Preparing for the Montreal Trip

So begins me writing every day and being completely honest about what I’m doing to lose all this weight.

I’m using 750words.com to write these entries. Using this site helps me feel like I can write personable posts. When I write in MS Word, I always feel like I have to write something formal.

There’s a lot going on in my head. Yesterday, I interviewed a woman for the podcast who lost 250lbs in 18 months. She did by dramatically changing up her food intake and working out at the gym two hours a day (cardio for one hour and strength training for the other hour). I could do that. I have the resources. I have the time. Honestly, the only thing missing is the motivation.

In two days, I’m off to Montreal. I’m going for a four-day writing seminar. I have mixed feelings about going. Even though it’s been two weeks since I got back from BlogHer, I feel like I’ve only been home for such a short time and I don’t want to go through the hassle of traveling again. I don’t want to sleep in another bed. I don’t want to have to go to bed early so I have to be up and out by 8AM so I can be at the seminar on time each day.

I hate that my weight overshadows everything. I think about people seeing me. I think about the seating on the plane. I think about whether or not I should take the Metro to the seminar and, if I do, will I be able to fit through the turnstile. I think about the seating in the theatre where the seminar will be held and how I’ll want to get there early each day to get an aisle seat and hope no one sits beside me. It’s not that I take up tons of space. It’s that I dread the idea of infringing upon someone else’s space.

I used to have the hardest time envisioning myself thin because I didn’t have a point of reference. There was a time, in my late teens, when I was at a healthy weight. I don’t have any photos of myself at that time though. I always wished I could be one of those people who knew what their body looked like at an ideal weight and had that solid goal to work toward.

Now, it’s not about that for me. It’s about getting back ease. And I do remember the times when I didn’t have to worry about plane seats, turnstiles, or theatre seats.

The other night, I was showing my mom where the Montreal hotel I’d be staying at via Google Maps. While we were looking around, I showed her the theatre I’ll also be going to and the walking route I would have taken to get there if I still lived in Montreal. (I lived there for six years.)

One of my street shots taken on St. Laurent Blvd. in Montreal.

Showing her the route using the Street View option brought back a lot of memories. When I lived in Montreal, I spent a lot of time sitting in front of my computer. A lot. Looking back though, I walked a lot too. I spent years walking all over the city taking photos. I walked up and down steep hills to buy groceries. I remember one time taking a bus in snow storm to buy two, ten-pound dumbbells, putting them in my backpack and then getting lost trying to find the right bus stop to get back home. Aye yi yi.

Now, a week can go by so fast and I haven’t left my apartment once. What has happened to me? Part of it is that being here has afforded me conveniences I’ve never had before. I can get anything delivered. I live within a few blocks of everything I need. It just bothers me that I am so in my head that I have no interest to go outside and just see what’s out there. On top of that, now, even if I cultivated this interest, I’d feel so self-conscious about going out into the world.

When David was here, he suggested I try walking around the block a couple of times a day. Sounds good to me…until I start thinking about what I would have to wear to cover up the sagging weight in the front of my body and thinking about how all the clothes I wear out in public are long, and long-sleeved and not really comfortable for sweaty walks in the heat when you’re trying to be invisible.

Beyond all of this, I’m excited to learn at this writing seminar. Deep down, I know being there will be worth all this mental torture I’m putting myself through.

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Obese People Suing Air Canada for “Pain, Suffering or Inconvenience with Interest”

On December, 13th, 2011, the Montreal Gazette reported that a class action lawsuit was approved by a judge:

A class-action lawsuit by travellers who paid extra for seats on Air Canada flights because they were obese or disabled has received permission to take off from a Quebec judge.

David Bourgoin, lead lawyer for the class-action suit, said 10 to 20 people have come forward with an interest to join to class, adding there has been “a lot of interest” from organizations and groups that represent people with medical conditions that may make them eligible for inclusion.

He said the intention is for those groups to encourage people they work with to come forward.

“We’ve asked for punitive damages and moral damages, too,” said Bourgoin, of BGA Barristers and Solicitors, which has offices in Montreal and Quebec City.

“It’s a violation of fundamental rights to discriminate against people with (medical) deficiencies.”

The suit seeks $1,000 for “damages for pain, suffering or inconvenience with interest” and an additional $500 for “punitive and exemplary damages with interest” for all people involved.

