Did you know that there is a beach resort in the Bahamas exclusively catering to curvy guests? Its founder, James King, was inspired by an experience he had while working at an unnamed resort in Grenada. There, he witnessed a “plus-size” woman being the butt of a joke after she broke one of the beach loungers.
To make matters worse, the resort even charged her for breaking it — despite the loungers being made of flimsy plastic. “I thought that it was insane,” King recalls. That’s why in his own resort, he strived to make sure all the furniture and facilities are plus-size friendly.
The Challenges of “Plus-Size” Travel
The above anecdote shows just one of the many struggles plus-size travelers contend with. Each time a curvy woman crosses a border, there is always the feeling of fear coupled with excitement. This is because each country has different perceptions of body image. Japan, for instance, has an obesity rate of 3.7%, which is why shopping there can be a challenge for plus-size tourists, and it is common to be stared at.
Another problem many people with bigger physiques face is flying. Most airlines don’t have plus-size friendly seats. Because of this, plus-size people usually have embarrassing exchanges with flight attendants or other passengers. It’s never a comfortable experience to have others looking at or whispering about you.
“Fatphobia” is Still Rampant
While a number of mainstream brands like Dove and American Eagle are actively promoting body positivity, the stigma attached to plus-size people continues to exist. Although this is manifested in a million different everyday experiences for those with bigger bodies, some of the scariest situations are at places like the beach, where people tend to show off their “beach bodies.”
Technically speaking, everyone has a beach body. But images popularized by the media and advertising has led society to believe that only one kind of body should be allowed on display. A Travel + Leisure post claims that a regular model’s body is lower than the average American BMI. Hence, plus-size travelers cannot help but develop “beach body anxiety.”
A common argument by fat-shamers points to the health risks that overweight people face. However, dietician Rebecca Scritchfield rebuts this notion by explaining that health complications like diabetes aren’t necessarily caused by weight. She also outlines that weight bias can be harmful to mental health and may even shorten life expectancy.
Moreover, it’s important to understand that there is no fixed shape for health and wellness. Many curvy people happen to eat healthy and be physically active, like yoga teacher Jessamyn Stanley and pole dancer Roz Mays. Hence, the idea that a healthy body comes in only one form should be actively challenged.
Tips for “Plus-Size” Travelers
Despite all the hurdles, it is still very much possible for plus-size people to experience stress-free travel. After all, there are so many reasons to see the wonders of the world, and negative biases and stigma shouldn’t stop you. These tips can help:
– Choose size-friendly airlines. To ensure a comfortable flight, check the seat width and whether the armrests can be raised. It’s also advisable to call the airline beforehand about this concern so that they can recommend the best seats.
– Visit size-inclusive countries. If shopping is part of your trip, perhaps forgo countries like Korea and Japan because plus-sizes aren’t common there. Leading fashion retailer Woman Within emphasizes that body positivity starts by embracing your own size. This means that the clothes you wear should adjust to your body, instead of the other way around — whether it is swimsuits, active wear, winter clothing, or everyday fashion. This way, when you travel it will be much more pleasant.
– Pack clothes in your carry-on. In case there is a problem with your check-in luggage, at least there is still something for you to wear during the first few days of your trip. This is much better than struggling to find comfortable clothes in a foreign country that may or may not sell them in the majority of their stores.
– Don’t forget wellness. Traveling isn’t an excuse to put your health and wellness goals to one side. For tips on this, be sure to explore more of our Travel Well features.