Angel By The Wings | Music Monday

I missed last week because I was traveling for work – something that until recently seemed impossible. 

In 2018 I flew to a new city to start a new job.  My weight was climbing toward 300 pounds, I was swollen for no apparent reason, and I was crushingly exhausted all the time.  Now I know it’s lipedema, but that day, when I sat down and for the first time couldn’t buckle the seat belt… I wanted to melt into a puddle and disappear through the cracks in the floor.  Overwhelmed by shame, I covered my lap with my coat and pretended to be asleep when the flight attendant came through the cabin to check.  The world was no longer for me. I didn’t fly again for three years.

When I flew in December 2021 – even though I’d lost nearly 100 pounds – I bought two seats just for the peace of mind.  The woman at the ticket counter pursed her lips.  “You don’t look like you qualify,” she said finally.  I took a deep breath of confidence and told her I have a fat disorder.  Like most people, she was lost for words and quickly printed my boarding passes.  I fit in the seat, but it was snug.

My office booked the ticket for my trip last week, so I was at the whim of the travel agents.  I ended up in a middle seat on a sold-out flight.  Even though I knew I’d fit, I still held my breath as I dropped into the seat and reached for the belt.  Click.  No thigh overflow onto neighboring seats.  Keto works.  Fasting works.  Compression and stress management work. 

Two years ago, this moment and this trip felt impossible.  I was counting calories, exercising regularly, and getting worse.  I thought it was my fault.

This Music Monday, Sturdy Readers, I bring you Sia’s “Angel By the Wings”.  It’s a little more mellow than usual but I encourage you to take a few quiet minutes to close your eyes and be reminded “you can do anything.”  It’s a gorgeous way to start the week.

Oh so, your wounds they show
I know you have never felt so alone
But hold on, head up, be strong
….
You can, you can do anything

Sia “Angel By The Wings”

Use the comment section to let me and other Sturdy Readers know what you’ve accomplished in the face of chronic illness.

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Good as Hell | Music Monday

Happy Tuesday! This should have gone out yesterday, but I messed up the calendar. Oops!

How do you date when you have lipedema and follow a strict keto way of eating?  Confidently.  At least that’s how I’ve approached it. 

My strategy has been as follows.  I put several full-length pictures on my profile and said I was looking for someone who loves my curves as much as I do.  I’m not about to show up for a date and deal with body shame – I have better things to do!  It’s important to discuss lipedema and everything that means, but I don’t lead with that.  I try to let someone get to know me first.  Besides, lipedema is not the most important or interesting thing about me! 

After a few misses, I also learned a dinner date is not a great first date on strict keto… unless you happen to already know the other person has the same lifestyle!  Personally, I felt a little uncomfortable special ordering a big piece of meat within a few minutes of meeting someone and not quite ready to explain what I was doing and why.  With spring almost in full swing, a sunny walk outside, a coffee date, or something artsy are all safer alternatives.  The best date I’ve had so far was at an interactive art installation.  After exploring everything we lay on the floor in the middle of the gallery, letting flowers project on our faces and asking each other questions.  On the next date I told him… everything.

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The song that comes to mind most frequently lately is Lizzo’s “Good as Hell”.  My wish for you, Sturdy Readers, is that you can channel some of her confidence for your own relationships.  You deserve only good things and the moment someone makes you feel bad about your body or your lifestyle… do your hair toss, check your nails, and walk your fine ass our the door.  Being alone but feeling good is always better than being with someone who makes you feel like anything less than a diamond.

Onederland (Free)

This week I hit a huge milestone that I never imagined I’d see when I started keto in October 2020.  I am officially in onederland.  That’s right, a few days ago I stepped on the scale and was out of the 200s – and solidly there at that.  I finished a big work project a few days ago and had a huge whoosh when my body let go of all the stress.  I’m a lipedema woman so, generally, weight doesn’t mean a lot to me, but this felt like a big deal.

The last time I remember a scale reading less than 200 pounds was before I left for Liberia in 2011 (more about that here).  That’s 11 years.  For a long time, my body has felt like an enemy, something uncooperative, unpredictable, and unattractive.  Now that I understand what she is struggling with, I know how to support my body and I appreciate how damn hard she works every day.  Even at my lowest weight in 2010, I look back and can see the puffiness in my face and legs.  The one I was fighting the most ended up being the one who needed the most help and compassion. I was sick and had no idea.

