Best Exercises for Lipedema: Benefits and 5 Ways to Get Moving

Can lipedema go away with exercise? What are the best exercises for lipedema? This week I discuss the benefits of exercise for lipedema patients and what role it played in my 140 pound weight loss. More on that here and here. Read on or watch below.

Remember I am not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice. Work with your care team before starting any new exercise routine or making changes to your self-care routine.

Mentioned in this Video: Benefits of exercise for lipedema patients and 5 great ways to get your lymph moving.

Can exercise help lipedema?

Absolutely! Exercise has tremendous benefits for everyone, including Sturdy Women dealing with the cornucopia of lipedema, lymphedema, and/or venous insufficiency. Anything that engages your calf muscles is going to help push fluid, including lymph, up and out of your legs. One of my major takeaways from the FDRS conference in April was that fat loves a fluid-rich environment. So get it out of there! Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress. Stress contributes to inflammation and inflammation makes lipedema worse.

Can you exercise lipedema away?

Again, I’m not a doctor, but all signs point to no. The truth is that exercise isn’t particularly effective in helping anyone lose weight, regardless of whether they have lipedema. This is one of the myths that Aubrey Gordon busts in her new book You Just Need to Lose Weight and 19 Other Myths About Fat People. I highly recommend reading it to better understand that science and for strategies to confront fat bias and size discrimination in your daily life. She gives lipedema a shout out in chapter 1!

I’ve lost 140 pounds since my diagnosis in 2020, but exercise played a minor role. Keto and understanding my food sensitivities has been magic. The core of my lipedema workout is walking and, as my energy improved, I added some light jogging and strength training. Earlier in my life I managed to lose weight through Biggest-Loser-Style calorie restriction and extreme exercise, but it didn’t change my legs and it consumed my entire life. I was punishing myself and I was miserable. It’s challenging, but try to “flip the switch” to seeing exercise as an avenue to support your health rather than penance for perceived flaws. Finding something you can enjoy doing every day will make a big difference.

What exercise is good for lipedema?

  1. Walking is my absolute to-go exercise for lipedema. I try to do it twice a day and my doctor and physical therapist both emphasized frequency was as important as duration. Several short walks throughout the day can be more beneficial than one long walk at the end. Find a good pair of wide walking shoes (those are my favorite!) and something relaxing to listen to. Check out my Love Your Lipedema Life Playlist for musical inspiration or try out a podcast or audiobook. I’m a huge fan of Audible for both and it’s a great way to learn, laugh, or catch up on current events while doing your lipedema walking.
  2. Swimming is a good low-impact exercise for lipedema that comes with the extra benefit of compression from the water. Fellow lipedema lady Susan O’Hara recently published the book Aqua Therapy for Lipedema and Lymphedema. It includes more information about the benefits of swimming for us Sturdy Women and how-to photos of different movements to do in the water. Worried about what to wear to the pool? Designers are making so many great, conservative options that can help you feel covered and confident. I discuss lipedema bathing suits and lipedema swimwear in my recent post How to Dress with Lipedema.
  3. Cycling, whether indoor or outdoor, will help move lymph and other fluid out of your legs. I’m a former spin instructor (yes, pre-diagnosis at 300 pounds!) but you don’t need to do anything that intense. A recumbent bike that puts your legs in more of a horizontal position will make it even easier to move fluid – take that gravity! They even make small models you can use under a desk or while sitting on the couch. Check out the DeskCycle.
  4. Vibration plates deserve their own post (coming soon!) but I couldn’t leave them off this list. Research suggests that combining whole body vibration with MLD is more beneficial than MLD alone. Whole body vibration increases circulation and stimulates lymph flow. It can be used standing, sitting, or even laying on the floor. I like to use mine for 15 minutes before using my pneumatic pump, but I know other Sturdy Women who like to keep one under their desk to energize their legs throughout the day. Look for a model that oscillates (wobbles up and down rather than just side-to-side) like the Shake It Off vibration plate in the Sturdy Woman shop (we offer interest free payment plans!) or the similar LifePro Waver available on Amazon. You want to use it without your compression garments for full jiggly effect.
  5. Rebounding might be the most fun and playful way to move your lymph. Sadly, I live in an upstairs apartment and I don’t think the people downstairs would appreciate me jumping on a mini trampoline! The up and down motion combined with the contraction of the calf muscle is great to pump fluid out of your legs. Look for a heavy-duty one with a handle so you can feel really stable while using it. This rebounder has a 450 pound weight capacity and a bar. No, you don’t need to do tricks or practice for the circus! Gentle bouncing is all it takes. There is also a miniature version called the Trampolette that’s perfect for bouncing under your desk or taking along when traveling. That’s the one I need in my apartment! It was designed explicitly for lipedema and lymphedema to help combat swelling.

