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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Be As You Are | Music Monday

Women, especially those living with lipedema, learn to apologize at an early age. We’re sorry for taking up space, having bodies that look different, and failing at diets that work perfectly for others. So many of us internalize the message that we are failing at the DIY project that is supposed to be our bodies. Sturdy readers, that is crap. It’s a big, scary pill to swallow, but you will be the most radiant, joyful, and successful when you put down everyone else’s baggage about your body. You weren’t born hating your body – the world taught you to do that. And just like anything you learned in school (except maybe math?) you are free to take it with a grain of salt. Heck, in this case, dump the whole salt shaker on that body shame nonsense and suck the life out of it. The most radical thing you can do is reclaim ownership of your self image. Play, laugh, dress up, and dance in the mirror. Better yet, skinny dip in the ocean like the people in today’s video.

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This week I am reminding myself to let go of the body shame baggage with Mike Posner’s Be As You Are. The main refrain is “just be as you are” and that’s such a beautiful reminder at the beginning of a new week. I think I’ll post that on the wall above my desk to remind me to gently excuse the world’s toxic labels and tune into a more authentic voice.

There are moments when you fall to the ground
But you are stronger than you feel you are now
You don’t always have to speak so loud
No, just be as you are
Life is not always a comfortable ride
Everybody has scars that they hide
And everybody plays the fool sometimes
Just be as you are

Mike Posner, ‘Be As You Are’

For years I entered every room braced for and anticipating failure, rejection, and chairs that couldn’t accommodate my lipedema hips. The past few years I’ve worked really hard to put down that shield and… share the precious blossom that’s me as I am. Here’s to having an authentic week!

Everything’s Going to Be Alright | Music Monday

Sturdy Readers, it was a hard weekend.  Sunday night, when I would have normally been writing this post, I found myself sitting on the bathroom floor instead, sobbing and reorganizing the toiletries under my sink.  It didn’t need to be done, but it felt like the right thing to do.  Monday I’m headed into the office for the first time in two years. I’ll still be working from home and I’m just cleaning out my desk, but the simple thought of going there unexpectedly triggered an avalanche of confusing feelings about my “old” life and my “new” life.

The last day I spent in the office was in March 2020 and I snuck out early so no one would see my tears.  The day before I’d been diagnosed with lipedema and lymphedema – two things I’d never heard of – and at the time it felt like a death sentence.  I couldn’t focus on work because all I wanted to do was search Google and, the more I did that, the more freaked out I became.  In the weeks that followed, as COVID shut down the world, I literally had nothing to do other than Google “lipedema” and “lymphedema”. In those moments, I couldn’t have imagined the strong, confident, beautiful woman who would eventually return to the cubicle next to the office bathroom. 

Yet, sitting there on my own bathroom floor… that transformed woman was terrified of facing the ghost of her pre-lipedema self.  My file draw is full of trail mix I can no longer eat.  My bulletin board holds smiling pictures from a relationship that’s since ended. That woman doesn’t exist anymore.

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How I wish I could light a fire in the middle of the office and burn the contents of my desk, memories and all.  No thank you, I don’t need any packing boxes.  Forward.  All I want to do is move forward… but I can’t do that without cleaning out the demons.    

You probably know by now, that in moments of despair I reach for my headphones.  There, on the bathroom floor Sunday night, I put on what is usually my most upbeat Pandora mix.  After skipping a few total downers from Alannis Morissett and Sara Bareilles (what the heck were those doing in my dance mix?!) I landed on exactly what I needed.

Andy Grammer’s Lease on Life started mellow and I almost skipped it too, but I’m grateful I didn’t. The drums kick in full force, and he belts out “Everything’s gonna be alright, got a brand new lease on life.”

Like a sunrise on the longest night
Like a rescue coming just in time
Yeah, you save me when I cannot see the light
Everything’s gonna be alright
Got a brand new lease on life

Andy Grammer, “Lease on Life”

I nearly broke my cabinet door jumping up to catch the name of the song and once I was up… I couldn’t help but start dancing, tears still rolling down my cheeks.  I hit repeat repeat repeat and before I knew it, I felt better.  That’s actually not surprising.  Did you know physical activity – any physical activity – is essential for ending a stress cycle? My constant encouragement for you to dance is evidence-based!

So, wherever you are today (hopefully not crying in the bathroom, but that’s ok too) press play on Lease on Life and move that body until the stress moves the hell out.  You got this

I Like Your Waist in Particular | Music Monday

What puts a smile on your face and makes you feel at home?  Maybe it’s a familiar meal, scent, or piece of clothing.  For me, in 2017, it was a song.  I had recently moved to Boston for graduate school, straight off six years in West Africa and I was miserable.  The people were cold, and the weather was colder.  I was deep in the throes of reverse culture shock and fighting a body that, with undiagnosed lipedema, I considered enemy number one.  In Liberia my clothes had literally been tailor-made and suddenly, back in the United States, I couldn’t seem to fit my exploding upper arms and thighs into even the ugliest clothes at Goodwill.

To boost my spirits on the frigid walk to school each morning I created a playlist called “I am strong” and blasted it while wishing I was anywhere else, in any other body.    Particula by Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa was the far and away most played track on the list.  Not only does it feature cameos from some of Africa’s most well-loved modern musicians, but the beats demand to be danced to, and the fashions are the stuff of style dreams. If I closed my eyes and channeled equatorial sun, I could almost smell the now so distance mix of pepper dust and dried meat in the outdoor market or see the smiling faces of children gathered to dance on my porch. Passersby on the sidewalk couldn’t tell, but I was transported.

The lyrics start out smooth and cool.

They told me everybody’s
15 minutes in a different time zone
And since I have it at the moment
You’re the one I wanna shine my light on
Get your life, get your life, little mama
Won’t you get your life on

Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa, “Particula”

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It then progresses to some of my all-time favorite song lyrics, including “ain’t nothing cooler than the wrong moves when you do them to the right song.”  Let me tell you, nothing I did in 2017 felt cool or seemed right but I could get through it with Particula as the soundtrack.  I hope, on this Music Monday, it feels like the right song for whatever new and awkward thing you are brave enough to try. 

The song continues almost immediately with “nobody’s trying to bring sand to the beach” which always sets me off and puts me in my groove.  What a great reminder to bring something new and different… which is exactly what you are when you show up as you.  And just at the moment Particula has you wondering if it’s safe to do that, it launches into a refrain that’s perfect for Sturdy Women everywhere.

I like you, girl, in particular
You in particular
I like your waist in particular

Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa, “Particula”

The video then launches into one of the best dance sequences I’ve seen, complete with a Dance Dance Revolution battle and a synchronized performance with plastic drink crates.  If you can watch it without tapping your foot, bobbing your head, or jumping out of your chair… check your pulse.

So, my question to you, Sturdy reader, is could you dare to love your waist—your body—in particular?  What can you bring to the beach today that isn’t sand?  Could you allow yourself to do the wrong moves and trust your heart will sing the right song?  Imagine the colorful, funky, perfect dance party that would break out in your soul if you allowed yourself to feel at home here and now, exactly as you are.  Press play below and invite it in with Particula