Every Body Belongs

Friend asked me to post some lipedema fighter progress pics for women’s health awareness.

What started as pearshaped in my teens escalated into decades of fatshaming by health professionals & society as my ankles, knees, elbows disappeared beneath layers of dimpled fat & fluid that did not shift with diet or exercise.

I gave up, many times.

Diagnosed with lymphoedema in 2000, but had never heard of lipedema until a physiotherapist diagnosed me in 2009.

“Before” pics taken in Tasmania, 2014

My pics, (from shoulders down, too ashamed to include my face) sent to cosmetic surgeons around Australia – those who bothered to reply said they were unable to help.

The male-dominated plastic surgery industry’s profits lies in exploitation of healthy insecure women willingly spending obscene amounts of money on unnecessary elective procedures.

No one was interested or trained in fat disorders.

It was obvious there was no cosmetic surgeon in my country of birth who cared about the physical and emotional distress I was suffering, nor that of the other 10% of women who suffer from an inherited hormonal condition inhibiting our lives and the macro-level negative effect on our families and communities.

By 2016, I was unable to move around without physical assistance.

Then I found Anne Dancey in England – compassionate surgeon excelling in complex liposuction for lipoedema.

My life has been transformed by the removal of 35 litres of abnormal fat from my feet, ankles, legs & butt.

Last operation was 2017.

“After” pics taken Easter, 2019. 

I’m middle aged, saggy & baggy, some loose skin post-op.

My tummy & arms are still affected by lipoedema – but I am mobile again and unabashed.

My “dress size” doesn’t matter. 

It only matters that I am outdoors, active, that my thighs no longer sweat, chafe and bleed when I walk.

I can gallivant with my family exploring the world (currently Ireland) instead of waiting in the car alone with swollen unshod feet.

My butt now fits down the slippery dip in the playground…..to the delight of my sixth child.  I missed out on sharing that experience with my first five children.

  Lipedema robbed me of so much. 

BMI was invented by a mathematician in the 19th century & is a false rubric for health assessment, causing false assumptions about life choices made by “overweight people”.

There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it. (From “If I Had My Life To Live Over” by Erma Bombeck)

I’m reclaiming my time.

The precious moments wasted, the times I stayed out of the sea I loved so my body would stay hidden from public view, decades of suffering judgement from fatshamers for an undiagnosed inherited condition I couldn’t control, the self loathing, the bouts of depression, the perpetual armour of self-deprecating humour, the clothes I “shouldn’t” wear.

The times I stayed in, to spare people the sight of me.

My despair was in even greater disproportion to actual reality than my thighs were to my waist, though. Most of it was in my head. I didn’t give many people a chance to reassure me of my worth, because I avoided most people.

I thought I was “too big” size 8. Size 10. Size 12. Size 14. Size 16. Size 18. 12. 14. 20. 24. 16. 14. 20. 24. 16. 18.

What difference does it make? Less than a century ago women made our own clothes, on mannequins modelled after our own bodies & shopping “off the rack” hadn’t become public exercise of conformity to sweat shop fashion and the male gaze.

Never did I think I’d be reacquainted with my ankles nor the feeling of my kneebones touching after decades of being trapped in a living unzippable fatsuit…the joy is unreal….but my ops were to restore mobility to a body in constant chronic pain, a body that was destined for a wheelchair unless I had surgical intervention.

Liposuction is not an easy option and it wasn’t a decision made out of vanity.

It was a lifeline, as I viewed my world shrinking to where I was bedridden, no longer able to engage in life as the independent woman I had been just a few years before.

Now, independent again in 2019, living in the moment and looking forward, but with some inner scars that heal slower than others.

My self esteem had four decades of being told that only skinny is sexy, fat can’t be fit.

Not true.

No-one should be made to feel there isn’t room for them to be among other people.

Life is for living, the Light is for later.

If anyone wants me, I’m in the bath. Still.

So, around Christmas 2015, I just decided to let it all hang out online, temporarily.

If the Universe had cursed me with a degenerative incurable fat disorder that was rapidly making me immobile, I was going to accept it and get on with living life.

