Blocked out seat on an airplane

Happy Thanksgiving! This isn’t a Thanksgiving post, but it might be useful if you’re traveling for the holidays, or any other time.

I recently flew an American Airlines 737, and paid a little extra to get a better seat. They have two levels of better seats, and I paid for the lesser of the two. Mostly I wanted an aisle seat, and one near the front so I could get out more quickly. And I figured I’d get a bit more legroom. I didn’t get any more legroom, but I got the other two things.

But here’s something else I got: the middle seat was blocked off. The airline left the seat in place, bolted the armrests down, and bolted a plastic tray between them. The plus was that I got both armests to myself, and didn’t have anyone else’s shoulders or feet bumping me. The minus was that I couldn’t raise my armrests to make more room. I fit in the seat OK, and it’s still a better seat than it would be with someone right at my elbow, but more room is always better.

Now the airline could have gotten more money by just selling the seat, rather than blocking it and getting a few more bucks (above the basic ticket price) from me and the window seat guy. So why do they do this? My understanding, from a half heard conversation a flight attendant had with someone behind me, is that they blocked it so that the plane would have only 150 seats and they therefore wouldn’t have to add another flight attendant to the flight. (A web search seems to confirm this hypothesis. Also, if you’re interested, the rows with blocked seats are rows 16 and 17 on Boeing 737s on American Airlines.)

But I still have to ask: why not just take out the seat? They could even leave the three seat frame, and just take off the middle cushions. Or, better yet, make the two remaining seats a bit wider. Providing more width (and not just more legroom or a better position in the plane) for a bit more money would help not just fat passengers, but would make everyone sitting in those seats happier. Hell, they could even make the upgrade fee half the cost of a seat so the change is revenue neutral. They’d sell every single one of those wider seats, thereby making back all the money they gave up by blocking the seat, and still saving on crew costs.

Why is it that American Airlines would rather the extra space go unused?


The media is all over a report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) which claims being fat costs the world economy $2 trillion.


And if that isn’t bad enough, it is also one of those papers that predicts that in the near future fatties will be close to ruling the world. I wish. Okay, it just predicts that we will be close to overrunning the world, and implies, as a result, we will ruin the world for everybody else.

Oh, and “[m]uch of the global debate on this issue has become polarized and sometimes deeply antagonistic,” and this is “obstructing efforts to address rising rates of obesity.” So shame on the fat community and its supporters for even attempting to enter the discussion.

My objections to this current claim that fatties are expensive and high maintenance are:

First, I have a problem with any research that claims obesity is “preventable”. It may be preventable in some cases, but being fat is a really complex issue (which MGI admits) and the reason someone is fat varies – a lot. Despite admitting this is a complex issue with no single or simple solution, and they still claim “the problem – which is preventable – is rapidly getting worse.” Fuck you.

Second, two years ago the Canadian government published research that found that in overweight people, there is no significant increase in healthcare cost from not-fat people, and that the cost only becomes significant at the highest ranges of obesity. The paper also found that there is no direct relationship between BMI and mortality once age and gender are accounted for.

One of the primary arguments concerning the effect of fat folks on the economy is increased healthcare costs. However, in 2008 MGI produced a report on the Cost of US Healthcare that found:

Of the $2.1 trillion the United States spends on health care, nearly $650 billion is above expected, even when adjusting for the relative wealth of the US economy.

While many might argue that higher health care spending is a consequence of demand due to the fact that Americans are sicker than people in other OECD countries, MGI analysis suggests that Americans are collectively slightly healthier than the citizens of these peer countries.

Also you might want to check out my niece’s blog posts regarding fat people and healthcare costs, who does a great job in looking at whether fat people are driving up healthcare costs:

Third, as far as I can tell, nobody is talking about the one preventable fat-related-issue – the reduction (or dare I hope, elimination of) fat discrimination.  And of course, studies of fat-related healthcare costs usually don’t separate out the costs directly (and indirectly) attributable to ineffective (and sometimes dangerous) weight loss treatments.  Nor do they seem to take into account the mental and physical damage this discrimination can lead to.

Last but definitely not least, the MGI report is not peer reviewed. In fact, the research is paid for by its parent company, McKinsey & Company, a business management consulting giant.

Hmmmm, what could that mean?

It means that there is no way of knowing who actually funded the research and for what reason. We can’t know who paid McKinsey & Company to have the research done and the paper prepared. It creates the illusion that the MGI report is done with no conflicts of interest. Knowing who is behind a research paper can go a long way to assessing any bias the paper might reflect.

Just saying.


Gaslighting is a kind of psychological manipulation designed to mentally unstick someone from reality. I don’t know if the term is appropriate for the kind of coopting that we see among various industries that thrive on a consumer’s insecurity, but it caught my eye in this post by Olivia over at Skepchick:

However you term it, the fashion industry’s misuse of the term “plus size” is, to me, just as bad as Special K (a breakfast cereal) twisting and corrupting body acceptance imagery to sell a bullshit weight loss product. In short, these people aren’t our friends.

Getting Waisted by Monica Parker

I was asked to read and review the book Getting Waisted by and about Monica Parker, who is a fat actress and writer (whom I had never heard of before this book) who was born in Scotland and grew up in Canada. The bottom line is that I didn’t like the book and do not recommend it because nearly all its attempt at humor is with the use of fat jokes.

