￼You’re going to need another extension belt,’ said the hostess. I could feel my face flushing red at her words. At just 24 years old, I weighed a whopping 150 kilos.
Even with two extender seatbelts, I felt the belt cutting into my skin. Completely stuck, I couldn’t move – not even to feed my screaming five-week-old baby. For the entire two-and-a-half hour flight, all I wanted to do was cry. I’ve done this to myself, I thought on repeat. My daughter needed me, and I couldn’t move an inch to help her. I felt judgement all around me. That flight from hell made me face the truth I’d been denying for so long: I couldn’t go on living this way.
I’d faced weight issues since I was 14 years old. I was never obese, but I was teased nonetheless for having large thighs and hips.‘Thunder thigh Sara,’ kids would taunt in the hallways. Their words echoed around and around my mind. After school, I began a hairdressing apprenticeship. With my own money, I bought junk food to suppress my feelings of worthlessness. When I started a job at Brisbane Airport, my weight only increased. Working long days, I was too tired to cook – so takeaway it was. My go-to meal was a large McDonald’s Quarter Pounder meal with an extra double cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, and a large ice-cream sundae with extra toppings and sauce. Then I’d glug down nearly three litres of Coca-Cola.
In early 2014, I fell pregnant with my then partner and started eating enough for four people. On an average day, I’d have a large Hungry Jack’s wrap meal with a large Coke, two hash browns, and a sausage and egg muffin with barbecue sauce and extra cheese – and that was only breakfast. I’d then eat a further 3000 calories worth of junk food, and would usually finish the day with a large caramel sundae and flake, with an apple pie on the side. I’d alternate between different suburbs to buy my junk food, so drive-through staff wouldn’t pick up on my eating habits. ‘I’m worried about your weight,’ my doc said when I was four months pregnant. Even then, I denied how large I was. I’m pregnant, not big, I told myself.
My girl Scarlett was born in May 2015, and at a hefty size 26, I was the largest I’d ever been. Horrifyingly, I would regularly break furniture by sitting on it. Early one morning, I walked into Scarlett’s room to soothe her and absent-mindedly sat on a table next to her cot. Hearing a crack, I fell to the floor with shards of the table around me. I’d completely demolished it. But it was that flight from Melbourne to Brisbane that changed everything. I have to do something, I told myself. ‘We have a better future than this, kiddo,’ I said to Scarlett, knowing she deserved more. The next day, I signed up for an all-female gym and started slowly by walking on a treadmill, then later I even began Zumba classes.
Cutting out sugar, I ate protein-rich, home-cooked meals on smaller plates, to help reduce my portion sizes.
The weight began to disappear! After two years of hard work, I’d lost an astounding 40 kilos. That’s when I decided to undergo gastric sleeve surgery to slim down even further. It wasn’t an easy decision. Although I’d lost so much weight naturally, I didn’t think I’d be able to continue losing it at the same rate. Some people said I was taking the easy way out, but that’s not true. Before getting a date for the op, I had ‘food funerals’ for the snacks I wouldn’t be able to eat any more – like fried rice, jam doughnuts and dim sims.
Coming around after the operation, I had to adjust to my new stomach. For two weeks I was on a liquid diet, so I could only drink fruit juice or eat yoghurt. After one week I started running again, and within three weeks I could have three teaspoons of regular, yet pureed, food. In one month, I lost 11 kilos, then the weight just kept falling off.
Three and a half years later, I’ve dropped ten dress sizes. I’m now a Zumba fitness instructor and work out three to five times a week. My diet is also a world away from what it used to be. Gone are the fast-food meals, replaced with healthy oats, vegies and protein-rich meals. Altogether, I lost 96 kilos and I now weigh 54 kilos. I feel so energised. I can even jump on the trampoline and run around with Scarlett, now four.
One moment can save your life – and for me, it was that plane ride. While I haven’t been on a plane since, I’m planning something special overseas to celebrate my weight
loss with my new partner, Tom, 27. We’ve been together two years, but have known each other since we were 14 and in the navy cadets together. He’s been so supportive and encouraging of me. Maybe I’ll even have another baby – one where I’ll actually be able to see my pregnant belly!
Read more in this week's issue of that's life!