What’s gotten me here?  I give most of the credit to keto and fasting.  I do less than 20g total carbs each day and I periodically alternate day fast (read more about that in my Fasting February series).  No cheating ever.  Not one day.  Not one bite.  Nothing.  The longer I have been keto the easier it has gotten – I can even watch The Great British Baking Show without crying.  Yes, I gave up a lot of foods, but I have gained so much.  Finally free from the endless up and down cycle of carbs and hunger, I no longer feel cravings or an emotional connection to food.  So what if I have lipedema?  I am free.

That’s the inspiration for today’s Music Monday pick, Free by Rudimental.  Yes, lipedema turned my life upside down, but lipedema also gave me back an even better life.  In one word it gave me my freedom.  The sky is the limit.  I’m flying.

Whoa, c’est la vie
maybe something’s wrong with me
But, whoa, at least I’m free

Rudimental “Free”

Sturdy Reader, what’s holding you down?  What do you worry is ‘wrong’ with you?  Could you dare to put it down?  Take a bold step with me today and, like the guy in the video, jump off the cliff and fly.

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Be the Lightning | Music Monday

It doesn’t matter what other people think about your body. It matters how you think about it, talk to it, and feel inside it.

This is the second time I’ve lost more than 100 pounds. The first time was from a place of anger, self-hatred, and body shaming. Even at my smallest I was miserable, agonizing over everything I didn’t have and everything I thought I wasn’t. I exercised too much, ate too little, and drove myself to an eating disorder. After undiagnosed lipedema made each of those pounds come back, I had a reckoning with myself. I didn’t want to wake up every day the rest of my life hating myself and feeling like a failure. No one deserves that.

With the help of a good mental health therapist and a lot of body positive books, I did things differently the second time. I threw out my scale, cut out everything and everyone who made me feel “less than”, and focused on myself. What if I stopped trying to lose weight? After a year of this work, I started realizing my worth and beauty had nothing to do with size. That’s when the universe dropped the word “lipedema” in my lap. I started to support my lymphatic system and started shedding pounds like magic, even after nothing else had worked. For the first time I feel awake, alive, and bursting with light.

I’m smaller now, but I might get bigger again later. I’m at peace with that because I’m so in love with the person my body carries around, no matter its size.

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Today’s Music Monday pick is “Rise” by the Lost Frequencies.  It has me dancing, running, and celebrating everything that has happened since my lipedema diagnosis.  It’s been an uphill battle but, wow, the view is amazing. Sturdy readers, join me and be the lightning.

Ain’t no way I’m stopping now
Gonna make my way right through the clouds
I’ll rise
I’m going to break my teeth and bear the pain
Gonna climb this mountain once again
I’ll rise
I’m feeling stronger than I’ve been
I’ll weather the storm, weather the rain
I am the lightning

Lost Frequencies “Rise”

Brighter Days | Music Monday

Turbulence continues to rock the world and 2022 isn’t the fresh start many of us hoped for.  Added stress from persistent and escalating world events is the last thing those of us with chronic illness need to add to our lives.  Stress increases my inflammation and swelling so – as much as I care – I’ve unplugged from the news for the past month.  Work is tough, my personal life is tough, and the last thing I want to think about is global doom. 

To keep stress at bay, I stick to my self-care routine as much as possible.  In addition to standard lipedema protocols such as compression, exercise, and keto, I also meditate every day.  I use Headspace and I’ve been repeating the 10-day self-compassion series nonstop for the past six months.  It walks through offering love and compassion to yourself, to someone you love, and someone you are having difficulties with.  There is no doubt that it shifts something in my energy – within a few weeks my usually standoffish cat started curling up under my arm as soon as I started.  I never thought I’d be the kind of person who meditates, but I started two years ago around the same time I got my FlexiTouch pump. Pumping and meditation were a great pair.  Meditation made me want to crawl out of my skin and my pump kept me from being able to escape!

The other way I combat stress is with music and I usually find myself scrolling through songs either before or after I meditate.  That’s how I found today’s pick, Brighter Days by Emeli Sandé.  It’s the perfect, uplifting song for stressful days and is sure to set the mood for a good week.