Maybe, if my hubby The Fenian and I took photos of me doing ordinary things, bathing, eating, travelling, swimming, etc and posted them on Instagram or tumblr, my body image and that of other lipoedema sufferers would become normalised.

People would stop staring at lippy ladies.

If I was going to be forced to live with lipoedema then the internet fat-shamers were going to have to become educated about Painful Fat Syndrome and accept me also.

Solidarity, sisters! Where are the modern Rubenesque paintings of lush thighs and dimpled bottoms?

Women in the Victorian era strapped pads to their thighs and metal cages to their arses to make them appear like walking talking butternut squashes the same way Nature shaped me in the 20th Century. 

Check out the beautiful photographs taken by Leonard Nimoy of ample-figured women.

Google search “pawg”.

We exist and believe it or not, there’s room for all of us – even with bingo wings.

As you can see from the photo, I have lipoedema in my arms, also.

Thankfully, since the liposuction operations on my legs, my lymph system and overall measurements have reduced and I can now once again buy and wear garments that have sleeves, instead of waving my jiggly fidoobiders around like two overcooked sides of boiling bacon.

Movements like Free The Nipple and mybodygallery.com are designed to liberate women from expectations of body image. 

Hyper-sexualisation of the breasts we’ve developed to nurture our babies is exacerbated by men of religion who legislate their hang ups with censorship or in some regimes, stoning to death of women they regard as immodest.

Observing our bodies in their naked state reminds ourselves as a diverse human species inhabiting every corner of the globe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The sight of a naked fellow human being, no matter their size, shouldn’t be a shocking thing.

We’ve conditioned ourselves to be shamed by the vessel that houses our spirit and our spirits and our minds are the poorer for the shame.

Variety is the spice of life, despite Miss Universe pageants and Victoria’s Secret marketing.

So, in the spirit of Annie Sprinkle demystifying the female body, I bravely made my nude bath photo my twitter avatar as a mini social experiment.

Unlike Kim Kardashian’s subversive neo-blaxploitation butt pics, the internet didn’t break.

In fact, the internet was too polite to mention it – I had over 1000 twitter followers at the time and barely anyone mentioned one Saturday afternoon that I’d changed my profile pic to that of a tattooed middle-aged morbidly obese woman (with tits and belly that showcased evidence of diligent engagement of six children, a nephew and occasional grandchild) *apparently smoking medicinal cannabis (which remains illegal and blocked by bureaucracy in Australia) in a clawfoot bath.

I chose the bath because it had become my permanent refuge, the water helped my lymph circulation and eased the chronic pain from aching heavy legs and the struggle to pull 125kg around. 

I was in the bath more often than anywhere else, although “in bed” and “helped into and out of the recliner” were my other main hangouts.

(In our house in Tasmania, hubby The Fenian had installed a corner spa – although I’m a Greenie and all for water economy I can’t recommend a cool spa for swollen legs and lipoedema highly enough.)

My legs and buttocks had become so large by 2015, I could barely fit in the bath.

In fact, I had to stand up to drain all the water when I pulled the plug – I was a blancmange-like dam.  Any top up of hot water never reached the cooling pool between my bum and the non-tap end of the bathtub.

I’d joked for years I was more dugong than woman, unhappy on land. If only I could stay in my tank.

But back to my bath photo – so much for provoking art, photography, debate and education, people were too embarrassed at the sight of me to engage!

So, this is what a woman with lipoedema taking a bath looks like. Live with it.

I’ll post an updated nudie bathtub pic soon – I’m much smaller and rapt with my transformation but still “fat” by trumpism standards. 

I don’t care.

This is about women’s health, not the usual shallow misogynistic magazine wankfluff article on “beach bodies” with genetically blessed and silicone enhanced celebrities in designer floss.

The stigma of being “overweight”, whether by lifestyle choices or fat disorders, won’t disappear until we all let it all hang out.

I’m roughly a UK size 16. That’s fine.

Dress size doesn’t mean a thing, other than inconvenience if you can’t sew nor shop off the rack.

It’s about mobility & fitness & confidence and being able to hang out with my family & cycle and walk my dogs – I don’t need to kid myself that if I was size 8 my life would suddenly become wonderful.

My physical independence has been restored – that makes my life wonderful.