshman 15 or just life in general. Reality is that there really is no “one size fits all” when it comes to body shapes and sizes.
This is evident in the “body positivity movement” that has been hitting Twitter and Instagram in the last few years. Those with larger body sizes want to be accepted just as much as those who are in the “average” size category. From dancing, modeling or even traveling while overweight, many individuals who are larger than average are working to find acceptance from the world no matter our sizes.
While there is great effort to shame individuals who are overweight through websites, news articles, and social media commentators, it only shows that hateful speech is still an acceptable format when it involves an outwards appearance someone deems unacceptable. Some individuals even feel that shaming someone over their body weight will actually motivate them to lose (Dear Fat People by Nicole Arbour for an example). The reality is that fat-shaming can actually do worse harm than encouraging someone. The reason for this is because along with being overweight many suffer from depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, etc. (Jackson, Beeken, & Wardle, 2014). The cause of someone’s weight issues is not always just because “we eat too much”. With the number on the scale aside, the reasons for anyone to be over the expected weight is truly none of the publics’ business. But that doesn’t stop them from continually reminding us that we just don’t fit in.
Without going into details of eating habits and medical conditions or even genetics, it’s known by all of us who are overweight that there is a higher chance of things like heart disease, cancer, strokes, etc. But that doesn’t mean we should stop living our lives because someone else deems our body size to be unworthy of joy and happiness.
Many of us, Peter and I included, are continually working on improving our health. This is where for us traveling around the world comes into play. We find traveling to be freeing, a way to refresh and start over again. But just because we are traveling doesn’t mean we stop facing the ever ending self-doubt and questions related to the stereotypes, guidelines, and rules based on weight and size.
While there are safety precautions that need to be met such as with ziplining or scuba diving, for instance, many of these questions start to become questions of how we can cater to the comfort of other people and not ourselves. From bumping into someone at a restaurant to needing an armrest up on a long flight for comfort, we are continually asked to make other people comfortable with our bodies when we struggle to find it ourselves. This scares a lot of people from doing the things they have always dreamed of doing such as traveling.
Many countries have a stigma about overweight individuals, I remember being called “Fatty” by a 16-year-old boy as I climbed a cliff in Sorento, Italy, ironically he was not much heavier than I was at the time. Recently on our trip to Jamaica Peter expressed to me his fears of finishing the climb at Dunn’s River Falls because everyone around us was skinny and able to move up the falls easily while we were struggling with each new step. But when we reached the top of both mountains the sense of accomplishment flowed over us, knowing that we could make it, despite the thoughts that swirled around us.
With traveling being on the top of many individuals bucket lists sometimes the self-doubting stereotypical questions are all too consuming for someone who is overweight and the dream of traveling is removed from the list. Or in many cases “I’ll go when I lose some weight” becomes the excuse to stay home. This is why we decided to write this blog. We know the feelings and thoughts that encompass our minds because we don’t fit into the image of expectations and desires by a majority of the world. But we also know the euphoria that occurs when we accomplish something that felt so impossible because of all those expectations.
Accomplishing something that feels impossible because our size gives us a new take on life. We begin to feel the courage and confidence that it takes to find the desired comfort within ourselves. Leaving home doesn’t mean leaving your problems behind, because the weight is still with you whether you are sitting on your couch or climbing the Alps. But we have found that learning about the history of cultures, religions, countries, and cities from the people who live in them can give someone a boost of inspiration to incorporate new habits, that we may not have known before, into our lives.
This is why traveling while overweight is one of the best feelings in the world. You get to not only prove to yourself you can but to the rest of the world at the same time too.
Life does not fit “one size” and neither should pursuing that dream vacation.
The Portly Passengers provides plus size inclusive travel tips and advice for anyone who is looking to explore the world. From seat sizes on airplanes to exploring museums, restaurants, and nature Melissa & Peter have the experience and stories to help guide you through it.