We’ve seen it all
The tears have fallen
And every step is on the edge
And we’re so confused
We don’t understand
It feels like this night won’t end
But there’s gonna be brighter days
Brighter Days
I’ll keep you lifted when you’re losing faith
There’s gonna be brighter days
Brighter days
Though it seems distant, know the world will change

Emelie Sandé “Better Days”

How does stress impact your health and well being, Sturdy readers?  How do you keep it under control and stay present for your one beautiful life?  Drop me a note in the comments and let me know what works for you. I’ll try it out!

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Casual Pear Looks | Fashion Friday

Weekends are a luscious time to relax and recharge and that’s even more enjoyable when you feel cute! If you are still working from home like me, you might actually see more people on the weekend than during the week. Saturday trips to the supermarket are an opportunity to show off your style and personality – go for it!

As lipedema ladies we tend to be bottom heavy pear shapes, so just remember to draw attention upward to balance your proportions. A few weeks ago I did that with a bold patterned blazer, but this week I’m doing it with a graphic t-shirt. In honor of International Women’s Day earlier this week, I chose my Feminism is for Everybody shirt but any slogan or graphic you love will do the trick to draw attention up. Since my outfit is monochrome, I added a shiny magenta skinny belt from Torrid to add a pop of color and also break up my silhouette.

To elongate my legs, I then added a dark shoe. In the first version that’s a basic pointed toe ballet flat, but it also works with a sneaker wedge or a regular sneaker. My flat and wedge are both from Torrid. (Nope, no affiliate links in this post!)

You could stop there, but as mentioned last week, I love accessories. I also love jackets and, while it’s warming up, it’s not yet t-shirt weather in DC. If you are going to brunch you might throw on a jean jacket, wedge, and chunky bangle. If you are going grocery shopping you might grab a light-colored hooded sweatshirt and sneaker. The key with the jacket is to choose something in a lighter color than whatever color your pants are – remember black or dark wash skinny jeans will be particularly flattering. Yes, even with lipedema.

Looking for some fun t-shirts or cute spring jackets? Check out ThredUp! I can’t stop telling people how much I love it. You can buy used clothes – many new with tags – for super low prices. In fact, the white sweatshirt I’m wearing above is from J. Crew but I bought it for $12 on ThredUp. Shopping and sizing can be hard for us, but on ThredUp you can shop for something like a graphic t-shirt in a specific size and color across more brands than you can count. Need more inspiration? Press play on Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

What are you waiting for?! Dive into your closet and find something cute to wear this weekend. It’s guaranteed to boost your mood, whether sitting on the couch or out shopping for keto goodies.

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Love My Life | Music Monday

In 2011, I joined the Peace Corps and moved to Liberia, West Africa.  Peace Corps is a government program that sends Americans overseas on two-year assignments to live and work in communities around the world.  (Life Magnanimous is my blog about that part of my life.)  I was searching for adventure, but also trying to make meaning of my one precious trip on this planet.  In 2004 my younger brother died suddenly after being hit by a car.  He was 18 and I was just two years older.  While most 20-somethings were applying to graduate school and starting careers, I was trying to make up for lost time… time I’d spent playing it safe and following all the rules. 

My own mortality was a constant shadow in the corner whispering live, live, live NOW.  I responded by losing 130 pounds, quitting my job, ending an engagement, and moving to Liberia.  I’d never been out of the country so it was ballsy and brave and as close as I could get to jumping off a cliff without really doing it. 

Nothing about Liberia made sense, but everything felt right, most of all the song blaring out the window of every taxi and from the radio on every porch.  Demarco’s Love My Life was a constant celebration of life and reminder to squeeze it for every last drop – I did then and I still do today. Even now, I play Love My Life regularly to remind myself to be present and grateful for what I have, which is the daily opportunity to make different choices and show up for myself. 

This is underscored by the video.  It starts with a man in a hospital bed battling for his life. When Love My Life comes on the radio, he gets up and, still wearing his hospital gown, walks back in time through the day.  He finally climbs the stairs to his bedroom and sees himself sitting on the bed contemplating suicide.  As if visited by his own shadow of mortality, he puts down the bottle of pills and hugs his wife instead. 

