Real Life: "I Was Too Fat to Fly"

When Claire Coles booked a beach trip to Egypt, she didn’t know that her size would make her the laughing stock of the plane…
Thursday , 13 February 2014
Then.
© © SWNS Group
Then.
Now.
© © SWNS Group
Now.

Sunglasses? Check. Flip-flops? Check. Passport? Check. I ticked holiday essentials off a mental list. There was just one more thing to pack – my bikini. Tipping the scales at 22st 10lb and bursting out of a size 28, the thought of baring all around the pool left me feeling queasy. My husband Neil and I had booked a 10-day break to Egypt and I dreaded people’s stares as I waddled around with my ‘jelly belly’ out. Still, I wouldn’t know anyone there and I’d never see the other tourists again.

Despite being big I always tried to look my best on the beach by accessorising my sandals, sarong and sun hat to match. But no matter what I wore, I could never disguise my wobbly bits. After trying every diet in the book, I’d resigned myself to the fact I’d always be large. To distract from my size, I was always very bubbly. Constantly beaming from ear to ear, I wouldn’t let on how unhappy I was about my frumpy frame.

Letting Myself Go Was So Easy
After being together for 14 years, Neil, 35, and I had got comfortable. I was already size 24 when we met, and after we tied the knot I gradually piled on more pounds. We loved having cosy nights in with takeaways, and before I knew it my waistline had ballooned to 52in as I guzzled a belt-busting diet of sweets, chocolates and crisps. An emotional eater, I would pig out because I was down about my size, using food to cheer myself up. But it was a vicious cycle and the larger I grew, the more miserable I became. I’d even hide food and eat it in secret.
I was in denial about my weight and hadn’t realised quite how big I’d become. So when the holiday rolled around and we jetted off to Sharm El Sheikh, I tried to push any niggling fears 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’d be able to stuff our faces, and we’d never join in with any group activities. It was only when the trip ended that the enormity of my weight problem hit home.

The Big Squeeze
“Back to reality,” I moaned as we boarded the plane. Neil and I weren’t seated together, but I didn’t mind and thought I’d just finish reading my book and get some shut-eye. But my plan for peace and quiet soon turned into a nightmare. I tugged the seat belt as hard as I could, holding my breath as I desperately sucked in my tubby tummy, but it was no good – I couldn’t fit into my seat. “The belt won’t stretch over my stomach,” I croaked to one of the flight attendants, welling up.
My cheeks flushed crimson as I made a scene in front of a planeful of passengers. The crew quietly crept around me, but I couldn’t help but blush as all eyes burned into me. Eventually, I was secured into my seat with a special extended belt, but it was still a tight fit and it didn’t stop me from overflowing onto the poor people sitting next to me. I was mortified. I wanted the floor to open and swallow me up and spent the whole flight on the verge of blubbing. As soon as I got home I vowed to beat the bulge once and for all.

Travelling Light at Last
Flicking through our holiday snaps left me even more determined to slim down. I really winced at one particular shot that showed me standing in front of one of the pyramids. “I look the same size as it,” I wailed. The humiliation left me set on slashing my daily intake of 10,000 calories and turning my life around. I’d eaten McDonald’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I swapped fast food and sugary snacks for salads, porridge and veg. When I stepped on the scales after one week, the dial swung from left to right before revealing I’d lost 13lb. Just 18 months later, I’ve lost half my body weight and I’m a healthy 11st. In one shop, I tried on a figure-hugging black dress in a size 10, but the assistant said: “It looks too big for you – let me get you the next size down”. I couldn’t believe it and gasped “Is that really me?” when I saw my reflection. And the last time I got on a plane was a totally different experience. I was able to get the seat belt around me and, what’s more, there was loads of room to spare. 


Claire Now

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