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Airports Weighing 'Certain' Passengers Isn't Just Triggering, It's Wrong

Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

It was recently announced that U.S. airlines may begin to weigh certain passengers at the gate when traveling. 

While the reason behind this proposed practice was said to be because the “obesity rates” in the U.S. are outdated and airplane weight limits may need to be updated based on the current weight of passengers, a second reason has been revealed. Some professionals are saying that current “obesity rates” are outdated in the U.S. and weighing passengers at the airport would help them to update “obesity rates” and monitor the “obesity crisis.” An outdated term that encourages fatphobia and extends discrimination based on size in the public space.

However, as someone struggling with multiple eating disorders and body image concerns, as well as someone who is an advocate for the Health at Every Size approach, I find multiple problems with this possible new practice. 

Weight has become such a stigmatized subject in the U.S., and many people would prefer to keep their weight private due to further fatphobia and discrimination. For those in the eating disorder community, publicly identifying an individual’s weight is even more concerning. Those in recovery often opt out of knowing their weight or are not allowed by physicians to view their weight due to how triggering knowing one’s weight can be, as well as how this practice may contribute to a possible relapse. For many individuals in the eating disorder community, monitoring one’s weight is an eating disorder behavior, and recovery often incorporates separating one’s self value from their weight. Weight is also an outdated way of measuring a person’s health and utilizing the weights of passengers to measure a supposed “obesity crisis” further extends fatphobia and encourages discrimination – which goes against the Health at Every Size approach and puts the mental health of passengers with body image concerns at risk.

It has been said that airlines can also choose which passengers to weigh at the gate, and choosing specific passengers based on their appearance is targeted discrimination. 

One’s weight should not be public knowledge due to the potential mental health concerns associated with knowing one’s weight, as well as the discrimination and dehumanization that often occurs in the public space around body size. It is hard enough for those in the eating disorder community and those with body image concerns to recover whilst navigating a world plagued by fatphobia and diet culture, but publicly calling out individuals based on their appearance and size by asking them to be weighed can further cause individuals to feel ostracized. If airlines need to know the weight of passengers due to safety concerns, there are alternative ways to identify passenger weights privately, such as asking for an individual’s approximate weight when they place their airline ticket, rather than making weight a public issue – yet again.

Plus size individuals in the eating disorder community, in particular, have the added task of learning how to be at peace with their bodies in a world that encourages bodily change and doesn’t readily accept larger bodies. Plus-size individuals are given the task of building and upholding self-love, or body neutrality at the least, while experiencing discrimination not only in public society, but in the workplace, in relationships, and in a world that is designed for smaller bodies – as demonstrated by the basic sizes offered in clothing stores as well as the sizes of showers, bathtubs, toilets, toilet stalls and seats in various settings (including airplanes).

Unfortunately, there are many more situations in which plus-sized individuals experience fat phobia and discrimination apart from the few that I have mentioned.

Struggling with and/or recovering from an eating disorder is difficult enough without the added influences of fatphobia and diet culture, and publicly choosing and weighing individuals in a setting that may already be triggering for many individuals is simply unnecessary. Weighing individuals at airports may also further trigger individuals with body image concerns and can contribute to the development of eating disorders in those with risk factors.

While I understand that airlines have weight requirements and restrictions for their various aircraft carriers, there are less shaming and safer ways to identify the approximate weight of passengers that doesn’t require picking and choosing certain individuals based on their size to weigh in the public space. Weight should not be a public issue like it currently is, and I truly hope that the Health at Every Size approach will be considered in all areas at some point in the future. The mental, and physical health of our population depends on it.

Lead image via Getty Images

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