This isn’t an exhaustive list but hopefully it gives you some ideas to get started and get moving. The most important thing is to do something and you are much more likely to stick with your lipedema exercise program if you find something you enjoy. Taking care of yourself shouldn’t feel like punishment ❤

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Lipedema Keto Recipe – Easy Coconut Yogurt

Does keto help lipedema? It helped me lose 140 pounds with only dietary changes and walking. Many of you have been asking to hear more about what I eat, so today I want to share one of my favorite lipedema keto recipes and a staple of my keto diet plan for lipedema. I’m going to show you how to make coconut yogurt at home! When I went dairy-free in 2021 to reduce my inflammation, I discovered Culina coconut yogurt. Unfortunately, it was too expensive for me to eat regularly. A friend in the lipedema community suggested I make my own and I was incensed. I am a busy woman with a full-time job, managing multiple health conditions. I don’t have time for that!

Well guess what? It turns out that I do and so do you. Watch the video below to join me in the kitchen or continue reading to learn how to make homemade coconut yogurt with probiotics. We’ll need two basic ingredients, five to ten minutes of prep time, and about two days from start to finish.

Supplies and Ingredients

Flavoring Ideas (Optional)

  • Fresh blueberries
  • Lemon zest
  • Key lime juice
  • Ginger paste
  • Almond extract
  • Vanilla extract (add 1-2 tsp to any and all of the above)

Easy Coconut Yogurt

  1. Open both cans of coconut milk and empty them into a clean ceramic bowl.
  2. Use your silicone whisk or a rubber spatula to break up any clumps in the coconut milk and whisk until it is smooth.
  3. Count out your probiotic capsules. As a rule of thumb, use a minimum of two capsules for each can of coconut milk. I like to use one extra (for a total of five) to get some extra tanginess, but you do you!
  4. Carefully open the capsule casings and dump the probiotic powder into the smooth coconut milk.
  5. Whisk until powder is fully combined and all clumps are broken up. Avoid using anything metal once you add your probiotics.
  6. Cover with a paper towel or tea towel and place in a warm dark place. An oven works great as long as you don’t forget it’s in there! Tip: leave yourself a post-it note on your oven controls if you are as forgetful as I am.
  7. Let it sit for a day and a half to two days, checking occasionally. When it starts to thicken and has a jiggle to it, it’s getting ready. If it starts growing on the top, you’ve pushed it too far but can probably still save it by skimming off the very top layer. (I’m a former Peace Corps Volunteer and may be more relaxed about my food than you are.)
  8. It’s ready! You can either scoop it into single-serving size jars or put the entire bowl in the refrigerator. Flavoring is optional, but highly recommended. Add your flavoring of choice before refrigerating.
  9. If flavoring with low carb fruit such as blueberries, cook it down a little bit before adding it. This will let it get nice and juicy so the flavor really mixes with the yogurt. Pour fresh or frozen berries in a pot and warm them over medium on your stove top for 15 to 20 minutes or until the berries have burst and you have a nice thick juice. If using frozen berries, make sure they don’t have sugar added. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool before adding the berries to your coconut yogurt. I always put 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extra to make it extra indulgent.
  10. Enjoy!

