An obese travel agent who spent £17K flying business class after she became too big to fit economy seats has lost 12st and eight dress sizes.
Doina Nicutescu, 39, said her morbidly obese frame always spoiled the experience of travelling – and made flying on an aeroplane a ‘complete nightmare’.
Despite her difficulties, she has visited nearly 50 different countries over the past two decades.
Back in April 2016, the travel agent tipped the scales at a whopping 24st [153kg] and was busting out of her massive size 26 clothes.
Doina, from Sydney, Australia, said that although her size never stopped her from exploring the world, it made travelling more difficult.
Back in 2013 Doina decided to only fly business class as she became too large – which ended up costing her £16,900 [$30,000AUD] over four years.
The travel agent also revealed that she stole a seatbelt extender on a flight after a ‘rude’ airline hostess embarrassed her when she asked for one.
But the inspirational explorer has since swapped her seatbelt for swimmers after shedding an incredible 11st 13lbs [76kg] and eight dress sizes in less than two years – and now feels more confident than ever travelling the world with her brand new 12st [77kg], svelte size 10 figure.
Doina said: “I’ve always had that passion to travel but seeing the world as an obese person made the experience so much harder than it should have been.
“I’d visit places that you’d assume people would go for a beach holiday, but never go swimming. I went to Tahiti, Thailand, the Greek Islands, Croatia and Hawaii all in summer.
“But I never even packed a swimming costume. There was no way I would have felt comfortable at the size I was.
“While everyone else was swimming, jumping off boats, and lounging around in their bikinis with a cocktail, I’d be sitting in the background fully clothed.
“I’d often have people pointing, staring and laughing at me, especially in Asia, because they’re not used to seeing people so big like I was.
“The worst experience was in Turkey, outside the Blue Mosque, and I had a family laughing and filming me. They then asked if they could take a picture with me, which I declined.
“Even just flying on an aeroplane is a totally different experience when you’re obese. The seats in economy are so small, and you’re spilling out everywhere and the arm rests could never be properly lowered between us.
“I could feel other passengers getting annoyed when I’d be seated next to them. One time, I was walking down the aisle to use the restroom and heard one person laugh and say, ‘I doubt she will even fit in there’.
“The regular seatbelts never fitted around me, so I’d always have to ask for an extender. Usually the flight attendants were discreet, but one time a woman yelled out ‘here’s your seatbelt!’ and held it up for everyone to see as it unravelled.
“I was so embarrassed and decided to just take it with me when I left the plane, so I’d never have to ask for it again.
“When I became too big to sit comfortably in economy seats, I decided to only fly in business class and save myself the anxiety.
“It ended up costing me $30,000AUD over four years of travelling, purely due to my weight.”
Doina believes it was a mixture of genetics paired with inactivity and some poor food choices that contributed to her weight gain as a teenager – causing her to reach 15st 10lbs [100kg] by the time she was 17.
While the travel agent said she did not eat ‘too badly’, she explained that her food choices were not the best and she had a problem with portion sizes.
She said: “I think a lot of my weight issues are down to genetics. My mother and grandmother had the same body shape as me.
“As a teenager, I had a pretty normal activity level and while I didn’t eat super badly, I wasn’t the healthiest.
“The hardest thing about being overweight is everyone assuming you’re a total pig and always binging 24/7. It wasn’t like that at all, but I always felt like everyone was judging every bite I took.
“I was once in line to get sushi here in Sydney, and I had a woman approach me and say ‘looking at the size of you, don’t you think you should be having a salad for lunch?’
“She looked totally disgusted by me. It was really shocking and hurtful.”
Doina’s weight continued to pile on over the next twenty years until she reached a whopping 24st [153kg] in April 2016 – which is when she realised things had to change.
Although she tried different diets in the past, Doina said she never had any long-term success with them and would pile on weight after stopping – ending up even heavier than when she began the diet.
After feeling like nothing was working to help her lose weight, Doina sought help from her doctor and decided to undergo gastric sleeve surgery in May 2016.
Doina managed to lose an incredible 9st 6lbs [60kg] in the first year following her surgery and the remaining 2st 7lbs [16kg] over the next year after that.
After losing half her body weight, Doina said she was left with a lot of loose skin – but after undergoing a lower body lift, an arm lift, a breast lift, inner thigh lift and liposuction, she now has the body of her dreams.
Inspirational Doina has now swapped her seatbelt extender for a bikini and has been having the time of her life travelling the world with her brand new, 12st [77kg] size 10 frame.
She said: “My life has totally changed, and traveling has become an entirely different experience for me now.
“If I ever fly business these days, it is purely as a treat rather than a necessity.
“Since losing the weight, I’ve been to Hong Kong, Fiji, the Caribbean, Thailand, Malta, Portugal, Miami and Dubai.
“I’ve done things I could never do before, like swimming in a bikini, going snorkeling and riding a camel. It’s been amazing.”
Doina’s diet before
Mid-morning Snack: Biscuits from the cookie jar at work and a yoghurt.
Lunch: Chicken Schnitzel with chips and gravy, or something else from the food court such as chinese food, laksa soup or pasta.
Afternoon snack: Coffee, sometimes with a caramel slice or muffin.
Dinner: Large portion of a home cooked meal such as stir fry with noodles with extra sauce, or a pasta dish with extra cheese.
Dessert: Potato chips, ice cream or apple pie.
Doina’s diet after
Breakfast: Yoghurt with muesli or toast with peanut butter and banana, with coffee.
Mid-morning Snack: Fruit or a protein muesli bar
Lunch: Salad, a sandwich or sushi.
Afternoon snack: Usually skipped.
Dinner: Chicken or salmon with a salad or vegetables.
Dessert: One cookie or museli bar on occasion.