BOARDING THE PLANE TO JET OFF ON HOLIDAY SHOULD BE EXCITING. BUT FOR CLAIRE, 36, IT WAS TOTALLY MORTIFYING.
TIPPING THE SCALES AT 23ST AND STRUGGLING TO SQUEEZE INTO A SIZE 28, CLAIRE DISCOVERED SHE WAS TOO FAT TO FIT INTO THE AIRPLANE SEAT. THE CREW WERE EVENTUALLY ABLE TO SECURE HER IN IT WITH A SPECIAL EXTENDED HARNESS TO REACH AROUND HER JELLY BELLY.
BUT THE HUMILIATION PROVED TO BE THE KICK-START SHE NEEDED TO FINALLY BEAT THE BULGE. CLAIRE IS NOW HALF THE WOMAN SHE WAS – A HEALTHY 11ST – AND SLIPS INTO A SIZE 10.
‘Passport? Check. Flip flops? Check,’ I thought to myself as I ticked the holiday essentials off the list in my head and placed them in my suitcase. There was just one more thing – my bikini. ‘Hmmmm,’ I groaned, as I dug out my swimwear from the back of my drawer. Tipping the scales at 22st 10lbs and bursting out of a size 28, the thought of baring all around the pool left me feeling queasy.
My husband, Neil, 35, and I had booked a ten day-long holiday and although I longed to soak up the sun, I dreaded all eyes on me as I paraded around with my jelly belly out. Still I was reassured by the fact that I wouldn’t know anyone in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and wouldn’t see any fellow holiday-makers again.
Despite being big, I always tried to look my best by accessorising my sandals, sarong and sunhat to match. But no matter what I wore I could never disguise my wobbly bits and draw attention away from my flab. After trying and failing to stick to every diet in the book, I had resigned myself to the fact I would always be large. To distract from my size, I adopted a bubbly persona. Constantly beaming from ear to ear, I would never let on how unhappy I was about my frumpy frame.
After being together for 14 years, Neil and I had got comfortable. I was a size 24 to 26 when we met, but after we tied the knot I gradually started to pile on the pounds. We would always opt for a cosy night in with a takeaway, which did my figure no favours. Before I knew it my waistline had ballooned to 52in as I guzzled a gut-busting diet of sweets, chocolates and crisps.
An emotional eater, I would pig out because I was so down about my size, using food to make me happy. But it was a vicious circle and as the larger I became the more miserable ended up. I would even secretly eat and hide food. In denial about my size, I hadn’t realised quite how big I had become.
So when January 2012 rolled around and we jetted off to Egypt I tried to push any little niggles I had to the back of my mind. Neil and I spent our time lazing around on sunloungers and bobbing around in the swimming pool. We only ever booked all-inclusive deals, so we could stuff our faces and would never consider doing any activities.
It wasn’t until the journey back to the UK that the enormity of my weight problem hit home. ‘Back to reality,’ I moaned, as we climbed the steps up into the plane back to Britain. Neil and I were unable to sit together on the plane, but I didn’t expect the flight to be too bad and decided to finish reading my book and get some shut eye. But my plan for peace and quiet quickly turned into a nightmare after I boarded and found I was too fat to squeeze into my seat.
I tugged it as hard as I could and held my breath, desperately trying to suck in my tubby tummy, but it was no good. ‘The belt won’t stretch over my stomach,’ I croaked to one of the flight attendants, welling up. My cheeks flushed crimson as I ended up making a scene in front of a plane packed full of passengers. I was officially too fat to fit in an aeroplane seat.
The crew quietly crept around me, but that didn’t stop me cringing as I could feel all eyes burning into me. Eventually I was secured into my seat with a special extended harness, but it was still a tight fit and it didn’t stop me from overflowing onto the poor people sat next to me. I was completely mortfied. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me and spent the five hour flight trying to stop myself from becoming a blubbering mess.
‘Enough is enough,’ I thought to myself and as soon as I set foot on dry land I vowed to finally beat the bulge. And flicking back through our holiday snaps left me even more determined to slim down once and for all. Stood infront of one of Egypt’s famous pyramids, I grimaced at the sight. ‘I look the same size as it,’ I cried.
The humiliation left me set on slashing my daily intake of 10,000 calories and turning my life around. I signed up to the Cambridge Weight Plan and ditched McDonalds for breakfast, lunch and dinner, instead opting for meal-replacement shakes, bars and soups and a calorie-controlled meal.
When I stepped on the scales, after my first week, the dial swung from left to right before revealing I had lost 13lbs. So pleased with myself, I finally thought, ‘I can do this.’ After swapping sugary snacks for salads, fruit and vegetables, I lost 20in from my waist. And just a year-and-a-half later I am a healthy 11st and can slip into a svelte size 10 with ease.
I’ve lost half my body weight and am now helping others to slim down in my role as a weight loss consultant. It has even encouraged Neil to shrink his portly 40in waist to an athletic 30in. We are no longer known as the ‘fat couple’. Now I feel – and look – like a completely different person. Shopping for clothes is no longer a chore and I am able to pick up fitted items I would never have dreamed of trying on.
In Next, before our most recent holiday, I grabbed a size 10 in a figure-hugging black maxi dress. But after trying it on the assistant said, ‘It looks to big for you, let me get you the next size down’. I couldn’t believe it and gasped ‘Is that really me?’ when I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror.
My last flight abroad was a totally different experience too. Not only was I able to get the seatbelt around me, there was loads of room to spare.
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