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Lipedema Research Studies: How to Participate and a New Paper

Listening to all the latest research on lipedema at the FDRS conference last month got me wondering how I can contribute to lipedema research as a patient. In this post I’ll share several lipedema clinical studies that are currently enrolling in the United States as well as a virtual opportunity open to anyone reading. I’ll also share an exciting new report that provides insight into the challenges women face receiving a lipedema diagnosis, treatments they have tried and whether they helped, and possible links with lipedema and family history. Watch or read more below.

Remember, I’m just a lipedema patient like you. Please consult your care team for advice on whether or not any of these opportunities are suitable for you. I have no affiliation with any of them.

Lipedema Research Studies Currently Enrolling

  1. Vanderbilt Lipedema Research with MRIs. Complete a short survey here to see if you are eligible and read more about their hypotheses here. Located in Nashville, Tennessee.
  2. Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Studies details and contact information here.
  3. Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. This one is looking at weight loss and nutritional interventions. You can learn more and contact them here.
  4. Looking for something? The Lipedema Foundation maintains a list of worldwide clinical trials that you can search at anytime on their Legwork database. Love that name!

Virtual Opportunity to Participate in Lipedema Research

You can still contribute even if none of the currently enrolling lipedema studies are close to you or you are short on time. The Lipedema Foundation Patient Registry is open to anyone with an internet connection and the lipedema questionnaire takes 30-60 minutes to complete. (Mine took 45 minutes.) It will ask you about your symptoms, the treatments you’ve tried and if they helped, any family history, and more. If you want, you can upload photos, but that’s optional. You will also have an opportunity to choose whether to share your identifiable or unidentifiable data with other organizations, including researchers enrolling for studies. Notice a question or response option missing? You can also tell them that (like I did!) here.

The Registry was launched in 2019 and in 2022 they published preliminary findings based on the first 521 completed surveys. Learning by Listening: Early Findings from the Lipedema Patient Registry survey is a short, accessible, and fascinating read. Even if you choose not to participate in the Registry, I highly recommend you read the report. One of the findings that takes my breath away is that even though most women report first noticing symptoms as a teenager, on average it is 17 years before they seek medical help and an additional 10 years of seeking help to get a diagnosis. We deserve better than that! Sharing your information in the Patient Registry is one way to help researchers shorten that timeline for future generations.

One other finding that caught my attention is that 6-7% of respondents reported having a male family member with lipedema-like symptoms. When I was diagnosed, my doctor asked who in my family I looked like. When I responded that I looked like my younger brother, she shook her head and told me to think harder. It was true, though. He always had swelling and weight problems like me. Unfortunately, he passed away as a teenager so I can’t ask him any questions but reporting things like this might help give researchers clues about how lipedema passes through families and whether men are, in fact, also affected by lipedema. (The report notes 10 case studies of men being diagnosed with lipedema!)

Joining the Registry is an opportunity to share your unique journey with lipedema. Not surprisingly, the current sample of patients is heavily skewed toward white women in the United States but it is critical to capture the true diversity of backgrounds and experiences impacted by this disease.

If you are aware of other new lipedema research studies or opportunities to participate, please share links in the comments below so we can learn from each other.

Lipedema Before and After: Measuring Progress on Your Journey

Have you started a new lipedema treatment or lipedema diet and you are wondering if it’s working? This week I share my complicated relationship with the scale and recommend things other than weighing that Sturdy Women can do to track non-scale victories on their journey. As usual you can read or watch, but this week I recommend watching because at the end of the video I do something I never thought I’d do. I share my lipedema before and after pictures.

Has the scale ever given made you feel good about something, Sturdy Woman? Or are you like me, and scales have most reliably made you feel like a failure even when you’re trying really hard? I hadn’t weight myself for nearly six to nine months before starting keto and I didn’t weigh myself at all until three or four months into my journey. I didn’t even own a scale! Like many of you, I believed it was impossible to lose weight with lipedema and I didn’t want to feel like a failure if it “didn’t work”. I knew there were non-scale benefits to keto and I didn’t want a lack of weight loss to discourage me from pursuing those.

