Confessions of an Overweight Traveler


#RealTalk: Traveling while overweight may be hard, but I don’t let it stop me from doing what I want. (Photo: Pamela MacNaughtan)

By Pamela MacNaughtan

I’ll be honest: I’ve thought about writing about my weight for a long time. But I haven’t. It’s not that I think people will leave nasty body-shaming comments, though I’m sure a few would. It’s more about the fact that I hate talking about it.

And therein lies the problem: Hardly anyone talks about traveling while overweight. I know I’m not the only overweight traveler, but some days, it sure feels like I am. And I’m fairly certain others feel the same way.

So I’m going to put it all out there. Here, seven confessions about what it’s like to be an overweight traveler.

1. It’s hard to pack light.

Before I went to Southeast Asia, I read a ton of how-to-prep blogs online, and they all told me to pack light. “Remember, you can buy things for a lot cheaper in Asia, so there’s no need to overload your luggage,” the blogs said. It was good advice, yes, but not for someone who’s overweight. Visiting a market in Southeast Asia and trying to buy clothing as an overweight woman with ginormous boobs? Talk about mission impossible!

Related: Confessions of an Overpacker

2. I avoid restaurants.

I don’t buy a ton of food, because I don’t want to be “the fat girl with all the food” that everyone whispers about. In fact, to avoid that fate, I don’t eat in many restaurants at all. I stick to street food, which is not only cheap and delicious, but also helps me control my portions. And I don’t have to deal with as many looks from my fellow restaurant goers — or waitresses who give me huge helpings just because they assume I want them.


Eating from a street cart is so much easier than dining in a restaurant. (Photo: Corbis)

3. I’m probably more uncomfortable sitting next to you on the plane than you are sitting next to me.

Flying makes me feel very uncomfortable. I look around and see occasional looks of concern when people think they may be sitting next to me. I’m sure it’s because they think that my girth will somehow smother them in their sleep. What they don’t realize is that I am more worried than they are, because I know that if someone is next to me, I will have to spend the entire flight trying to squish myself into the side of the plane. I have huge boobs, and my arms automatically stick out. In an attempt to counter that, I will often sit in a bear-hug position for more than three hours, to the point that my arms fall asleep.

4. Eating on planes is also a challenge.

I’ve changed seats in order to be at the very back of a plane if I know a middle seat or an entire row is empty — and not just because of the whole squishing myself into the side of the plane thing. There is also the challenge of eating. When you put a tray table down and you cannot see the food unless you squish your boobs flat, there is a problem.

To deal, I usually just say I’m not hungry. But that’s not always the best fix. There are the flights where the attendants don’t ask passengers to put their seats into the upright position, and then during the meal, they try to give me a tray. I look at them like they are crazy — there is no room for my tray table if the seat in front of me is reclined! — and then they get confused because they don’t understand big girl/big breast problems. One day, I will take the tray, place it on my boobs, and eat from it just to make my point. Kidding … kind of.

Related: Confessions of a Fed-up Flight Attendant

5. Buses and boats are better than planes.

As long as the bus seats aren’t too small and nobody’s next to me, I’m good. Boats, too, until someone tries to force me to wear a lifejacket. It’s a frightening scene — my boobs are much too big — and I avoid small boat excursions for this reason. I also avoid boats because getting into them is a lot easier than getting out of them.


These boats are fun in theory, but they’re more trouble for me than they’re worth. (Photo: Corbis)

6. Walking tires me out pretty easily, so I’ve developed some tricks to stop without looking out of shape.

I really enjoy walking, and I always have my camera on me in case I want to snap a couple of photos. But I also carry it with me for another reason: in case my back gets really sore. Sometimes, the pain gets so bad that I have to stop walking, but I don’t want anyone to know that I’m in pain — so I pretend to take a photo. Truth: I have done that so many times.

I’ve also used maps, or pretended to receive a text message that I absolutely must read right away. For some reason, I think nobody will notice my beet-red face or the fact that I’m practically panting. Have I mentioned I hate hostels with stairs for this very reason? I’ve even tried the photo/cell phone trick to take a break from climbing stairs.


Hotel with lots of stairs? Beautiful, but not for me. (Photo: Corbis)

Related: Why Everyone in the World is Talking About Fat-Shamed ‘Dancing Man’

7. For the most part, I avoid photos.

I almost never allow someone to take my photo, unless they understand that it has to be taken so that my boobs are not in the picture (they make my head look really small). I’d love to do travel videos, but I’m nervous about showing more of myself. My selfies are always just a headshot — nothing more. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but there is always a bit of fear about showing too much.

But here’s the thing: Even though these confessions are true, I do not let them deter me from going and doing what I want. I don’t want to refrain from my passion because of my weight. Put another way: I am almost ready to kick that fear in the a**.

I could stay home, work, and try to go to the gym to get in shape, but that’s not what I want. In the past, I’ve had friends tell me that my weight would keep me from being a traveler — but I proved them wrong. I don’t want to be overweight for the rest of my life; I have every intention of getting in shape and becoming healthier in the future. But for now, I am accepting that this is who I am, trying to be more open about it with others, and not letting it stop me from traveling the world.

Watch: This Woman Cross-Dressed and Hitchhiked Her Way Across the Middle East

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