Traveling after weight loss surgery


Where to begin?

As we prepare to jet off to Portland and join 300 other weight loss surgery patients, I’ve taken a moment to reflect on the ups and downs of travel after considerable weight loss.

Surgery or no surgery, it’s a roller coaster of highs and lows in the beginning. Some aspects, as is frequently the case, that no one thinks of can be thrilling or utterly devastating.

Here’s some things you may not have ever considered, but an obese person goes through during travel.

Have you ever had to ask for a seat belt extender? Probably not if you’ve never been obese. Did you even know they had such devices? I didn’t either, until I watched a women in a support group break down into utter tears, while explaining that she had been on an airplane and for the first time in her adult life she didn’t have to ask for an extender. Thanks to weight loss surgery she no longer needed the extra belt and she could cross her legs, use the tray in front of her and wasn’t spilling out of her seat into the one or person next to her. The entire support group cheered, and cried, as she explained this non scale victory.

Last year, as I left a Nashville airport with a fellow weight Loss surgery patient, I witnessed a new kind of embarrassment. My fellow weight loss surgery post operative buddy is now a marathon runner. She is thin and healthy and you would never think she has any thing to cause alarm at a checkpoint in an airport.

Well, the airport in Nashville disagreed. She was sent to the end of the security check for a good 10 mins of being pat down. A female officer came over and with gloves on, proceeded to feel the inside of her pants. As it turns out the space between her pants and crotch area was significant and a cause of alarm. She was such a trooper and never let it show that she was embarrassed or uncomfortable. We laughed as we talked about wearing leggings next time through security. We both knew the extra space was because of the loose skin we have to accommodate for after weight loss surgery. Security wasn’t interested in that.

(By the way don’t wear sequin ANYTHING. It bugs out the machines and I had to almost strip in the airport because I was wearing sequin. Note to self, don’t be sparkly while traveling. )

Let’s talk about how exciting it is when you realize you don’t have to pack everything in your closet, just in case. You may have never experienced this as a necessity, unless you are a plus size person. The last thing a girl size 20 wants to do is pack the wrong clothes or need something last minute. There’s no guarantee there will be any store, that carries your size. Just for a minute, imagine you’re standing in the middle of a mall, or outlet center. 50 plus stores and maybe, maybe, one or two stores will have something in your size and who knows what it will look like. You can see why packing becomes a daunting task. Out of fear,you pack everything.

Then one day you realize, along with the weight loss comes yet another freedom. You can go just about anywhere and find something to get the job done. I remember standing in a Walmart and realizing I could buy just about anything I liked. Stockings? No problem. Bathing suit? No problem.

It was something I never knew as an adult. Not since I was 13 had I been able to shop in a “standard” size store. Off the rack was thrilling. Now the only problem is bringing too much stuff back home.

Bring an empty carry on, trust me you’re going to need it.

Next month I will do a two part feature on the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America event in Portland. There will also be a contest to win some free samples from the event. Make sure you come back to my column in June and July for details.

Patricia Miller is a Weight loss surgery patient, advocate, and volunteer for the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America.