‘The Ryanair seatbelt wouldn’t close - I’ve never been more embarrassed’: Irish granny (41) who shed more than 10 stone on wearing a bikini for the first time
A Dublin granny realised her weight was out of control when she could not fasten her seatbelt on a Ryanair flight to Malta, which she said was one of the most embarrassing moments of her life.
Valerie O’Donovan (41) from Tallaght struggled with her weight for more than a decade and at her heaviest, weighed more than 22 stone (144kg).
The mum-of-five said that although she was never thin, her weight became a particular problem after welcoming her youngest boys, twins Lee and Keane fifteen years ago.
The mum admitted that her weight ruined every family holiday she went on when her children were younger, because she was so uncomfortable with her size.
“My weight always affected me the most when I was on holidays. I was really the worst version of myself on those trips, when I was so concerned about my weight,” said Valerie speaking to Independent.ie.
“I used to get so upset on holidays, sitting up on our balcony in Ibiza looking at my kids and partner down by the pool. I used to think ‘Why did I come here to feel this bad about myself’.
“The first night I got there, I’d be thinking, ‘How am I going to do a week of this?'
“I used to torment myself really and I wasn’t a nice person on those trips.
“I remember I was so worried about my body that I was paddling in the pool in Ibiza in this huge denim skirt, which probably brought more attention to me than if I was wearing a swimming suit. I used to have such a hard time, and give everyone else a hard time while I hid away in the shade,” she said.
The mum was upset to discover that her family did not want to go on holidays abroad anymore, because of how upset she was.
“The following year, I was booking another family holiday and I asked the kids where they’d like to go. I was devastated when they told me they’d rather not go away again, because I was just so unhappy on the trip. It really upset me that they’d rather stay at home than go on holidays because of how much I was concerned about my weight,” she said.
Deciding to tackle her weight, Valerie joined Slimming World a month before her brother’s wedding in Malta and was delighted to lose more than a stone before the big day. However, her joy soon evaporated after boarding a Ryanair flight to her sibling’s destination wedding.
"My brother Denis was getting married in Malta and I was really worried about the weather. I knew that I’d be exposed in whatever dress I got and that that worried me.
“Within weeks I had lost over a stone on Slimming World and it felt great but on the Ryanair flight over to Malta, I was really embarrassed to find that the seatbelt wouldn’t close over me. It was so embarrassed and I was really upset on the plane, but I didn’t tell anyone about it and managed to hide it so I didn’t have to ask for a seatbelt extender.
“In Malta, I never had experienced heat like it. It was so hot over there. I had managed to get a black maxi dress for the wedding, but I was so uncomfortable that after the ceremony, I went upstairs and changed into another little dress and leggings. Everyone was asking how I was coping being in leggings in the heat, it was a nightmare, but I just wanted to cover up,” she said.
Upon return, Valerie was thrilled to discover she had lost 2.5lb while in Malta and decided to continue to chip away at the programme. In just two years, the M&S worker has lost 10st 7lb in total, and was nervous to don a bikini for the first time during a holiday to Puerto Rico in July.
“I went away in July and I wore a bikini for the first time in my life. Every holiday I had ever been on had me sitting in the shade, covering up but this year I couldn’t tear myself away from the pool. My family couldn’t get me off that sunbed into the room.
“Before I was crying going on holiday, and now I was having a cry because I just didn’t want to leave. It was so much more enjoyable and I felt at ease for the first time. My children were constantly asking if I was okay, they were delighted with the change in me.
“They said ‘Mam, I wish you had been like this on all our holidays when we were younger’.
“When I was heavy, I could hardly walk in the heat, my inner thighs would be chaffing and it would be so sore.
"The kids were joking with me that I’d have to stop every few minutes to put talc on them to ease the pain,” she said.
"For so many years, going on holiday made me feel like an outsider. Now I’m finally joining in the fun."