“Oh I’m sorry, here, we can leave it like this,” the young man with thick and dark glasses said to me as he lifted up the arm rest between our seats by a few inches. I was just settling myself into my new 31 x 17 inch airplane seat that I would be calling home for the next 360 minutes of my life when I was suddenly thrown off guard by how large my thighs may truly be. I quietly muttered “thanks” as I lifted my legs more into a straight upright seated position, rather than my awkward yet comfortable leg position that makes women of all sizes thigh’s fluff out a little when fully relaxed. Magically, my thighs went from fluffy to firm and provided multiple inches between myself and glasses man. I know the man was just trying to make me feel more comfortable for my final flight home from Europe, but it just added to the bitter sting of moments when I felt ashamed of my body on my trip.
Just in case you were unaware of where I’ve been for the past five weeks, I’ve been gallivanting around many, many countries in Europe. My strong yet large thighs, calves, and feet have carried me across England, Wales, Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal! By the end of my trip, I was feeling so proud of myself and the amount of walking I was doing every day. It was an easy day if I had walked anything less than three miles over a span of a few hours and those days were very rare. I even began running up stairs JUST BECAUSE I KNEW I COULD! (but I’ll blog about my love affair with stairs later…)
Regardless of what my physical condition was for my body, people were not seeing me trot up stairs like a unicorn running towards a rainbow of sparkles. People were seeing me as my thighs smashed outward or when I would step inside a crowded elevator to looks that made me believe the people were thinking “Is this girl seriously going to try to squeeze in here?” Like Alyssa dealt with on her Thailand vacation, I sometimes felt very out-of-place as I wandered across many of the countries I visited. In some places, like England and Ireland, I didn’t feel as different as there were plenty of overweight people around. There definitely wasn’t as many hefty folks as I’m used to seeing here in the United States, but I didn’t feel nearly as ashamed as I did when I visited places like France and Switzerland (last year).
I noticed the stares the most while I was in Portugal. My Couchsurfing host tried to assure me that people only stared because they are not used to tall blonde girls but the way the looks made me feel said otherwise. There was one instance that my host took me to his local market shop and I had one woman give me a complete stare down, turn back to her six friends sitting around a table and say something in Portuguese, only to have every single person at that table look at me as well. I’m not used to these kinds of looks and it made me feel incredibly self-conscious.The thing about other places outside of the United States is that many of the people of the world simply DO NOT live like an American and thus tend to be on the thinner side of the body size spectrum… at least in my own theory. While I was in Europe, I spent my time using public transportation and my own two feet to get me where I needed to go. I didn’t seem to even notice the amount of walking I was truly doing every day just because it had become a normal part of my life. I didn’t have a car and the only time I was really excited to be in one is when my Couchsurfing host took me to the gorgeous town of Sintra, Portugal on a route that was MUCH easier with a private set of wheels.
As much as Portugal made me feel ashamed of my body size, I experienced the opposite feeling while visiting the beach town of Cascais. Upon walking on to the gorgeous but crowded beach, I immediately noticed the vast array of women in bikinis. I explained to another Couchsurfing girl friend, in the United States, once you turn a certain age, you are no longer allowed to flaunt your figure. Your selection of “appropriate swim wear” quickly drops into a tiny assortment of one piece bathing suits with underwire for sagging breasts and skirts already attached, ready to hide your aging thighs. You also aren’t supposed to wear a bikini if you have any sort of flab going on with your stomach. If you can sit down and have a small pouch ready for a kangaroo to jump into, surely you shouldn’t be wearing a bikini.
In Cascais, however, none of that seemed to matter. Many women over sixty were proudly rocking their metallic bikinis with the sun glistening off their gray hair and golden bodies. Women with double chins and double rolls of back fat tied on small triangles for swimsuit bottoms and tops and showed no shame at all as they made their ways to swim in the non-judgmental waters of the Atlantic. I immediately felt less worried about how I looked and became fascinated with how comfortable everyone on the beach was in their own skin. Some men wore small spandex bathing suits and a few women were completely topless, all without a single long stare from the crowded beach.
I left my afternoon at the beach feeling much more confident and as I walked back from the train station to my temporary home, instead of my eyes cowering down to the sidewalk as I would catch people looking at me, I would stare them straight in the eye and give them a smile that matched my big body.
Now that I’m home and feel at peace to be back with my fellow overweight Americans, I feel more dedicated to finally getting off the rest of this weight. I definitely lost weight over my five weeks abroad, anywhere between six and twelve pounds, depending on the scale I used to judge this by. I can tell the most though by the clothes I brought as everything just simply is looser on me.
I shall be getting back to my normal routines of healthy eating and exercising as I feel more dedicated than ever to get a grip on my health. I’ve got a bunch of reviews to do, including a detox program by the Italian company, Erba Vita. In true April fashion, however, I am ending my gluttony with Dutch cookies (stroop-wafels) and a Coke from McDonald’s. Alyssa specifically told me I had to fess up to my poor behavior for the day, that “You’re gonna need to blog that. Anything you say can and will be used against you.” So just for her, I shall admit to my sinful eating with much pleasure as I know the next many months will require much more discipline if I successfully want to get off the last fifty pounds of excess weight.
I’m happy to be home and excited to share more tidbits of my time abroad with you all over the next few days.
Enjoy your Tuesday!