What did I do instead? I took pictures about once a month and also used a measuring tape to track changes, particularly in my lipedema legs. Get yourself a cute little notebook and take notes. How do you feel? What does your skin look like? Is your energy level or sleep changing? These things matter! If you don’t have anyone you trust to help you take photos, there are many low-cost options on Amazon. Here’s a tripod and BlueTooth remote option similar to what I use. It might be emotional a first, but looking at your body (and being kind to it while you do that) will go a long way toward learning to befriend her.

If you are on keto, I highly recommend tracking your blood sugar and ketone levels. Make sure you’re in ketosis before you say it isn’t working! Remember that your body is going to want to do some healing before it starts letting go of weight. Don’t rush it. In addition to letting you know if you’re in ketosis, a meter is going to help you learn how different foods affect you and what different blood sugar or ketone levels feel like. For example, when my blood sugar is elevated I feel hungry, cranky, and tired. A quick walk usually snaps me out of it. My favorite meter is the Keto Mojo GK+ which can measure levels of both, syncs to your phone, and only costs about $50 USD. I’ve been using mine regularly for more than two years.

One final thought on weight and BMI… before you get lost chasing a number, you should know that BMI was originally developed with data from white men and was designed to be used for populations not individuals. You can read more about that here and here and by searching on Google Scholar.

If you just have to weigh yourself, no problem. You do you. Give yourself a gift, though, and before you start any new conservative treatment for lipedema, collect multiple data points so you can also track the fantastic non-scale victories you are going to achieve.

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What makes lipedema worse? The role of inflammation

Are you wondering what makes lipedema worse? Does lipedema cause swelling and does lipedema cause inflammation? What’s the deal with keto and inflammation? It’s complicated, intertwined, and all part of the puzzle researchers are still putting together. Inflammation and the role it plays in lipedema was one of my major takeaways from the recent 2023 Fat Disorders Research Society (FDRS) conference. Read on (or watch below) to understand the connection between food sensitives, stress, and inflammation for lipedema patients. I’ll also share one key reason keto reduces inflammation.

But please remember, I’m not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice. Work with your care team to figure out what’s right for you.

A discussion of the role of inflammation in lipedema and strategies for reducing it in our bodies.

The connection between inflammation, swelling, a fat was a major a-ha moment for me during FDRS. Dr. Herbst emphasized multiple times that fat loves a fluid-rich environment and that helps it grow and expand. Well, guess what? Inflammation can cause swelling which contributes to the development of that fluid-rich environment. I heard over and again that it is important for lipedema patients to reduce inflammation. Honestly, it’s important for everyone but our sluggish lymphatic systems means that our bodies are more easily overwhelmed.

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How can you reduce inflammation related to lipedema?

  1. Identify and eliminate – or at least reduce – food sensitivities. Every day you may be unknowingly eating foods you are sensitive to. That was me with dairy and eggs. I had eaten them my whole life so I assumed they were fine for me… until I saw what happened when I stopped! (See my dairy-free series for more on that.) Keto automatically wipes out a lot of problem foods but you will likely need to dig a little deeper to figure out everything that is causing you problems, especially if you tried keto and it “just didn’t work.” You may be reacting to spices or other things you take for granted as good for you. A few years ago I did an over-the-counter Everlywell food sensitivity test and that helped me identify foods to explore through an elimination diet. I bought the basic test that looks at 96 foods, but they also have a comprehensive food sensitivity test that looks at 204 different possible triggers. Both of these tests are done by pricking your finger at home and mailing in a small sample. For more reliable and detailed results, see an allergist and/or a nutritionist.
  2. Control blood sugar. Did you know that high blood sugar can contribute to inflammation? One of the benefits of a keto or low-carb lifestyle is that it brings down your blood sugar quite dramatically. This explains why eliminating, or at least reducing carbohydrates can have such a big influence. Not only are many of us sensitive to eating them, but they also send our bodies on a blood sugar roller coaster that fuels inflammation. And remember, inflammation creates swelling, and fat loves stagnant fluid.
  3. Manage stress. Chronic stress is bad. We all know that but it doesn’t make it any easier to change! So many women have reached out to share they are worried, scared, and stressed about having lipedema. The difficult thing about that is that being stressed about lipedema actually makes it worse. Stress is known to contribute to inflammation and if you’ve read this far, you understand that inflammation makes lipedema worse. Check out my post on mental health challenges and strategies for lipedema patients for some tips on navigating that minefield. Remember, it took you years to get this sick and it’s going to take time to heal your body. Take it one day at a time and, rather than focus on being perfect and changing your whole life right now, try to do better than last week. One step at a time will take you places you never dreamed possible.

