’I remember the look of disbelief on the flight attendant’s face as I requested another extension seatbelt. I was so embarrassed, I just wanted to hide,’ Sara, who now lives in Horsham, Victoria, says.
‘I felt very claustrophobic and as if the whole plane was staring at me. Tears started building in my eyes – the whole plane ride, all I wanted to do was cry and scream.
‘It was horrible, I felt like a failure of a mother. There was a problem in the way of me being able to provide what I needed to for my daughter, and that problem was my weight and size.
‘That night, I thought to myself ‘only I can change this. Something has to give.’
Sara knew she had to develop healthier habits so she could be there for her daughter.
‘The journey was the plane trip from hell, but it was the raw truth I needed that I couldn’t go on living that way for myself, my daughter or my family. That plane trip saved my life,’ she says.
Sara gained weight as a teenager and yo-yo dieted, weighing 100kg within a year of getting married, but the real problems began when she gained 50kg during her pregnancy with Scarlett.
By the time her daughter was born in May 2015, Sara was binging on takeaways up to three times a day – with her favourite 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.
The fizzy drink addict would also drink nearly three litres of Coca Cola every single day while smoking more than 40 cigarettes daily.
‘It was horrible,’ Sara admits. ‘I was constantly uncomfortable and couldn’t do everyday things like shaving, crossing my legs or even fitting in normal seats.
‘I had to wear bike shorts under every outfit to stop the chafing, and couldn’t even wipe myself properly when I went to the toilet.
‘I often broke furniture by sitting on it. I went into Scarlett’s bedroom one morning when she woke up, I sat on a block table next to her cot and next thing I knew I was on the floor. I had completely flattened it.
‘Plastic chairs were never sturdy enough for me and a regular wooden chair would require me to rock back and forth to be able to get up and back onto my feet.
‘Food was filling a void – I ate my emotions, even when I was happy.’
The day after her plane experience, Sara signed up to an all-female gym and slowly began to increase her exercise by walking on a treadmill.
Then she started a class which has helped her shed the weight - Zumba.
The then-single mum, who now has a new partner and hopes to soon become a mum again, cut out sugar and began serving protein-rich home-cooked meals on small side plates.
Within two years she had dropped 40kg, before in May 2016 she made the decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery.
In total, over the last three and a half years the 27-year-old has dropped 10 dress sizes.
Sara has not been on another aeroplane since her horror experience but hopes to celebrate her weight loss with a special oversees trip someday soon.
‘I want it to be a special trip somewhere overseas to celebrate the fact I don’t need any seatbelt extensions and can fit into the seat,’ she says.
SARA’S DAILY DIET: BEFORE
Breakfast: A large Hungry Jacks breakfast wrap meal with a large Coca Cola, two hash browns and a sausage and egg muffin with BBQ sauce and extra cheese.
Mid-morning snack: A sausage roll with tomato sauce.
Lunch: A large lamb kebab filled with chips with cheese, sour cream and BBQ sauce.
Afternoon snack: An ice cream sundae or leftovers from dinner the night before.
Dinner: More takeaway fast food or four homemade sausage mince rissoles with buttery mince potato, a microwave alfredo pasta and corn on the cob smothered in butter.
Dessert: A large caramel sundae with a flake and an apple pie.
SARA’S DAILY DIET: NOW
Breakfast: A bowl of oats, Weetbix or a bowl of sultana bran.
Mid-morning snack: Nuts and fruit.
Lunch: Homemade curried pumpkin and lentil soup
Dinner: A slow cooker homemade high-protein meal with as BBQ pulled pork with vegetables.
Dessert: Fruit or a cheeky apple pie every now and then.