As lipedema women, we often focus on the past – when things were better – or the future – when we think things will be worse.  The truth, however, is that all we have for certain is the present.  What can you do today that your future self will be grateful for?  What small thing can you do to celebrate your one precious life and feel more alive?  It could be pressing play on Love My Life and dancing with yourself, going for a walk in the sun, or putting on your favorite outfit while working from home.  You don’t have to move halfway around the world to love your life or to live it to the fullest.  Each day is a fresh opportunity to unlock the magic that’s inside you.  Sturdy readers, today is your day.    

None of us know what tomorrow may bring
Because the future is hours away
So I’m going to live my life today

Demarco, “Love My Life”

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Accessorizing Your Pear Shape | Fashion Friday

Accessories can make or break an outfit and are a great way to balance proportions.  In the last Fashion Friday I talked about using patterned tops to draw attention upward on pear-shaped bodies.  This week I’ll show you how I accomplish the same thing with scarves.

I’ve always had a thing for scarves!  The first apartment I ever rented was the second floor of an old Victorian house.  A staircase opened into the middle of the living room and my colorful scarf collection adorned most of the sprawling banister, one part rainbow and one part flock of tropical birds.  These days I settle for a basket in the corner, but it’s still a large basket. 

What I love about scarves is the versatility.  They can be casual or dressy, playful or professional, and they never go out of season or style.  Look at my photo at the top of the post.  I changed the whole look of each outfit just by adding a different scarf!  There are a million different ways to tie scarves and YouTube has a lot of great tutorials you can play with.  My go-to is to just wrap it around my neck, but I’ve also played with the “flight attendant” look a lot lately and it’s fun for warmer weather.  ThredUp is a great place to build a high-end yet budget-friendly scarf collection (nope, there are no affiliate links in this post!) but some of the ones in this post also came from other love, Target. 

Notice that aside from the scarf, the rest of the outfit is rather neutral.  I pair a dark skinny jean with chocolate brown knee boots to downplay my lower half and top it off with a light brown moto jacket that hits right at my waist.  The lighter color automatically draws the eye up and helps balance the proportion and the wide lapel creates additional structure and interest.  Pop on a brightly colored scarf and voila!  You have a chic, flattering outfit that draws attention to your beautiful face. 

Please remember skinny jeans are for every body.  They will do more for your figure than baggy bootcuts ever can. Yes, I am also wearing my favorite CZSalus compression under these. When you feel great you will look great and my compression leggings ensure I accomplish both on a daily basis.

I love jewelry so I usually also add some sort of bangle no matter what I’m wearing.  In this outfit I’m wearing a beautiful leather cuff handmade in Liberia (shout out to Craft to Heart run by fellow returned Peace Corps Volunteers!)  but just about anything would work, including a nice pair of earrings if you prefer.

Being a lipedema woman, I would be remiss if I didn’t say more about the boots.  This is the first pair of boots I have owned since I was about five years old.  I literally cried six months ago when I zipped them up.  They are Torrid wide calf boots – that’s right the extra wide calf was too wide!  Ladies, they see us.  When I bought them, my calf measured just over 19 inches and here I’m below 18 inches.  I suspect the inflammation I lost during non-dairy January accounts for a lot of that.  These are a size 9 ½ which is my normal shoe size but about a size larger than I usually buy Torrid flats, so bear that in mind when buying. 

You’ll be amazed what a difference a cute outfit can make in your day.  It shifts your energy and everything and everyone feels… a little bit happier.  Hopefully you are inspired to dig into your closet and play with your accessories today.  I’d love to see what you come up with!  Leave me a note in the comments to join the Sturdy conversation. 

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Higher | Music Monday

We’re two months into 2022, Sturdy Readers.  Are you making progress toward your goals?  Are you making time and space for your beautiful self to unfold?  I hope your answers were, Yes! but even if they weren’t, today I have a song that is sure to get you moving forward.  I found it last summer while I was going through a rough patch, and it felt like a gift from the universe.  Bishop Briggs will have you tapping your feet, moving your lymph around, and dreaming bigger than ever before.  In my case, it had me running up and down stairs.  Literally.  I played this song on repeat while I ran around the amphitheater in the park.  Two years and 100 pounds ago, before I knew the word lipedema, I struggled to do one flight at any speed.