Have you noticed inflammation from food or stress impacts your lipedema? What strategies have you found helpful for managing it? I’d love to hear from you!

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Keto for Lipedema while Traveling

Are you using a keto diet for lipedema and wondering how to navigate keto travel? Yes, you can stay in ketosis while on the road! I’ve been traveling a lot recently and this week I’m at the Fat Disorders Resource Society (FDRS) conference in Atlanta. Read or watch below for my tips on findings great low-carb foods and staying on track with your keto and self-care goals while exploring the world. Yes, a ketogenic diet is helpful for lipedema! I share my favorite restaurant for keto food and tips for finding something to eat wherever you end up.

Here are my top tips for keto travelers with lipedema.

  1. Bring snacks to get you through the transition! The last thing you want is to get stuck in the airport or hotel with a grumbling stomach and no good options. The vending machine is not your friend! Some of my go-to items to throw in my bag are Tillamook Zero Sugar jerky or sausages. (If you live near Aldi, look for the much cheaper generic brand there!) Things like Parmesan cheese crisps are also a good option for those who can tolerate dairy, and there are pork rinds and nuts for the rest of us. I like Fisher oven roasted pecans and I’m a Nut dry roasted Brazil nuts. I don’t normally advocate things like bars because they are more processed and encourage sugar cravings, but they can be helpful when traveling. My favorites are Perfect Keto bars (yum, to the peanut butter chocolate) and Keto Bars. I’m a huge coffee drinker so I also never leave home without some of my Perfect Keto chocolate collagen powder. Stick to your routine as much as possible!
  2. Stock your room with food. You can accomplish this by walking to a grocery store or, if that’s not possible, having food delivered. These days there are tons of delivery options including Uber Eats, Instacart, Shipt, etc. Go online once you arrive and see what delivery services are available in the area. Things you might consider ordering include Fage Greek yogurt and heavy cream (if you do dairy) or almond/coconut milk. Then grab something like a rotisserie chicken. Most rooms have access to a mini fridge in the room and a microwave either in your room or in the breakfast area of the lobby. Buy whatever you can that doesn’t require cooking but will keep you satisfied and fueled on ketones.
  3. My favorite keto restaurant while traveling? Chipotle! Get a salad with no beans and no rice but add extra meat and guacamole. Skip the corn, but have fajita peppers and tomatoes if you want and, again if you do dairy, some cheese. Depending on where you are in the country you are going to spend anywhere from $15-20 and be really full and satisfied. Chiptole is everywhere these days from airports and malls to most likely your next interstate exit. Open your map and search. Chances are that if you are in the United States, you are near a Chipotle.
  4. What to order when you can’t pick the restaurant? If you are with a group and don’t get to choose the restaurant, you can still make keto work for you. Most restaurants in the United States will have a hamburger – just skip the bun and go easy on the ketchup (it’s often loaded with sugar). Salads are almost always available too and for an up-charge, they will put chicken, steak, salmon, or some other protein on even the house salad. Only breaded chicken on the menu? No problem. I have never had someone say no when I’ve asked if they can grill a piece for me instead. If you really want to enjoy yourself, though, convince your friends to find a kabob place. You can enjoy delicious roasted meats with a salad on the side and they can still have as much rice, bread, and spicy beans as they want. Everyone wins!

What did I miss? I’ve been traveling a lot lately and would love to hear your tips for staying keto while on the road. Use the comment section below to let me know what works for you!

Mental Health and Lipedema, Challenges and Strategies

Are you struggling with lipedema and depression? Are your lipedema legs or lipedema arms hurting your body image and self-confidence? You are not alone! Many women with lipedema and lymphedema struggle with these issues both before and after a diagnosis. After years of wondering “why are my legs so big” and “why can’t I lose weight” we suddenly have a diagnosis, but that validation often comes with the sting of being told there is little you can do. Be strong, Sturdy Woman.

