What We Hope to Save Our Kids From

As parents, as health professionals, as teachers, why do we aspire to prevent childhood obesity, especially in our own children and those for whom we are professionally responsible? Because, as members of a compassionate and caring society, we understand the trials that morbidly obese people face, and we want to spare our kids that. Just regular adult life presents more than enough challenges, without the supersize option. What are we trying to protect our kids from?

A recent, lengthy article from the pseudonymous Your Fat Friend revisits the topic of flying while obese, and elaborates on some other seldom-considered problems. Traveling often for work, she is reluctantly but necessarily familiar with the inconsistent “customer of size” regulations that vary from airline to airline, so booking a two-leg journey can be a nightmare. Even when the airline has conscientiously spelled-out rules on its website, that does not mean the ticket agents or flight crew are familiar with those rules.

She is used to paying twice the price, and then not even getting what she paid for because the airline sold her extra seat to another passenger. Only the first seat is paid for by her employer, so these extra costs go on the personal credit card, accruing interest like any other debt.

The “fat tax” is not just an airborne phenomenon. Renting a set of wheels presents obstacles a healthy-weight person never has to think about:

Cars, too, are a challenge, and information about their weight capacity, seat width, and maximum distance from the steering wheel are rarely made available. Often, fat people are required to buy larger cars with lower gas mileage, required to shoulder the cost of more car than we’d want and more fuel than we’d like.

This is a work trip, so for normal-size employees the costs are covered. There is no extra bonus to take care of contingencies having to do with overweight matters. There are the extras “Your Fat Friend” can’t even discuss with colleagues. For instance, a person who is really large, even bigger than the author, can sometimes find a hotel room with an extra-wide bathtub and extra-sturdy toilet, for an additional fee of as much as $300. The author says,

Our fat friends and family already work less, earn less, and pay more, even for basic necessities. We are more likely to be fired, more likely to be overcharged, and more likely to face economic insecurity than our thinner counterparts…

The fat tax is not just monetary. It is paid in frustration, humiliation, and impossible choices. Should a person skip the final day of a conference, because none of her safe airlines are flying home that night? But no. Absence from a mandatory meeting is not politic, so she opts to pay for an extra night of lodging and absorb the loss. In fact, these out-of-town confabs often represent as much as $1,000 worth of out-of-pocket expenses, and even for someone who makes a good salary, this is a bite.

Is the fat tax restricted to travel?

That was a trick question. Of course the fat tax applies not only when moving from place to place. It can find you sitting on your own patio, in a beefed-up Adirondack chair with extra weight capacity and a higher-than-standard price tag, maybe as much as $400 higher. A folding chair, forget it. A heavy-duty bed can cost thousands of extra bucks.

Some home exercise equipment is built to handle the over-300-pound individual, with, of course, a hefty fat tax built in. The author points out the exquisite irony of how those who need such devices the most will also pay the most. Even a street bicycle rarely supports more than 200 pounds — unless, of course, it is a super-strong and super-expensive machine.

Size-accommodation difficulties are everywhere. Plus-size clothing is a bonanza for manufacturers, who have been known to charge nearly twice as much for the same garment. Something a normal-size person rarely needs to think about is the fit of jewelry. But if fingers, wrists, and necks are large, then obviously rings, bracelets, and necklaces must be too.

Ladies, imagine being presented with a fine gold chain, and the giver is saying, “Go ahead, put it on” and you don’t want to, not in front of him, because if it doesn’t extend all the way around your chubby neck the embarrassment will be unbearable. This is the kind of scenario we don’t want our daughters to find themselves in.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Fat Tax Is Real — and It’s Getting Worse,” Medium.com, 04/09/19
Photo credit: Christoph Beeh on Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources