“You’re just fat.” “You need to eat less.” You need to exercise.” “You need to diet.” “You’re lazy.” Words hurt, especially when you are already doing everything you know to do to lose weight. If you are someone who can lose weight but never as much as you want, this blog is for you. If you hit a “wall” with diets and exercise you cannot get past, this blog is for you.
Lipedema, Obesity and Swelling
I’ve written a few posts about a condition called lipedema (you can find them here, here and here). I’ve treated patients with lipedema which can progress to a condition called lipolymphedema (lipedema and lymphedema). This blog is part one of a woman’s story who has lipolymphedema and obesity. Meet Carol.
Carol struggled with weight loss
Carol* struggled with her weight, particularly when she hit her teen years. She has two brothers and a sister who use compression hose as adults, but they never struggled with weight like she did. In her late teens, a doctor put her on diet pills. She also put herself on several diets to lose weight over the years, including a 500-calorie diet (an extreme and risky way to lose weight).1 Her efforts would partially pay off. She would lose some weight in the upper body but never much in the lower body. Commonly losing 35 pounds, weight loss would then plateau, and she could not lose any more. Disappointed and frustrated, she felt bad about herself. She would gain back the weight she lost and then some. Her sister commented she always looked good in her upper body. Her lower body was never proportioned to the rest of her body. As an adult, Carol even had a lap band procedure but with no subsequent weight loss.
From weight to swelling
Most of her career, Carol had a desk job & company policy required her to wear pantyhose. Around age 33, she fell & injured her left knee which resulted in arthroscopic surgery. Later, her work policy changed, and she no longer had to wear support hose. She gladly got rid of them! At some point, she began noticing swelling around her ankles, particularly her left ankle. She also began having swelling in her legs. Because of the swelling and joint pain (her knees & hip hurt), she went to a doctor for help. This doctor said she needed to lose weight. She told him she had tried dieting and exercise. She was disciplined & strict in what she ate, but she wasn’t able to lose the weight. He didn’t believe her.
Doctor after doctor
She went to another orthopedist. She described this man sitting in his chair, twirling his glasses and saying, “I can’t do anything for you. You’re just too fat.” She went to three more doctors after that consult who told her the same thing: You’re fat. You need to lose weight. She went to one more orthopedist and described how she felt she had been discounted and [she paused as she held back tears telling me the story] treated like somebody who was just not worth their time. Someone who [she began to cry] had no value.” She described feeling like she was looked at as a second-class citizen, like someone who didn’t try. That doctor said he didn’t want to treat her that way, but there wasn’t anything he could do for her. At that point, she stopped going to doctors. She felt hopeless. “If the person you place your [trust and] well-being in can’t help you, then why am I going? Why am I spending my money?” Her sister who was present in our session interrupted, “She wasn’t just hopeless, she gave up hope because she didn’t go to another doctor for years after that — for years.”
For more information about lipedema and resources, visit the following links: Dr. Karen Herbst, Lipedema Foundation, The Lipedema Project and the Fat Disorders Resource Society.
To be continued 6/01/21.
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