I’ve heard from many women recently, asking for strategies to help overcome the negative thoughts and hopelessness they feel related to lipedema. This week I want to share some of the struggles I faced, both before and after my diagnosis, and describe some of the strategies I used over the past three years to start reshaping my relationship with myself and my body.

Links included below the video.

Rebekah discusses mental health challenges related to lipedema and suggests strategies that have helped her improve her relationship with her body, mind, and spirit.
  1. Find a Therapist You Trust Really. Do this. I’ve been with mine for more than four years. That’s right, I started working on my body image issues and internalized fat bias an entire year before I learned about lipedema. That was huge in helping me embrace lifestyle changes as medicine rather than punishment. Early in life, I had been the queen of using insults and shame to motivate myself to restrict and over-exercise. Doing some rewiring ahead of my diagnosis set me up to accept that my body is me. She’s a friend who needs love and support, not an enemy to be conquered. The silver lining of COVID is that it is much easier to connect with therapists virtually, so you can more easily squeeze it into a busy schedule and even sit on your own couch!
  2. Movement For me this is walking, but this could be anything that helps you process stress and literally move it out of your body. Go to the pool, dance, or use your vibration plate. These are my favorite wide shoes for walking. Amazon says I’ve bought them 8 times in the past year and a half!
  3. Music While you are moving, put on some upbeat music to put some pep in your step. I literally have a Love Your Lipedema Life playlist. After my diagnosis, I started filling it with anything that made me feel good, whether that was body-positive lyrics or just a great beat. I posted a portion of it on the Sturdy Woman YouTube channel if you want to borrow it. I also did a weekly series on my favorite songs a few years back. Whatever gives you good vibes, collect as much as you can and blast it into your ears as much as possible. This will go a long way toward chasing away the negative voices.
  4. Quotes and Affirmations When collecting happy things, don’t stop with music! Fill your space with positive messages and quotes. Tape them on your wall, your bathroom mirror, or anywhere else you might need a boost. I keep a book of affirmations called You’re Doing A Freaking Great Job on my desk and, yes, I sometimes flip through it during stressful work meetings. Managing a chronic illness can seem like a full-time job but, Sturdy Woman, you are doing a freaking great job! Find a way to remind yourself of that everywhere you look.
  5. Meditation Yes, I already hear some of you groaning, but I was that person too! I thought I just “wasn’t a meditation person” but my therapist was pretty persistent and I trusted her so I finally gave in. To motivate myself I bought a year-long subscription to an app. There are a lot of good free meditation apps, but I knew spending money would trick me into doing it – I wouldn’t want to have wasted money! So I bought Headspace and started trying to meditate for even five minutes a night while pumping. Wow, it was hard at first! No, really. I’m not being dramatic. I wanted to crawl out of my skin, but after a few weeks, I started to see the benefits. My favorite sessions are in the self-compassion course so check those out if you decide to try it.

That’s my list, but what’s on yours? What mental health challenges have you faced related to your lipedema? What has helped you repair your relationship with your body? I’d love to hear from you below in the comments so we can learn from each other.

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Do I have Lipedema? Signs, symptoms, and how to find a lipedema doctor

Have you heard of lipedema legs and now you are wondering how to know if you have lipedema? What are the signs of lipedema and do I have lipedema?

There are a lot of symptom checklists you can find on the internet, but in this post I want to share some of the lesser talked about signs you have lipedema, especially in the early stages. When I was diagnosed I didn’t have the prominent ankle cuff of unexplainable pain that is so often described by ladies in the later stages. But I was quickly deteriorating and literally hit the jackpot when I had a chance meeting with a doctor who has it herself. Unlike you, Sturdy Woman, I’d never even heard the word lipedema! (I assume that’s how you found this page!)

Looking back, there were clues going all the way back to my teenage years. Watch or read below to see what they were. You’ll never suspect the last one!

What are the signs of lipedema? Rebekah discusses how to know if you have lipedema and what kind of doctor to see for lipedema if you think you might have it.

