Here, Katerina Vasiliadis, 48, tells the story in her own words.
B￼oarding the plane, I squeezed into my row and squished myself into my seat, then I tugged the seatbelt around my belly.
But to my horror it wasn’t even close to fastening.
‘Excuse me,’ I said quietly to a flight attendant. ‘Can I have a belt extender please?’
Rolling her eyes, she screamed down the aircraft to a fellow worker.
‘This lady in 14C needs a belt extender!’ she pointed.
Feeling eyes darting my way, I sank down, mortified. And back at home, I cried telling my hubby Arthur.
‘She should’ve been more discreet,’ he soothed.
An emotional eater, I’ve always turned to food to comfort me. So, that night, I dug into a family-sized packet of chips and had a chocolate block to myself.
I also chugged down 1.5 litres of cola a day and piled my dinner plate high with fatty foods. I weighed 118 kilos and wore a size-26.
Knowing I needed to do something, I went to my GP.
‘I recommend a gastric sleeve,’ she said, warning me my weight could lead to an early death.
But with a $22,000 price tag I couldn’t afford it and was scared of dying on the table.
‘I’ll get carried away in a casket!’ I wailed to Arthur. ‘I’ll just have to accept that I’m going to die early.’
Seeing the pain in his eyes I was appalled at my weight, but I didn’t know how to fix it.
As I poured four sugars into my morning coffee, I looked at my two dogs begging for a walk. But I couldn’t muster the strength to even clip on their leads.
With constant joint aches, chores became agonising, so I was popping pain medication almost daily.
When my sister Nikki invited me to visit her in Melbourne, I made an excuse.
‘I just can’t take time off work,’ I lied.
Although I wanted to see my sister, I couldn’t deal with the humiliation of getting on a plane again. At my wits’ end, I weighed myself.
I’ve put on 20 kilos this year! I thought, tears streaming down my face. I now tipped the scales at 138.5 kilos. ‘I’ve had enough,’ I sobbed to Arthur.
Researching online, I found a program called Putting Health at the Top. I’d have a mentor and a community of people in the Facebook group for support as we lost weight together.
First, I rid my pantry of anything sugary. ‘I feel so empowered seeing it all in the bin!’ I told Arthur.
Then, in the Facebook group I swapped meal ideas. Encouraged by the others, I decided to kick my weight-loss journey into full gear.
Popping on my large beige undies, I stood in front of a full-length mirror.
Completely embarrassed of my overhanging stomach, I teared up looking at my reflection. But I was determined – so I snapped a picture and sent it to my mentor Kathy. I never want to look like this again, I wrote. You’ve got this! she encouraged me.
Replacing cola with water, junk food with vegies, and controlling my portion sizes, I felt great!
Forty days later, nerves hit as I stood next to the scales. Was I doing enough? I worried, thinking of the doctor’s warning and my looming death sentence.
Stepping on, I squeezed my eyes closed and waited until I had enough courage. Then I peered down. ‘121.9 kilos!’ I squealed, as Arthur hugged me. That was 16 kilos gone.
After that, the weight fell off and with healthy meals, Arthur even lost some too!
To hold myself accountable, I’d send a photo of me in my underwear to Kathy every fortnight. Seven months later, I tied up my trainers and took my pups for a walk. Smiling the whole time, it boosted my confidence to kick goals.
The painkillers grew dusty in the top cupboard as my ever-dropping weight eased the pressure on my joints. Things I thought impossible are doable! I beamed.
Dropping six dress sizes finally gave me an excuse to go shopping with Kathy for new clothes. ‘A size down please!’ I said excitedly, throwing the size-14 top over the dressing room door.
Bumping into a friend, she was gobsmacked. ‘I didn’t even recognise you,’ she said. ‘I’ve lost 60 kilos,’ I told her proudly. ‘And I’ve lost 25!’ Arthur piped up.
Still, my journey is not over yet. I weigh 78 kilos and would like to lose a bit more. But I’m no longer disgusted by myself in my undies and I don’t even care about my saggy skin! I am just happy with me. Now I can say Arthur and I will lead a long, healthy and happy life together.
Read more in this week's issue of that's life, on sale now.