Thursday, May 01, 2008

Get up off the couch already...

So speaking of body weight (as I was in my last post) – I just read an interesting article about how much money could be saved if people in America would lose some weight. I was especially interested to read about how much money airlines would save on jet fuel – if none of the passengers on flights were overweight, airlines would save 3.8 billion dollars year. Wow – 3.8 BILLION?? All of those extra pounds may not seem like much on the ground, but apparently once they’re crammed into already-too-small-for-thin-people seats and effortlessly lifted into the air, it becomes apparent that the feat is not so effortless after all. No, in fact, it takes 3.8 billion dollars worth of EXTRA fuel to get all those fleshy behinds and their suitcases full of extra large stretchy pants into the air.

And that’s sort of disturbing, isn’t it? How much more weight can our airplanes handle? I always think it’s funny when I have an extra-heavy suitcase and I place it on that scale at the airline ticket counter and the weight is juuuuust a bit over the “free” limit… and, invariably, the person behind the counter suggests I simply “redistribute” my belongings between the heavy suitcase and a smaller piece of luggage, thereby avoiding a charge for a heavier bag. But this, of course, doesn’t change the overall weight – if I move five pounds of clothing from my fifty-five pound bag into my twenty pound bag, I end up with a fifty pound bag and a twenty-five pound bag. It’s STILL seventy-five pounds total, no matter HOW it’s broken up. I could haul out seventy-five plastic baggies and pack a pound of luggage into each one… it doesn’t matter – it’s still the SAME weight. So what’s the point of charging extra for heavier bags if, in reality, they really don’t CARE about the overall weight of the luggage on an airplane?

I mean, there MUST be a point where the combined weight of passengers and luggage would be TOO much… right? So if PEOPLE keep getting fatter and fatter, I can only see a few solutions to the problem of overloaded airplanes. One would be for the airlines to place larger seats in their planes, resulting in fewer passengers (and a roomier, more comfortable journey for those of us with a healthy BMI)… but honestly – airlines concerned about the comfort of passengers?? Ha! If they’re not packing us in like sardines, it’s just not a profitable flight. Another solution would be for ALL the airlines to adopt the policy that a few airlines have already implemented – passengers who are significantly overweight would be required to buy tickets for TWO seats. Of course, then you get people complaining about “discrimination” and unfair treatment, etc. So I can only assume that the final solution to the overloaded plane problem will eventually be baggage weight restrictions – except they’ll have to be much more strictly enforced than a simple “redistribution” policy. If the weight restriction is fifty pounds, it will have to be FIFTY pounds. Otherwise, we’re right back at square one – where the overall weight of baggage doesn’t really matter, it’s just a way for airlines to make more money.

As un-PC as it might be for me to say it, I actually LIKE the idea of overweight plane passengers buying tickets for two seats. Until airlines start creating larger seats, it’s just a CONSIDERATE thing to do. Spend ONE long flight sitting next to a large person, and you’ll understand this sentiment. And I have to admit, over the last few years I’ve gotten a lot less sympathetic towards people who “just can’t lose weight.” Because unless you happen to be one of the VERY few people who has an actual medical reason for extra pounds, the fact of the matter is you CAN lose weight. It really IS simply a matter of burning more calories than you take in. There’s no secret formula or magic pill or strict “regime” to follow… it’s mathematical simplicity – calories consumed minus calories burned. That’s it. And no, it’s not the easiest thing in the world – I’ve worked pretty hard over the last few years to change my eating habits and increase my activity and to pay attention to how I’m living. But it’s certainly not the HARDEST thing in the world, either. So it rather annoys me to hear people who are significantly overweight resigning themselves to fatness for the rest of their lives. It is NOT an inevitability, and it CAN be changed.

And that's really the BEST solution to the overloaded plane problem. If more Americans would start eating less and moving more, we wouldn’t have to worry about all those extra large suitcases weighing down the cargo hold of our airplanes. (Although we MIGHT still have to redistribute all our luggage into little plastic baggies...)

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