As a girl, Monica was picked on by children and heavily criticized by her mother for being fat. Sadly (very much so to me), Monica the adult writer makes fun of Monica the little girl. And the the worst part, to me, is that the humor isn’t a fond look back at one’s foibles; it’s as cruel as 8th graders.

Monica is shown in the book as an energetic and positive person, but not fat positive for the most part. There are only two portions of the book that are fat positive. The first is about a local TV show she hosted in Toronto in the early 1970s. It was an exercise program (with Dan Ackroyd as announcer!), so just the fact that a fat woman was doing the exercises makes it fat positive to me. And it was even explicitly so at times according to the book; she describes interviewing a diet doctor and grilling him about dieting. (The second fat positive part comes right at the end, as Monica finally gets self acceptance.)

Monica seems like a good person, and I believe her when she says that she is fat positive, or at least I believe that she’s on the path to it. But the book isn’t, not 98% of it anyway. The book’s website, (I don’t mind linking to it because, as I said, I think she’s mostly one of the good guys), has a blurb on it that says, in part, “It’s the story of a life well-lived, but with too much time wasted on what wasn’t important and too long taken figuring out what was.” I agree: way too much time wasted.



Is there an existing organization, place, or group where fat people and those who support them can unite to improve the lives of fat people?

I envision a place where fat people are encouraged to live their best possible lives where and who they are now.

I envision a place where all fat people and all people who support the rights of fat people are welcome.

I think one of the main issues that divide the fat community is the issue of weight loss. Therefore, I envision a place that is free from any weight loss dialogue. There are already places where the pros and cons of this issue are discussed.

For example, I currently have 1500 followers on Pinterest. The vast majority of my Pinterest boards are related to (what I perceive to be positive) images of fat art. I love Pinterest. I love all the wonderful images I find there. I love all the size acceptance I see there. But I’m looking for something more.

I am asking that you share your thoughts on this, and provide me with any information on resources that are currently available.

Thank you.
This Fat Old Lady


Holy crap.  Do researchers, doctors, and scientists really believe some of the crap they are spouting?

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) and the American College of Endocrinology (ACE) have apparently been listening to all of the problems with using BMI as a diagnostic tool.

Unfortunately, they think that reliance on BMI is the reason there are so many fat people:

‘Regarding obesity as simply a number reflecting BMI to then dictate the way you manage it may be a good reason why, after so many years, the prevalence rates of overweight and obesity haven’t changed much….What we’re doing is rebooting the system, essentially,’ AACE president Jeffrey I. Mechanick, MD, clinical professor of medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York, said at a press briefing.

I repeat, holy crap.

So AACE and ACE believe that by redefining obesity into five categories, they will be able to change the rates for overweight and obesity.

Yeah, that’ll do it.

What is funny (not ha-ha funny) is they claim their purpose is to stop focusing on weight and focus on the actual health of the patient.

Dr. Ryan and Dr. Jensen called the AACE’s attempt to refocus attention from body size to overall health effects of excess body fat ‘a good thing; healthcare providers need to accept that good (or bad) health can come in a variety of body sizes and become more competent in helping patients succeed when they need to lose weight for health reasons. It’s all about improving how people feel, function, and their health risk, not how they look.’

The focus on “a variety of body sizes” sounds nice until you get to the part about needing to lose weight for “health reasons”. They’re still treating fatness as the cause of poor health. But wait; there’s more.

Recommended treatments include lifestyle modification for obesity stage 0; intensive lifestyle modification and behavior therapy, with or without medications, for obesity for stage 1; and intensive lifestyle modification/behavior therapy and medications, with consideration of bariatric surgery, for obesity stage 2. [Emphasis added.]

Lifestyle modification doesn’t sound bad – except when you read the actual guidelines:

4.2       Overweight and Obesity Stage 0 are indicative of the absence of obesity-related complications. … these patients have been referred to as the ‘healthy obese’ … While therapy should be individualized …, patients … would generally be treated with lifestyle modification employing meal patterns that promote health, behavior modification, and increased physical activity primarily intended to prevent progressive weight gain … More emphasis on weight reduction and hypocaloric diets may be warranted with BMI [greater than] 30 …

4.3       … Effective treatment of these complications can generally be accomplished by moderate weight loss (e.g., 3-10% weight loss). While therapy should be individualized …, in general, patients with Obesity Stage 1 would be effectively treated with intensive lifestyle/behavioral therapy or the combination of a lifestyle modification program that emphasizes caloric reduction in conjunction with a weight loss medication. …

4.4       … Stage 2 complications … require more aggressive obesity management with a greater degree of weight loss (e.g., [more than] 10% weight loss) … While therapy should be individualized …, in general, patients with Obesity Stage 2 would effectively be treated with intensive lifestyle/behavioral therapy in conjunction with a weight loss medication or with bariatric surgery.

(Also, see Table 5 of of the proposed guidelines.)

Get it? “lifestyle/behavioral therapy” means dieting and/or exercise with a focus on weight loss (or maintenance). Two things that have been shown to be ineffective.

And while they claim their guidelines act to sever the link between being fat and being unhealthy, every one of their treatments (excuse me “Suggested Therapeutic Interventions”) includes a “Reduced Calorie Meal Plan.”

If, as they claim, there is such a thing as being fat and healthy, why are they so all-fired interested in weight reduction – even in patients who just happen to be fat?

It seems to me, what we are seeing is some major turd polishing; but no matter how shiny you make it – in the end, it’s still a turd.