Echoes of the voices of my youth. And then the less offensive, but just as hurtful:
So-and-so said this diet worked for her.
Have you tried walking?
Boys won’t like you unless you lose weight.
For as long as I can remember, my weight had been the paramount issue in my life. Years ago I wrote a blog about how “if only” wiped out all the good in my life.
“You are so talented, if only you weren’t overweight.”
“You are so smart, if only you weren’t so heavy.
“You are such a good person, if only your body wasn’t so big.”
Many times I’ve cried out to God, “Why have you given me this struggle?” I wondered if, like Paul, I had been given a thorn in my side (2 Corinthians 12:7), a struggle that would never be taken away.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
I’m not as evolved as Paul. I don’t take pleasure in this particular weakness. But I can see how God has used it in my life.
As a young child, I experienced sexual abuse. My excess weight protected me as I grew up, by making me less attractive to those who might take advantage of my fragile self-concept. It ensured I found a man who loved me for my inner beauty and helped me discover my outer beauty.
As a young woman, I learned to use my intelligence and personality, because I felt like I had to. Because I didn’t feel I was physically attractive, I assumed people wouldn’t like me or employers wouldn’t hire me. I thought I needed to prove myself in other ways. This strengthened me.
As I worked through my issues with food, I learned about the connection between my thoughts, feelings, and actions. I learned that if I am forcing myself to an ill-fitting mould, I won’t become what I’m supposed to become. And I won’t be as useful for God’s purpose.
Slowly, I worked through some of the pain and learned more about how God has made me. I learned important things like I need quiet time, I need to fuel my body with protein in the morning, and I can’t do it all. And neither can others. Looking back, I can see how God has used this journey with weight to my benefit.
I’m not sure when it happened, but I made a reluctant peace with my body. I recognized its strength. I could see how I was able to still snuggle my 17-year-old son or help my husband move a queen sized sofa bed because I am big and strong.
My key concern became maintaining my health. And so I started doing the things that made me feel healthier and enabled me to do the things I need to do. I told God that my body shape was in His hands, and sometimes I even believed it. I had done everything I could think of, including some not so healthy things, and finally realized that I had to leave it up to Him.
But despite ongoing good health checkups, another problem was evolving: physical pain. My legs and arms aches and my knees and lower back were getting worse. Yoga and massage helped, but it was very painful at times… particularly on my legs. Things that I enjoyed like hiking and travel were slipping away.
Last fall I cried out to God again: Please fix this. Please take this burden away.
I happened to meet a lady who had gastric bypass surgery. I had talked to my doctors in the past and we had always agreed that gastric bypass surgery didn’t make sense for me. Other than my weight, I was a very healthy person. But the pain was causing me to rethink this decision. I prayed for God to show me if this was the right move for me.
I felt led to search for stories where gastric bypass did not help. Right away I came across a story of a woman who had gastric bypass and lost some weight off her core, but her legs and arms remained large. Hmm, this sounded familiar. She discovered she had Lipedema!
I researched Lipedema. It is a genetic disease where the fat cells multiply and grow in the legs and sometimes in the arms. These cells have a thicker outer shell and do not break down in response to diet and exercise. They also cause the retention of Lymphatic fluid. This causes pain and achiness, adds pressure to your joints, and also results in bruising. It grows during periods of high estrogen: puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Every symptom I read sounded like I was reading about me. Every woman’s story could have been my story.
I took this information to my doctor and after a couple of appointments it was confirmed. What a relief! I now knew that all those years of dieting, with little to no results, made sense. My sudden weight and pant size gain in junior high and with my first pregnancy lined up with my diagnosis.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Lipedema. There are courses of management. Lymphatic drainage massage, compression therapy, and compression garments can help with fluid retention and resulting pain. I can avoid certain foods that cause inflammation. Many Lipedema sufferers find a Keto diet (high protein and fat) helpful in keeping the cells from further replication (some studies indicate that the Lipedema fat cells multiply with low fat, low calorie diets). And there are some surgical options in Europe, particularly in Germany, which is much further ahead in recognizing and treating this disease.
Sometimes, I feel angry that it has taken this long. I wonder why God didn’t bring this information to me through the various doctors who I had consulted over the years. Why did it get this far?
Perhaps so I would know God hand was in my healing. Maybe I needed to actually give it over to Him, instead of trying to fix it myself. And maybe it is so I can witness His power in my weakness, and help others in the process.
If you want to know more about Lipedema check out the following websites:
By Erica Bailey