Tuesday, November 03, 2009

You Know You're Too Fat When...

You know you’re too fat when a TSA agent mistakes body bulk for bombs. I am too fat.

Last Sunday I’m flying from Dayton, OH to Atlanta, GA. I am travelling light—no computer, small carry-on, one checked bag that doesn’t go through the screening process with me.

I take off my shoes and jacket, and send them along with my phone and backpack through the X-ray machine. I walk through the metal detector. Usually I’m waved on through, but not this time. This time I’m pulled aside for a pat down. Sometimes this happens because of the system’s random check procedure, but not this time. This time it is because the TSA agent sees something suspicious about my person. Unfortunately, it is my person itself.

“Sorry, sir, but it looks a bit bulky under there,” the agent says to me politely, pointing vaguely to my sweater vest.

I am led to a side station, asked to spread my arms, and prepare to receive a pat down. The problem, the agent tells me, is that there is a roll, a bulge, under my sweater vest that seems suspicious to him. It could be a bomb belt. It could be a series of liquids that, when mixed, could bring down an aircraft. It could be pairs of shoes equipped with explosive devices. Or it could be that I’m fat.

Honestly, even knowing the years I would have to spend in prison if it were anything other than fat, for a moment I prayed to Allah that I was carrying a bomb. But Allah, like Jesus, doesn’t hear the prayers of Jews, and it turned out to be fat. As the agent’s well-trained hands ran themselves over my poorly toned mid-section it became clear to him and me that when given a choice between Taliban and marzipan, I would invariably align myself with the latter.

For a moment the agent was as embarrassed as I was. I felt sorry for him. I smiled and said, “I’m a loyal American, all about mom and apple pie. Mostly pie.” He smiled back. I smiled wider. He moved on to the next potential terrorist, I went to buy some Reese’s Cups.

To be fair, I am overweight. To be balanced, I have no idea how thick a bomb belt is, so maybe the agent was right to pat me down. But the humiliation was real nonetheless. To make matters worse, when I took my seat on the plane, and squeezed my broadening butt into the seat, the guy sitting next to me says, “I lost 109 pounds over the past year.” I swear to Adonai, Lord of Hostess, that’s what he said.

Of course I asked him how he lost all that weight, and he told me he ate nothing but steak and butter. As a Jew, I don’t mix meat and milk. As a vegetarian, I don’t eat steak. I’m doomed.


Samantha said...

Maybe it's the flying spaghetti monster's subconscious push to get you on a diet. But then that doesn't sound right, cause why would something made out of spaghetti want you to stop eating .... oh no it makes perfect sense.

Maggid said...

Oh, Thank You!
The last time I flew a lady guard wanted to pat me down - I was not surprised and started to try and make her feel better - i had on lots of layers, you know, it was winter & I had long undies over my bulky self . . I tried to help her feel more comfortable and slightly lifted my super long skirt so she could see the layers around my ankles . . the guard got really embarrassed hurriedly saying, "It's alright, you don't need to disrobe . . . " Golly, I think its a lot more challenging for them than for us . . . Reese's??? Yum - think I should go shopping . . (giggle)

Tom Elliott said...

Ah, yes Reese's . . . THE BEST.
I guess that the incident was your angels looking out for your health and well being.

Patti said...

I think it was the sweater vest. They make the thinnest bodies look bulked up. So I say, ban all sweater vests.

Truly hilarious! And I am sure embarrassing. Sorry you had to live through that.

Jim Wells said...

Rami, thank you for sharing this story which is for me both sad and funny at the same time. As someone who is currently maintaining a fairly normal weight but who has struggled most of my life to lose the same 20 to 40 pounds over and over again, I can appreciate the feeling of humiliation associated with the experience.

The only thing that works for me in terms of weight control is to carefully count calories, knowing that my current weight in pounds multiplied by 12 is about how many calories my body requires to stay that weight. If I want to lose a pound a week, I have to trim 500 calories a day from that number. To lose 1.5 pounds per week, I have to trim 750 calories from that daily amount. Adding some exercise also helps but can, in my experience, be deceiving; since I can think the exercise alone will do the trick.

As I have gotten older, my angels have been letting me know through pain and hypertension that the extra weight isn't worth the extra whatever to eat. My body seems to have little tolerance for even a few extra pounds. At my current weight, my blood pressure is normal. Add 20 pounds, and I have to take anti-hypertensive medication and put up with postprandial, left upper quadrant abdominal pain which I think comes from superior mesenteric artery insufficiency which for me is only manifest when I'm too fat. That extra fat has a lot of blood vessels which put a strain on the arterial blood supply, thus causing the pain.

Some people find counting calories just makes them want to eat more, and I can understand that. For me, though, I have never been able to know how much food was too much without measuring it carefully and keeping a running tally of how many calories were left for me to eat after subtracting what I have eaten so far from my calorie budget for the day.

For me today, according to the "Lose It" app on my Iphone, I'm 102 calories over my daily budget. I can get it back in balance by walking, but I think I'll take my chances tonight that my exertion today might have been sufficient to raise my maintenance quotient just enough above 12 that I can handle the few extra calories.

I share this from my own experience as perhaps a little strength and hope for someone else. I also like, by the way, the Facebook group "Normal Eating."

Thanks, again, for sharing your story in, as I read it, your inimicable, concise, and witty style

Rabbi Rami said...

Thanks to you for your support and advice. I do count calories, but I thought, as in almost all sports, the higher the count, the better I was doing. I had no idea dieting was like golf-- the lower the score, the better the player.

Anyway, I turn 60 in April of 2011, and plan to lose 60 pounds by then. So I will start a serious diet sometime in March of that year. All I have to do is cut 7000 calories a day for a month. How hard could that be?

Jeni Lee said...

This post is both sad and funny to me, too. I hear your struggle and love your humor. What a fabulous goal to celebrate your 60th birthday! Why not go ahead and get started on it now? Wait a minute--you already are! How's the water going?