Want to drop a few pounds? Reel in your diet and amp up your exercise routine. Following this advice works, until it doesn't.
Let me explain.
To lose a pound of fat, you have to burn more calories than you take in… unless you have lipedema. Not familiar with the term? Most people aren't, but an estimated 10 percent of all women suffer from the painful condition that makes it difficult — if not impossible — to lose weight.
"I was so frustrated," Emily Bartley, 16, told People of her weight-loss process. "I did end up losing about 30 pounds, but after I lost the weight, it was obvious that my legs were much bigger than the rest of me."
She was eventually diagnosed with lipedema, a fat storage disease where fat accumulates in disproportionate amounts primarily in the hips, legs and arms. Those affected typically describe having "column-like" or "tree-like" legs, according to Bartley's doctor, Dr. David Amron.
"At first I was shocked just to know that it was even something that I had never heard about," Bartley said. "It made me feel good, though. I was happy that [the extra fat] wasn't my fault."
If that wasn't bad enough, those affected typically experience serious pain and swelling. And there's no cure. Bartley opted for tumescent liposuction to remove fat on her legs.
I have always hated taking before and afters from the front because my legs always looked exactly the same and it was hard to see changes in my stomach... I took this updated picture and when I compared it to the old picture I was so excited! Lipedema kept me from seeing the results I've worked so hard for. I am now about 2 months post-op from my Lipedema procedure and I couldn't be happier. To finally see changes in my body is so motivating and reassuring. It's tough when you're doing all the right things but your own body is fighting against you. When I first got diagnosed with Lipedema, I didn't want anybody to know. I was embarrassed and didn't want to have to deal with it. As I learned more about it, and how so many people are affected by it, yet have no clue, I wanted to share my story. I told everyone I knew and started this Instagram. I just wanted to make people aware. So many people are misdiagnosed as being obese or overweight, when really it is not their fault. Lipedema is immune to diet and exercise and the only cure is liposuction. There is always judgment when I say I've had liposuction because some people jump straight to conclusions thinking that I did this for cosmetic reasons. I did this because I still have the rest of my life to live. Lipedema held me back from living my life to the fullest. I am only 16 years old and I've spent my whole adolescence being ashamed of my body. Too many people go through their entire life being trapped by this disease without even knowing it. If any of my followers feel like they might have Lipedema or have been diagnosed... I want you to know that I'm always here to chat! Going through this with someone by your side is so much easier than by yourself. #Lipedema #lipedemaawareness #beforeandduring #healthyliving
"It's not a simple procedure," Amron told the magazine of the liposuction. "The surgery I do avoids general anesthesia, so I do it with a conscious patient. The reasons for that are it's a safer way of doing it, but the main reason is to get the perfect result, you have to position the patient while you're doing it. If you don't approach this correctly, you can damage the lymphatics."
Lipedema is still widely misunderstood — especially in the United States — but a growing (and vocal) number of sufferers are speaking out to keep others from feeling so alone. And Bartley is thrilled with her results.
"There is always judgment when I say I've had liposuction because some people jump straight to conclusions thinking that I did this for cosmetic reasons," the teen wrote on Instagram. "I did this because I still have the rest of my life to live. Lipedema held me back from living my life to the fullest."
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