For a moment I couldn’t close the door to the airplane’s toilet. I was smashed up against the mirror, the wall, and I was perilously close to touching the toilet – something I try to avoid at all costs before I get a chance to disinfect it. No, the plane wasn’t crashing. I’d like to say the airlines build their bathrooms way too small, but the sad reality is this: the claustrophobia was self-induced.
For 20 years I’ve spent my life feeling like there wasn’t enough space for me and a recent trip on an airplane was the latest in a series of frustrating claustrophobic experiences.
Walking Down the Aisle of the Plane
I bumped into 90% of the people I walked past on the airplane. That means if I walk down the aisle facing straight forward I bump into every shoulder and chair. I’m a courteous guy and don’t like doing that to people.
Perhaps I should have shuffled sideways down the aisle? Good thought, but not possible. It turns out they don’t make cut-outs in the seats to accommodate a belly as large as mine. This is made worse by the fact that I was wearing a backpack and dragging a suitcase behind me. There would’ve been unconscious passengers in my wake if I did that.
Thus, the airlines have forced me to master what I call the “74 degree shuffle”. Here is what you do if you want to try this: Turn your shoulders approximately 74 degrees while keeping your hips at approximately 6 degrees (because it’s nearly impossible to keep your hips facing exactly straight forward when turning your shoulders almost 90 degrees). If you master this technique you can reduce the number of impacts with passengers and seats by approximately 50%. Better than nothing.
Eating on the Plane
Ah, economy class. The food quality is less than average while the lack of space in which to eat that food is impressive. On my last flight the lack of space had somehow increased. We’d spent nearly a month back in Canada and the US visiting friends and family. On the flights to North America from South Africa I was almost able to put the seat tray all the way down. Almost.
Now, four weeks later on our way back to South Africa it appeared that the airline had shaved another inch off the space between the seats. The tray was firmly resting on my belly. At least this airline was thoughtful enough to have trays that fold in half. I didn’t know where to place my food on the tray but at least I could put the tray all the way down!
And what do I do with my elbows while eating? The seats are so narrow I’ve had to learn a technique similar to the “74 degree shuffle” where I attempt to eat with my elbows tucked in tightly to my belly. It’s a challenging and very uncomfortable way to eat a meal.
Using the Toilet on the Plane
I already mentioned at the beginning of this post that I could barely close the door to the bathroom. I bumped into every single surface in the bathroom at least a dozen times and smashed my elbows and shoulders at least five times.
Don’t get me started on what I endured to get my pants down and the absolute mission I had to go on to get back off the toilet. When I left the bathroom I was exhausted and terrified. It was a 13 hour flight and we were only 3 hours into it!
Sleeping on the Plane
I didn’t get much sleep on any of those flights. The seats are so narrow that I spill out into the aisle. And this contributes to joint pain because I cannot fully extend my legs in flight. This meant my knees hurt throughout the entire duration of all four flights and it kept waking me up. This also impacted the sleep of those closest to me – my family.
That wasn’t the only thing impacting the quality of sleep for me and those near me. My loud snoring was waking me, my family, and the strangers near me. When you wake yourself up with your own snoring you know it’s LOUD.
You Must Find Your Why
Figuring out why it’s time to change is the first critical step in jump starting your weight loss.
Of course, nothing I’ve outlined in this article is the airlines fault. It’s mine. So, too, is the lack of space in my car (especially in South Africa where the cars are tiny!), my lap when my daughter sits on it, my shoes, and my pants (they are tight!). I cannot tell you the number of times I thought I had split my pants getting into or out of my car…not to mention the times I actually did it. Yes, TIMES is plural. Stay tuned for those stories. My obesity caused all of these painful experiences.
Self-induced claustrophobia is just one of many reasons why I’ve finally decided to make a permanent change when it comes to managing my health and taking care of my body. The plane ride pushed me over the edge and caused me to begin cataloging all the reasons I had for making this change.
The list from the plane ride alone is compelling:
- Moving around the plane
- Getting into and out of my seat
- Storing/retrieving overhead luggage
- Having enough room in my seat
- Being able to put the food tray down
- Ability to eat the meal in relative comfort
- Taking up others space because I spill into their seats
- Using the toilet
- Having room to work on the plane if needed
- Sleeping on the plane
- Embarrassment over snoring
- Guilt for interfering with others sleep
Once I had my list of reasons for change I put them up against the cause of my obesity: the enjoyment of food without boundaries. My list of reasons for change is LONG. It’s comprehensive and far outweighs my desire to enjoy food in the absence of boundaries. I’ll start to break the list down for you in part two of jump starting your weight loss.
Start making your list (if you need to change something in your life) and let’s compare notes in the next post.
If you struggle with weight, have you experienced self-induced claustrophobia? In what ways? I would love some help adding things to my list so leave some items from your list in the comments!