Melanie and I face the impact of obesity almost everywhere in daily
life. Simple things like buying a chair or a bed can give us a
headache. We can try to find furniture built to carry the weight
needed, but this dramatically limits choice (especially as we have at
least minimal requirements for nice design). Or we buy what we
actually like and live with the risk that it might break down.
Planning a night out together can be just as difficult. We start by
selecting a location that – beyond all the usual criteria like quality
and atmosphere – also has to provide appropriate seating, with chairs
that are large, stable and ideally without arm rests. Also, the
entrance needs to be accessible, without too many steps, and close to
the parking lot.
Transport in general is another headache. Melanie has a disability
status due to her limited mobility, but this status is not adequate to
access designated parking spaces. Public transport would be an easier
choice for me, but not for Melanie. The train station in our hometown
has neither a lift nor escalators, and the 40 steps to the platform
present a serious obstacle for her. Going on holiday is even more
challenging, especially if flights are involved. It requires a lot of
forward planning to prevent a vacation turning into a disaster.
Even going to the doctor is surprisingly difficult. We never know if
the furniture in the waiting room or examination room will fit, or
whether the medical equipment will be designed to work for a person
whose size and weight are not the 'norm'. Blood pressure cuffs may not
be long enough, and dentist chairs, computerised tomography (CT) and
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems are generally limited in the
amount of weight they can carry. So we need to clarify all this with
the doctor's office upfront – or we risk getting sent home without
being examined at all.
At the start of our relationship, I did not pay enough attention to
all these obstacles. I overestimated Melanie's physical abilities and
too much of her. This sometimes landed us in situations that
neither of us liked.
Since then, I have learned what I can ask of her, and I try to take
her limits into consideration in whatever we do. Now Melanie is
becoming more confident
and trying things she has not done for a long time, such as agreeing
to fly in economy class together.
So, this is how I live with obesity – and I surely have the easier
part, of the two of us. Meanwhile, a quarter of the population has the
harder part of living with this complex chronic
disease, and the numbers are growing at a frightening rate.
Counting in everybody who is a friend, relative, customer or
co-worker of somebody who lives with obesity, it might be hard to find
anyone who is not affected by this disease, who is not 'co-obese' in
some way, like I am. So why should any of us accept society's failure
to address these challenges?
This little story goes out to all of you who are experiencing
similar situations, or who know somebody who is living with obesity.
Please do not remain silent. Do not just accept things the way they
are. Try to change the world and make it a better place, little by
little, person by person.