By Zoe Simmons
A 23 stone 6lbs mum who ‘regularly broke furniture by sitting on it’ has shed more than half her bodyweight after needing TWO seatbelt extenders on a plane.
Coca Cola addict Sara Tuohey glugged eight cans of the soft drink a day and drove to different drive-thrus near her home in Loganholme, Queensland, Australia, so staff wouldn’t guess her addiction.
But the size 26 property manager, 27, shed 15st 1lbs after a traumatic experience on a Tiger Airways flight in 2014 when daughter Scarlett, now four, was just five weeks old.
During the two-and-a-half hour flight from Brisbane to Melbourne for her grandmother’s birthday, Sara was mortified to be handed two extension seatbelts in front of fellow passengers but still became so wedged into the budget airline’s seat she couldn’t move to feed her daughter – leaving her unable to settle the newborn.
Inspirational Sara, who now weighs 8st 5lbs and wears a svelte size six to eight, decided to transform her body the same night as the flight – and now believe her plane ride from hell saved her life.
Sara, who now lives in Horsham, Victoria, said: “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.
“I couldn’t remember the last time I had flown without needing an extension seat belt but this time it was different, even with two it was still cutting into my legs and hurting me.
“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.
“As a mum, when your baby is screaming all you want to do is give them whatever they need.
“But I couldn’t reach the bag on the floor for Scarlett’s bottle because I couldn’t move in my seat and was out of breath from the walk to the aircraft.
“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.
“The whole plane ride all I wanted to do was cry and scream – I also needed to go to the toilet, but held off because I wouldn’t fit in the cubicle.
“That night, I thought to myself ‘only I can change this. Something has to give’.
“I knew I had to make healthier habits to be around my daughter for life.
“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.”
Sara gained weight as a teenager and yo-yo dieted, weighing 15st 7lbs within a year of getting married, but the real problems began when she gained 7st 8lbs during her pregnancy with Scarlett.
By the time her daughter was born in May 2015, Sara was binging on huge 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 glug down nearly three litres of Coca Cola every single day while smoking more than 40 cigarettes daily.
Sara said: “It was horrible.
“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.
“I would often drive to different suburbs just to get junk food, so the drive-thru attendants didn’t notice how often I’d have it.”
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 before joining a Zumba class.
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 6st 2lbs, 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 now shed a whopping 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.
The mum, who now works out three to five times a week and has even become a Zumba fitness instructor, said: “After losing 96kg [15st 1lbs] since that day I have not been on another plane ride.
“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.
“It will be a great way help by head catch up on how far I have come.
“I have worked extremely hard to get to where I am now.
“I feel free, like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders.
“I feel more energised and healthy. I can even jump on the trampoline with my daughter. I am truly happy.”
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.