“Boot” or “Sleeve” test for Lipedema

First is what I call the boot test or the sleeve test. If you have lipedema, often your lower body is several dress sizes larger than your upper body. I had – no joke – never owned a pair of boots until I learned about lipedema and lymphedema and started managing my swelling. Yes, even extended (and double-extended) calf boots didn’t fit! Arm lipedema is also common. My upper arms are much larger than “normal” and I used to struggle to fit them into any sleeves that didn’t have a good amount of spandex. So if you can’t wear boots, you might have lipedema, and if sleeves feel like straight jackets, you might have lipedema.

Lipedema Nodules

The next thing to look for are lipedema nodules. These are going to feel like grains of rice, beans, or beads under your skin. If you have arm lipedema, an easy place to feel for them is right in the gorgeous “wing” hanging down from your upper arm. Gently massage the skin there between your thumb and index finger. Guess what, that’s not what everyone else’s fat feels like! I always assumed that was just cellulite. Nope. If you feel a bunch of little bumps, you might have lipedema. Now check your legs and even your lower stomach (I have some there too!)

Easy Bruising with Lipedema and Painful Fat

Do you seem to bruise easily and even have unexplained pain? These are also possible signs of lipedema. Is it painful when a cat or small dog walks across your lap? What about when your kids squirm to get away while you are holding them? If these things hurt – or even bruise you – you might have lipedema. Something as simple as having my blood pressure taken at the doctor was excruciating prediagnosis and even bruised me once or twice. Same thing the first time I had an ultrasound on my leg veins. The supposedly gentle pushing hurt and I was bruised up and down the next day. The good news is that as I’ve healed with keto, fasting, and the rest of my self-care routine (more about that on my Sturdy Woman YouTube channel) all of that has dramatically improved.

Lipedema and EDS or Hyper-Mobility

Are you full of party tricks and the star of your yoga class? Being diagnosed with hypermobility or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) or even just being really bendy could be a reason to learn more about lipedema. Because lipedema is a connective tissue disorder, it can commonly appear alongside these other “unicorn” and “zebra” conditions. I remember being in my twenties and having my yoga teacher yell at me to stop hyperextending my knees. “What are you talking about lady?! This is just how I stand.” (Because of my lipedema!)

Flying with Lipedema

Finally – and this one is my favorite – do you get a lot of extra attention from TSA when you fly? For some reason, lipedema and lymphedema patients frequently fail the full body scan at airport security and get pulled aside for the special pat down. Interestingly, I can pinpoint when that started and stopped in my life and can more or less chart my progress. My thighs first started triggering the alarm when I was near my heaviest, recovering from a near-death illness, and having gained more than 50 pounds in a year without any lifestyle changes. After a year on keto, only my butt was setting it off and six months beyond that it was just my lipedema arms. A few weeks ago, three years after my diagnosis, I went on a work trip to Asia and didn’t set it off once. I stepped to the side automatically, expecting the search but they just yelled me through. “Nothing to see here, ma’am! Keep moving!” Oh my god, I thought, I did it! I have healed so much the machine thinks I’m normal!

Oh my god, I thought, I did it! I have healed so much the machine thinks I’m normal!

Me at TSA three years after my diagnosis

There are different theories about why the full body scanner at airports is fooled by lipedema and lymphedema, but the one I find most convincing is about the extra fluid we carry. If extra fluid in limbs triggers the machine, that would explain why compression leggings and years of clean eating got me through. Have you suddenly started failing the body scan at the airport? It could be a sign you are carrying extra fluid from lipedema or lymphedema.

I think I have it! What kind of doctor do I see for lipedema?

If this is resonating with you and you want to look for a doctor, I have good and bad news. The bad news is it will probably be hard to find a doctor in your area who knows about lipedema unless a fellow sister can refer you to one she knows. The good news is that you might not need one. The most important thing is to find a doctor who is sympathetic, open minded, and who you trust. We have all already had enough gaslighting and mistreatment from doctors!