In just over three minutes, the video for Higher sums up my lipedema journey.  It grabs me early on at, “I will go screaming out my pain into the night” and that’s when we realize Bishop is at the bottom of a hill.  The beat picks up as she starts running up it and, like me on the stairs, she puts her head down and pumps her arms harder as she digs deeper. Bring it on, lipedema I say to myself in those moments.

Higher, your love has set me free
Now nothing’s out of reach
Higher, I’m stronger now I’m free
I’m who I want to be
This ain’t no give or take
I’ve learned from my mistakes
I’m so much stronger now

Bishop Briggs, “Higher”

Proving she’s a true boss, Bishop is neither out of breath nor sweaty when she finally gets to the top.  She’s confident and in touch with her power – and you can be too, Sturdy Reader. 

Your power is you.  The love that will set you free is your love.  The strength that will carry you up the hill that is a diagnosis is in those lipedema legs.  Think of it like the beautiful scene in Kung Fu Panda when Po realizes the secret ingredient is… nothing.  You are your own secret self-care and self-love weapon.  Vibration plates, pumps, and bio-hacks will help your symptoms but only if you do them.  Your body can only be free, strong, and beautiful when you love it.

Press play on Higher and make a decision here and now to set yourself free to climb higher.  Free from body shame.  Free from blame or judgement.  Free to feel beautiful. Only you can climb this hill, Sturdy Readers, but you already have everything you need, especially with Higher playing in the background.

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Building Habits and Navigating Social Situations | Fasting February

Tomorrow I will complete my month-long alternate day fasting (ADF) challenge.  I intend to continue at least a few more weeks because I feel so good, but a month is worth pausing to celebrate.  I fasted for 12 days this month!  This week also marks a second month of being dairy free since non-dairy January rolled right into February.  Fasting and going dairy-free both seemed like formidable challenges at the beginning, but it turned out that starting was the hardest part.  This has me reflecting on what it takes to build successful habits and what it is about a one-month timeframe that works so well for me.

It turns out it isn’t necessarily about the timeframe.  The internet is full of people stating that 21 days is the ideal window to form a habit, but the research is mixed, with habit formation taking longer than that for manyIt’s individual.  Interestingly, Harvard Business Review emphasizes the importance of building routines to support habits and I suspect that is why my challenges are so successful. 

I didn’t plan it this way, but both my challenges had a foundation in routine.  Fasting is literally a routine.  I do it on specific days of the week and I’ve developed separate – enjoyable – routines that cue me those days are different.  I may feel reluctant and grouchy when I first wake up, but once I have my black coffee and saltshaker out, I remember what’s going on and easily fall in line.  When I went dairy free, I unintentionally (but luckily) planned it not to disrupt my routine.  I got all the dairy out of the house and literally put alternatives exactly in their place.  The almond milk went right where the heavy cream had been, so even on autopilot I was set up for success.  A good routine creates the guardrails necessary to support a behavior becoming a habit and a month is a nice chunk of time to settle into a new or revised routine.

A month also gives you enough time to stumble into some sticky situations, which will test your commitment to your new routine and goal.  Fasting is a sure-fire way to raise eyebrows and I tend to follow the Fight Club model…  The first rule of Fasting Club is, don’t talk about fasting.  The second rule of Fasting club is, don’t talk about fasting.  I can count on one hand the people in my inner circle who know I fast and all of them also know about my challenges with lipedema and lymphedema. 

A few weeks ago, I got together with my co-coworkers for an in-person farewell party on one of my designated fasting days.  During planning, talk quickly and inevitably turned to food.  As soon as I could interject into the conversation I simply said, “Food is actually really complicated for me, but I’d be happy to help plan a game or something else fun for us to do.”  That’s all it took and, in my experience, once I say I have food restrictions people get a little uncomfortable and don’t pry too much further.  If they do, remember you never owe anyone an explanation for why you aren’t eating something.  For the farewell party I ended up buying a box of donuts (some people wanted those) and a jug of black coffee.  No one said anything about me only drinking coffee and we had fun playing the game.  Social situations often involve food, but don’t have to revolve around food.  Ask for and plan for what you need in such situations to minimize surprises and set yourself up for success.

What helps you build routines and habits, Sturdy Readers?  Do you plan to take on any new challenges in March?  Drop me a note in the comments and be sure to sign up for updates to see what new challenge I take on next.

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