What Planes Can Teach Us About Body Liberation

I’m writing to you from a plane on my way to a much-needed vacation, and my tray table barely has room to balance my laptop and a glass of water, so I’ll try to make this a quick one.

It’s not just the tray table, actually—it’s the whole seat that’s cramped and narrow, barely able to contain my body, shoulders and elbows protruding at awkward angles into the aisle on one side and my spouse’s arm on the other.

And it’s the aisles, not wide enough for any adult to walk down without turning 30, 60, 90 degrees to dodge fellow passengers’ elbows, knees, feet.

And it’s the bathrooms, whose ridiculous dimensions turn the already delicate operation of doing your business while hurtling through space into a game of pee-roulette.

I’m someone with thin privilege, and yet I’m uncomfortable and anxious every time I fly because of the egregious lack of personal space.

And it’s SO MUCH WORSE for people in larger bodies, who sometimes have to purchase two seats just for the right to get where they need to go, and still can’t get enough space to truly be comfortable.

Who have to endure stigmatizing sighs and glares from seatmates, and occasionally even suffer outright physical abuse because of their size.

Who sometimes forgo water and end up horribly dehydrated in an effort to avoid a trip to the bathroom.

Who often feel too scrutinized to eat, and have to endure gnawing, all-consuming hunger.

Plane rides are a microcosm of how weight stigma functions in our society at large, and how it affects different people in different ways.

This stigma, manifesting in an egregious lack of consideration for and accommodation of larger bodies, makes things uncomfortable for people like me, who feel hemmed-in and policed and unable to be truly free, truly embodied.

AND, the experience of those of us in smaller bodies pales in comparison to the discomfort, shame, abuse, and lack of access that higher-weight folks face every single day in diet culture.

This pain is only compounded by other systems of oppression. On planes and in everyday life, larger-bodied people of color, trans folks, disabled people, and those with other marginalized identities not only have to deal with weight stigma but also racism, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of discrimination that are at play in our society—not to mention lack of access to the spaces and services they need.

And multibillion-dollar corporations benefit from excluding far too many people from those spaces and services.

This inequity has to stop.


One important path out of this system of injustice is dismantling diet culture, which is what this week’s episode of Food Psych is all about.

It’s a replay of a fan-favorite episode with Joy Cox, a fat-liberation activist and researcher who’s experienced the pain of living in a society that devalues bodies like hers on many levels.

We discuss how intersecting identities (such as, in Joy’s case, being fat, black, and female) can affect body image; how to fight back against internalized weight stigma and body shame; why refusing to conform to cultural and societal expectations can help change the world; the racist roots of diet culture and why fighting it is an important part of creating a more inclusive society; the problems with framing larger body size as “obesity” and labeling it a disease, and so much more.

Plus, I answer a listener question about intuitive eating for athletes.

Check it out right here, and be sure to subscribe so that you never miss an episode!

(OK, so this ended up being a much longer note than I’d set out to send—and as soon as I started writing about systemic injustice and the fact that this irritation I’m feeling about air travel is a lot bigger than just me, I got so heated that my discomfort actually lessened a bit. Sometimes connecting with larger cultural issues will do that.)

Here’s to creating more space for ALL bodies in all areas of life

P.S. Exciting update about my book: I landed an additional book deal to have Anti-Diet published in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand by an awesome imprint called Yellow Kite, the UK cousin of my US publisher! So now folks in those countries can get the book through their local retailers (and avoid the steep shipping costs they would’ve incurred otherwise). You can pre-order both the UK and the US/North American versions right here, and pre-orders are a great way to help build buzz about the book and spread the anti-diet message far and wide!

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