My Experiences With Air Canada

Over the past two years, I’ve travelled multiple times via Air Canada.

Back in 2008, when I weighed around 290lbs, I booked a flight from Toronto to Nashville. It was the first time I had flown since 2000. When I got on the plane, I was shocked at how small the seats were. I didn’t remember them being so small.

When I tried doing up the seatbelt, I was dismayed to realize it wouldn’t be long enough to go around my huge tummy. When everyone was seated, I got up from my back row seat, walked to the front and asked for a seat belt extender and then walked all the way down the aisle to the back of the plane.

Worst moment ever.

The cool thing about that flight was that no one was sitting next to me. That was a relief.

On my way back to Toronto, an older woman did sit next to me. While I could put down the arm rest between us, I still felt embarrassed for taking up more space than I should have been.

After I booked my next flight, a few hours before the flight was scheduled to leave, I checked a million times to see if anyone had booked a seat next to me—hoping and praying no one would or, if they did, there would be an empty row I could move to and sit by myself. Most of the time, I got lucky and was able to sit alone.

One time, the seating chart had no one sitting beside me, but on the plane a man did take the seat. Before the plane took off, he moved to a different seat. I was sure it was because of my size. (He never said anything to me, so I’m not 100% sure.)

Every flight after that I did book two seats. I didn’t mind paying the extra money, not just to have the extra space, but to have some peace of mind. Sitting beside a total stranger and feeling so ashamed for taking up space every moment you’re on the flight wasn’t something I wanted to feel anymore.

Traveling on SouthWest

One time, while traveling in the U.S, I had to fly via SouthWest. This was shortly after the whole incident with director Kevin Smith being asked to leave a SouthWest flight because they considered him to be too heavy. When I called to book the flight, I let them know I was overweight and I bought two tickets at full price.

Getting on the plane was a little embarrassing. The disabled people got on first followed by the obese people. I hate standing out like that. Once on the plane, I had to put a card on the seat beside me letting people know the seat was taken.

I have to admit though, embarrassment aside, it was cool to get on the plane first and have my pick of seats. Also, not having someone sitting next to you makes the flight that much more comfortable. I hate the circumstances, but once the plane takes off I am extremely grateful for the ease.

How Much Is Peace of Mind Worth?

These days, I have to focus on weight loss as the solution to not having to deal with embarrassment. Last year, Air Canada raised the price of a flight from Toronto to Nashville from $160 (one way) to $360 (one way). While I didn’t mind paying $160 for the extra seat, I will mind paying $360.

My next trip is at the end of April. My goal is to be less than 300lbs by then. I can’t foresee losing so much weight that I can fly with the same ease as someone at a normal weight. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to handle flying then.

 Why Are People Really Suing Air Canada?

The class action lawsuit is lumping in obese people and disabled people. I don’t agree with that.

Actual physical disabilities are one thing. I don’t think of my excess weight as being a disability. I feel that it is a problem caused by me neglecting my body. I have to take responsibility for my health and I have to take responsibility for the limitations it causes. That includes buying two seats.

Granted, I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been called up to the gate and asked to buy two seats before being allowed on the plane. The closest I’ve come to experiencing any sort of embarrassment like that is when I was called up to clarify why there were two seats in my name. People sitting nearby listened as I explained and the Air Canada employee told me discounts are given to “people of a larger size” for a second seat. (I had called Air Canada before booking this flight to ask if I could get a discount and I was told, “No.”)

Whenever people participate in a class action lawsuit, I always get the sense they are angry because they feel as though they were treated disrespectfully. I’d have to wonder if the money they are seeking has more to do with the shame and embarrassment they experienced on the Air Canada flight more than the actual extra cost of having to get a second seat.

Can Air Canada train their employees to handle this sort of situation better?  It might help. Truth be told, if you are overweight and feeling self-conscious about it, even the slightest thing can hurt your feelings. Add the stress of flying to the mix and it just seems like you’re going to be on edge on matter what.

In my opinion, this lawsuit is ridiculous. I can’t see it changing the way airlines deal with obese travelers. The damages being sought are minimal. Worst of all, this sort of thing brings up the discussion about whether obese people deserve special treatment—a discussion that always brings up really harsh insults about those of us who are overweight.

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