Friday, September 18, 2009


Today was the first time I had been on a plane in about a month and a half. I have (almost) always enjoyed traveling. Well, more specifically, I have always enjoyed visiting new places, seeing new things, and having new experiences.

However, the experience of traveling itself has not always been fun. In particular, it is a lot less fun when you are overweight. You wonder “Will I need a belt extender?” when riding on an airplane (asking for one has to be one of the most humiliating travel-related experience). You pray that, at a minimum you are on an aisle so you don’t intrude on your neighbors’ space – but really you hope for an empty seat next to you. You hope that there are no travel-related delays so you don’t have to [try to] run to make your connection. You get winded walking from terminal to terminal. You can’t really use the lap tray because your stomach fat blocks it so, as a result, you can’t work on your computer during the flight. I could go on and on but, in summary, you’re probably feeling me that it is both unpleasant and potentially humiliating to travel when you are morbidly obese. The one bright side is that airports are packed with junk food that comes in huge portions. One of my favorite airport “snacks” that you can buy would have to be a huge bag of Combos. The ability to get unlimited quantities of junk food really just is not much of a bright side, though, especially if you’re wise enough to consider the eventual ramification of said junk food. I rarely considered these longer-term effects when I was overweight though.

Though I obviously have a long way (weigh?) to go in this journey, I can already tell a huge difference from where I started. In fact, I can tell a substantial difference just in the month and a half since I’ve flown. This was surprising to me as I’ve only lost about 5-10 lbs in that time. Here is a summary of my travel day.

First, in the spirit of honesty, let me confess that today hasn’t been stellar food wise. I had a healthy breakfast (grade: A), Olive Garden for lunch (grade: C+ – healthy portions, relatively healthy choice from the menu, only one breadstick – but be realistic: it’s still the Olive Garden and there is a lot of sodium in the food). Snacks were a peach and an apple (grade: A). For dinner, airport food. In particular since I connected in Memphis I had Neely’s BBQ for dinner (grade: probably a D+ -- had a half rack of ribs, sides were beans and slaw. I skipped the potato salad even though I wanted to eat it, had a bite of the white bread to see if it was anything special, decided it wasn’t so threw the rest away. Probably too big a portion, but I did not want to waste it. I feel ok with that decision. I also am ok with having eaten it as this summer I became obsessed with the Food Network and always wanted to try the Neely’s restaurant since I enjoy their FN show. I told myself I would try it the next time I went to Memphis. I have now done that. I wish I had time to enjoy eating it though. Dinner was incredibly rushed because I had a super tight connection. Stay tuned for more on that…) My tactical decisions weren’t too awful given the strategic ones I made to eat at the restaurants I did (i.e., given that you are going to have BBQ for dinner, nice job not eating a whole rack of ribs and 2 sides of potato salad – I totally would have done that back in the day). Nonetheless my strategic decisions to eat out twice and not at particularly healthy restaurants were somewhere between not great and poor. I give myself an overall food grade today of C- to D+.

Anyway, back to the travel portion of the story. Our flight out of XNA was delayed, making my connection in Memphis quite tight. First of all, let me tell you how much I wanted Doritos, Combos, and/or TGIFriday’s chips while waiting at the airport! These are all my favorite travel foods. I used to get Combos almost every trip I would fly. I guess it was kind of a habit, but I did not give in! Yay for turning over a leaf. I read my book instead and eventually the craving passed.

There was a colleague from work that was going to be on our flight. I recognized her but have never talked to her (she is not in my department, but is in the College of Engineering). Coincidentally, we ended up being seated next to each other on the flight. My first thought was “This will be nice to get a chance to talk to her” but almost immediately I thought “OMG let me please not squish her in her seat!”. I was so self conscious (and glad she was skinny, lessening the probability that I would smash her). Turns out, I fit almost normally into the seat. I didn’t hang over at all, and had a good 6” to spare on my seatbelt. Unless you have been in a situation where you have needed a belt extender or wondered if your belt would buckle, you probably have no idea how excited I felt. It was really great. A bonus is that I had a nice conversation with an interesting colleague on the flight. Usually I just read a book or sleep or listen to my iPod; I rarely talk to strangers on flights so it was a nice change. But back to the story….

I planeside checked my carry-on bags, and so it took a couple minutes for them to unload them off the plane so we could get them. This made my tight connection even tighter. I knew I needed to make my plane (obviously) and, if at all possible, get something to eat. As a tangent, now that I have fewer reserves (i.e., easily accessible glycogen and stored up body fat) to draw on, I find that my body is more sensitive to not being fed both properly and in a timely manner. I try to avoid my body getting angry at me for being unfed for too long, as such bodily anger generally manifests itself in the form of headaches, irritability, and/or feeling like I might pass out. It’s best for everyone if I avoid this. I saw that my time was tight to make my connection, but did allow me to at least stop so I could get something to take on the plane. I got my food to go and pressed on. Since losing weight I am able to move much more quickly than before. While hustling to get to my gate, though, I had a realization: I realized I could easily run to my gate if I would have needed to. I was like “WOW!!!” The time on the elliptical machine has paid off. It made me so excited and proud.

Finally I should point out that I wrote this entry on the tray table in front of my seat. It was so great. I had a good 6” between me and the table. This was in contrast to having it not be able to fold all the way down due to being blocked by stomach fat. I was so excited.

I am by no means a in perfect shape, but I am taking control of my life and my health and am so glad that I am seeing results. It is strong motivation to keep going. I am looking forward to being able to take on the day tomorrow with vigor and enthusiasm!

Incidentally, a book that I was reading pointed out to me that I am on the cusp of just being “obese” as opposed to “morbidly obese” on the BMI scale. Not something to be hugely proud of in and of itself (“YAY!!! I’M OBESE!!!”), for me it is progress and I am very proud of where my life/health vector is pointed and determined to make the progress continue.

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