The mile wide club

When I couldn't belt up on a flight, I buckled...

Published by: Charlotte Dalton and Fiona Ford
Published on: 28th June 2010

Adding the finishing touches to the white dress, I admired my work. From the lace overlay to the sweetheart neckline, it was perfect.
For most people, making their own wedding dress might seem scary. But I’d spent years working as a seamstress, and now I had a chance to put my skills to use. Well, I say chance. In reality, not many bridal shops stocked size 24 frocks.
Still, over the years I’d got used to making my own clothes because of my ever-increasing size.
Thing was, it never got me down. At 5ft 7in, I saw myself as curvy, not fat – and blokes seemed to agree, too. When I’d got a job as a barmaid, I’d got tips left, right and centre!
It was in the pub that I’d met my fiancé Derek, too.
Now, stepping back to admire my wedding dress, I knew he loved me for who I was. So, whereas most brides would’ve been on crash diets, I was stuffing my face as usual. And after the wedding, I was so happy that I kept eating.
At work, weeks after the wedding, I was smothering butter on to toast. ‘Mmmm,’ I groaned, biting into it. ‘Nothing beats hot buttered toast.’
I went about making breakfast for the 24 others I looked after as a carer. But I stuck to the ‘one for them, one for me’ rule – and ate a whole loaf of bread to myself!
And it didn’t stop there… Back home, I’d put my feet up with a cuppa – and a packet of biccies. Polishing them off, I reached for a couple of tubes of Pringles and a box of Milk Tray.
But by 5pm, you’d never have guessed I’d been grazing all day. I hid the evidence from Derek, stuffing the empty packets at the bottom of the bin. ‘Hello, love,’ he called, arriving home. ‘I’m hungry, what’s for tea?’
‘Me, too, I haven’t stopped all day,’ I lied. ‘Didn’t have time to grab a bite.’
‘You put your feet up, we’ll get a takeaway,’ he smiled.
I was always telling porkies like that, which was probably why most evenings there’d be a calorie-crammed curry or Chinese in front of me, and I’d be wolfing it down without a care in the world.
There was always room for more, too. Curled up on the settee with Derek at night, I’d munch through crisps and chocolate, not to mention four cheese and onion bread rolls while he had a cuppa. ‘Wasn’t dinner enough?’ he’d say.
‘Oh, yeah,’ I’d smile. ‘But I’ve been on my feet all day, running around makes me so hungry.’
Before long, I’d ballooned to a size 34 and weighed 32st.
My doctor kept telling me I was putting my health at risk. ‘Your blood pressure’s through the roof,’ he warned. ‘You’re putting a strain on your heart, joints, and could even get diabetes…’
What was all the fuss about?! I certainly wasn’t going to mention the doc’s fears to Derek – after all, I could still enjoy life, work and go on holiday, lay on a sun lounger.
Which was why I had no worries about jetting off to Menorca. Boarding the plane, I huffed and puffed to my seat. But sitting down to buckle myself in, my chest tightened and I began to sweat.
I tried to get the seatbelt to meet, but it was no good – it wouldn’t reach around my waist. Sucking myself in, so my 44DD boobs were round my chin, I gave the belt a final yank. No good.
‘I’m getting off,’ I panicked.
‘You can’t,’ snorted Derek. ‘We’re ready to take off.’
‘I’ve got to get off!’ I whispered.
‘Why?’ he asked. ‘Are you ill?’
‘No,’ I gulped.
‘Then what?’
People were staring at me.
‘The-the…’ I cleared my throat. ‘The seatbelt doesn’t fit.’
An awkward silence. Then an air stewardess piped up. ‘I’ll get you the extension belt,’ she said. I sat through the three-hour flight head hung low.
‘Don’t be silly,’ Derek insisted. ‘We’ll have a great time, who cares about everyone else.’
A few days later, me and Derek went for dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants. I piled my plate high – worrying about the flight had led me to comfort eat.
Just as I was about to dig in, though, a couple stared at me like I was a zoo exhibit. ‘Look at the size of that,’ gasped the bloke.
‘It’s disgusting,’ tutted his wife.
Staring down at the mountain of food on my plate, tears fell into my chilli and rice. They were talking about me. Derek was straight to my rescue, though. ‘Do you mind?’ he spat, nose to nose with the bloke. ‘How dare you be so rude to my wife. Apologise.’
‘I-I-I…’ the bloke stammered.
‘Now!’ hissed Derek.
‘Sorry,’ he mumbled. But the damage was done. I loved Derek for sticking up for me, but hated that I needed him to. ‘Do you think I’m fat?’ I asked him back in our hotel room.
He pulled me close. ‘I’m worried about your health,’ he said, gently. ‘It can’t be good for you being this heavy.’
It was just what my doctor had said. I shuffled over to a mirror and looked at myself. Good grief! I saw what everyone else saw… I was fat!
Derek came over and cuddled me, his arms barely reaching around half of me. ‘I love you, but I’m scared you won’t be around much longer,’ he sighed.
It was time to act. But how?
As soon as I could, I talked to my doctor about my options. ‘I’m having a gastric band fitted,’ I told Derek. ‘But it’s not cheap.’
Luckily, my parents gave me the £7,100 I needed. The surgery was worth every penny.
Within weeks of the operation, the weight fell off. Two months later, I’d lost 6st and, with exercise, was down to a size 14, and wearing clothes I’d bought instead of made. ‘You’ve never looked better,’ beamed Derek. I’d never felt better either, but there was a down side. While everyone else tucked into a plate of food, I could only manage a spoonful of mush.
Still, I’m used to it now and even found a curry house that makes me mini-portions of my favourite dishes!
Since the op six years ago, I’ve lost a whopping 21st. I can’t believe I got so big.
I’ve celebrated my 50th birthday by treating myself to a tummy tuck and bum implants.
Next time I get on a plane, not only will I have a sexy new figure, I’ll be sitting on a pert new bottom, too!
Sue Roberts, 50, Brierley Hill, West Midlands