Saturday, 9 April 2016

When seat belts don't fit

One of the things I've been wanting to share with you lately, is something that at the time I thought I'd just keep between myself and a couple of friends, because it's entirely embarrassing.  But I will share here though - this is about The Seat Belt Situation.

I've mentioned seat belts dozens of time across my social media since embarking on this weight loss journey.  I'm talking specifically, aeroplane seat belts.  In short:

Before I lost weight, plane seat belts would be so tight on me that it'd leave semi-permanent red marks across my tummy.  When they were just too tight and I just couldn't hack it, I'd undo it and drape a huge cardie or jumper over the top to hide.

As I lost weight, the seat belts fit better.  I would delight as the flappy bit at the end
Technical term: "Flappy Bit" noun
of seat belts grew longer and longer
, the more kilos I dropped.  I shared photo after photo on Insta, and have dozens more on my phone.  I said to myself that I think it will never 'not be' a novelty.  I'll be 86 and will have a secret little smile to myself when I do up a seat belt with ease, with room to move.  Things like that I don't think you'll ever stop appreciating.

As I've started putting on weight again, the flappy bit has slowly gotten shorter and shorter in length...

A few weeks ago, I flew to Sydney for the day.  The flappy bit has been long gone, and I was expecting to have a tight fit of the belt.  I breathed in, didn't do up.

I was the first passenger on the plane, which was helpful.  Even still, I turned around to check no-one was watching.  I sat back, as deep into my seat as I could, breathed in again, and pulled.


I tried again, raising a sweat and my heart rate, but it wouldn't reach.

The dread spilled over me.  It had actually happened.  The seat belt wouldn't do up.  I was horrified, as even at my biggest, it would always do up.  I may have not been able to breathe, but it would do up.
Row 29

I took this photo and sent it to my friend.  (It reached a bit closer than the photo: I needed 3 hands to show just how close it was).  I couldn't believe it.

I then realised - it was probably where I was seated!  On some aircraft types, the seats are narrower the further down the back of the plane you sit.  I was in Row 29!  If the seats are narrower, then the seat belts could be smaller.  Maybe?

I went with that, anyway.  It made me feel the tiniest bit better.  I tried to relax, as I was seated in Row 19 that afternoon.  It only *just* didn't do up in Row 29, so I should be sweet in 19!

I tried to just relax and keep smiling, but on the inside it was like someone had punched me.  (Well if you think of it metaphorically, I had punched myself)....

My day itself was a bit upsetting.  In between flights, I had to don safety gear, including a white coat - like a lab coat or factory coat.  I was with a group of people and they gave us a big pile of coats to wear.  I tried to be inconspicuous while I furiously scanned my eyes over the size of the coats before anyone smaller got their hands on them.  I chose what at mega quick glance appeared to be the biggest coat, and I put it on.  

It went on, but the buttons didn't do up, but I kept looking busy and like I hadn't noticed.  It went on, and that's all that mattered.  I had a high vis safety vest underneath, and my normal clothes of course.  The white coat didn't do up, but it was on.  I silently hoped it wasn't supposed to do up (safety wise), and carried on putting on steel capped boots etc.

About 5 min. later, the lady who was in charge, walked past and handed me another white coat.  It was a flurry of activity in the room so no-one would have noticed if she had, but even still, she didn't say a word or even make a face.  She looked into my eyes only and kept walking to help other people in my group.

I looked down, and the coat said "XL".  This beautiful lady is a fair bit larger than myself, so I instantly realised she got it.  She had quietly left the room and gone to fish out this bigger one for me.  She didn't need to say anything, it was an unspoken thing.  While joking around with the group, I swapped coats, and gratefully did up the buttons on the new one, that now did up.

I was so completely grateful for this lady.  I was crushed having two "I've put on weight reminders" in a space of a few hours, but I just sucked it up and cried a bit on the inside, and just focused on how grateful I was for what she did.

Row 8: love
That afternoon I headed back to the airport and jumped aboard for my Row 19 seat.  Which surely would have done up...

It did, just. 

The following week, I again flew to Sydney, again for the day.  I was seated in Row 8 in the morning and Row 10 in the afternoon, so I wasn't too worriedHoping I could leave the Row 29 incident as a distant memory, I jumped aboard, and Row 8 did up.  It may have cut off my blood circulation, but it did up.

Coming back that afternoon, I was really not concerned.  Row 19 did up, Row 8 did up, Row 10 surely would, too.

It didn't.

*insert expletives here*

How?  Why?  What?  Seriously?

My row / seat belt length theory was squashed - either that or I happened to have been very bloated the morning of Row 29 and the afternoon of Row 10. :/

I (unexpectedly) happened to know the person sitting next to me, and she was there already when I got onboard, so it probably didn't help that we were chatting away while I was trying to do my belt up.  There was a limit to how much I could breathe in, pant and fight the belt, while trying to appear calm and at ease chatting, while I attempted to buckle myself up.

My theory was further disproved the following week, when I flew to Sydney again, in Row 27 going there, and in Row 8 coming back: and both times it did up.

Anyway - whether it doesn't do up or it *just* does, either way it's a sure sign reminder that I have to continue pushing away and never give up.  

It doesn't make this kind of thing feel any better, knowing that it's your own doing.  If anything, it makes it feel worse.

I've made no progress in the past few weeks - depending on how you look at it, I've gone backwards.  But I haven't given up.  And one day soon, I'll be posting photos proudly on here once again, with flappy bits everywhere.


  1. I hear you on the seatbelt thing! So far, I've always been able to do up, but there haven't been any "flappy bits" for several years. I wonder whether the planes they use flying to/from Tasmania might have slightly wider seats, as we have higher than national average obesity rates? I actually think there's a fair bit of variation in seat widths and presumably seat belt length between different models of airline, and probably as you mentioned in different areas of the plane. I fly both Jetstar and Virgin, and the Jetstar seats are definitely more generous. The other thing I notice are the armrests, particularly if you're sitting next to a stranger. They wedge the top of my side muffin-top in some planes. It really does make you feel deflated when this sort of thing happens.
    I really liked the point you made about the other plus-size lady who helped you out without fuss. I'm going to take this on and make it the focus of my random acts of kindness over the next few weeks, as we larger ladies have all no doubt suffered from similar situations, and we need to stick up for and support each other!
    Here's to the lengthening flappy bits!
    Sarah xx

  2. UPDATE: I checked Seat Guru, and I was right! The planes that Jetstar use out of Hobart (A320) have seats a whole inch wider in economy than either Qantas or Virgin. Presumably the seatbelts are correspondingly longer.
    Anyway, here's to a future where it's no concern for either of us!
    Sarah xx