A vein specialist is the most likely to understand lymphatic disorders, so start with one of those if there’s one available in your area. Some of the chains like Vein Clinics of America offer free consultations and that can be a low-cost way to try someone out. Vein conditions often come with the package of lymphatic disorders, so you might also be able to get help for that (like I did)! If you don’t have one near you, a good family doctor is the next best thing. Do your homework ahead of the appointment and even send information ahead of time if you can. Below are two resources I like to share with doctors about lipedema.

  • What is Lipedema? It’s not normal fat brochure from the Lipedema Foundation. These come in multiple languages and are free. You can either download them to email or print yourself or they will ship some to you. Take one or more of these to your appointment to help educate your provider about the condition. I usually take a handful so they can share them with more patients if they want.
  • Lipedema the Disease they Call Fat: An Overview for Clinicians is a book about lipedema that will walk any doctor through what lipedema is and how to diagnose you. Again, if they are open-minded, compassionate, and truly concerned with helping you, this book will set them on the right path.
  • Once you’ve gotten through the basics with your doctor, on the second or third visit you might print out some research to share with them. This is a great resource on using the keto diet for lipedema and this is the Standard of Care for Lipedema in the United States which was published in 2021.

What did I miss!? Fellow Sturdy Women, please use the comments to share any other signs or symptoms of lipedema that you experienced and how you found your way to a path of better health.

I may receive a small commission if you purchase through Amazon links in this post.

The Best Supplements for Lipedema and Lymphedema

What are the best supplements for lipedema? What about lymphedema supplements? There is no shortage of advice from people online cued up to sell us a miracle cure. How do you know which ones are worth the investment, especially when insurance covers practically none of it for lipedema?

This month I am three years out from my diagnosis with lipedema and lymphedema. Below I want to share the handful of things I’ve found helpful to hopefully save you some heartache and money. We are all bioindividual, however, and you might have different needs. For a complete list of supplements for lipedema and dercums disease, check out this list curated by Dr. Karen Herbst. I’ve said it before, but please consult your own care team before making any changes to your routine.

Here are the supplements I’ve made the foundation of my lipedema treatment:

  1. Perfect Keto Collagen Powder Lipedema is a connective tissue disorder and collagen is the basis of strong connective tissue. If you start losing weight you’ll also want to give your skin a little extra TLC and collagen is great for that. I love the chocolate powder from Perfect Keto and use it in my coffee every day. Check out my recipe for mint chocolate keto coffee and treat yourself to keto decadence. It takes about three months for skin cells to turn over, so plan on investing in it for at least that long to start seeing results. Bonus, my skin and nails have never looked better!
  2. Coromega Max Fish Oil Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. I am not a big fish eater and avoided fish oil for a long time because of the “fish burps” that can happen with pills. Thankfully I found Coromega. Their squeeze packets have no fish taste and taste great. My favorite in the orange – yum!
  3. LMNT Electrolyte Powder Salt is the most misunderstood part of the American diet. If you are keto, carnivore, low-carb, or an intermittent faster then salt is essential for you. You need to be getting at least 2 teaspoons a day. That’s a lot! Measure it out and see for yourself what that looks like. One easy one to get it in is by supplementing with an electrolyte powder. I love LMNT and always carry a few packets in my backpack. Anytime I feel sluggish or down I mix one up and it’s usually all I need to get back on my feet. The chocolate is great to mix into protein shakes! Salted chocolate? Yes, please. Unlike most electrolyte powders, it is designed for a low-carb lifestyle and has none of the usual sugars or sweeteners.
  4. Hesperidin and Diosmin You’ll see this on Dr. Herbst’s list and it was also recommended by my vein doctor when I couldn’t afford the prescription Vasculera they suggested (my insurance wouldn’t cover it and it was nearly $500/month!). Diosmin supports healthy veins, helps with inflammation, and also supports lymph flow.

Have you used other supplements that have been helpful on your journey with lipedema or lymphedema? Leave me a note below in the comments! I created this post based on a request from one of my Sturdy Woman YouTube followers. Curious about something else? Let me know 🙂

If you make a purchase through one of the links in this post I may receive a small commission (but that’s not why I recommended them!).

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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