A Sad Moment at the Happiest Place

Since my kids were very young, we have found trips to Disneyland to be one of our most treasured getaways. As they got older, the choice of rides changed and the opportunities for fun continually increased. However, now even though the kids prefer to ride the more exciting and adventurous attractions they still like riding the traditional tamer rides too.

So last night we decided to ride on It’s a Small World (even though it is considered torture by most and takes weeks to get the song out of one’s head if you’re lucky). While standing at the front of the quick moving line ready to embark, we came to a sudden stop. One of the boats appeared not to be moving. Some of the staff members were pulling and prodding but to no avail. They eventually had to ask some of the larger visitors to unload off the boat, so it would float better. That was followed by other obese riders relocating from the stern to the bow. Slowly the boat crept forward but at a snail’s pace. As the boat went around the corner, the riders were trying to make light of the situation by pushing the boat forward with their hands. Many in line watching were laughing at the spectacle. To me, there was nothing funny about what I just witnessed. It was a heart-wrenching example of the ever-increasing obvious fact that we as a nation are losing the war on obesity. The “Happiest Place on Earth” just got a bit sadder.

Over the ten years, we have been going to the park as a family the number of obese individuals visiting and working in the park has noticeably increased at an alarming rate. The boats at Small World once designed for four to five people abreast are now seating two to three people instead. Many of the attractions have been refurbished to address the growing size of each visitor. The newer attractions are having to widen walkways as well as seating arrangements.

Do you recall Tomorrowland having an attraction called “People Movers” which would let visitors ride above the park without effort? Although Disney has since removed the attraction, it appears to have been replaced by personal people movers. Now larger visitors have electric carts, once designed for the disabled, and are as plentiful as baby strollers.

Is it really any surprise? Our culture has no food shortage, and advances in technology have significantly reduced the need for physical activity. The quality of food choices has deteriorated. Portion sizes have increased. It seems that there has been a level of acceptance of obesity since the majority of the population is entering that category. I think we need to continually be reminded that obesity is, in fact, a disease. It is a life threatening disease and strips away the happiness and freedom of those it touches. We can attempt to laugh it off, but the truth is we are losing this battle, and it doesn’t seem to be improving anytime soon.