A large and growing percentage of the population is overweight or obese. The last few decades have seen a significant rise in overweight and obesity rates, and what used to be something unusual is now commonplace.
The most obvious cause of weight gain is eating too many calories combined with a lack of physical activity. This causes a calorie surplus. Unused calories are converted into and stored as body fat. A pound of body fat contains about 3,500 calories.
Being overweight can have a significant impact on how you look and feel, as well as your health. Diseases commonly associated or made worse by being overweight include:
- Coronary heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type II diabetes
- Heart attack
- Sleep apnea
- Pulmonary disease
- Liver disease
How To Lose Weight With Lipedema
Exercising and eating healthily can lead to weight loss, but, in some instances, losing weight is hindered by underlying medical conditions or prescription medication. Unfavorable genetics can also put the brakes on fat loss.
One such condition is lipedema. With lipedema, fat accumulates in the legs and ankles and can be hard to shift. One of the most common symptoms is colloquially called cankles – where the calves and ankles appear to merge into one.
This is a common problem, and a lot of people want to know how to lose weight with lipedema. Lipedema can be difficult to treat and may require medical help to do so. That’s because it’s actually a type of disease from a group of conditions called Rare Adipose Disorders, or RAD for short.
However, despite this, both diet and exercise can help, and there are some easy-to-implement lifestyle changes that are beneficial too. In this article, we’re going to explain what lipedema is, how it’s usually managed, and what nutritional changes and exercises may help too.
What Is Lipedema?
Lipedema is a medical condition that results in fat being stored under the skin and mainly in the lower body. It usually affects women more than men. In fact, it’s estimated that 11 percent of women suffer from lipedema.
Lipedema sufferers tend to be very sensitive to pressure on their legs and bruise easily. It’s a progressive condition that, if left untreated, can cause difficulty walking.
The causes of lipedema are largely genetic and can also be triggered by changes in hormones, such as during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Some lipedema sufferers find that, no matter how strictly they diet, they are unable to lose the fat in their lower bodies. This can lead to eating disorders.
Lipedema is usually diagnosed using MRI or ultrasound scans. Your doctor may also do a lymphangiogram to check that your lymphatic system is working correctly, as fluid retention can make lipedema worse.
Stages of Lipedema
As a progressive condition, lipedema develops in stages. Not all sufferers will experience all three stages, and many remain in stage one or two. The three recognized stages of lipedema are:
Stage 1 – the skin looks normal, but there is an increase in fat in the legs, usually disproportional to the rest of the body.
Stage 2 – fat levels increase, and there are indentations that resemble a mattress. There may be visible fatty lumps with prominent blood vessels called angiolipomas.
Stage 3 – large fat deposits around the ankles and knees. Increased fat deposits may be accompanied by increased levels of lymphatic fluid, a condition called lipo-lymphedema.
How Can Lipedema Be Managed
It’s still not known why lipedema fat is so difficult to lose.
One possible reason is that the fat cells are abnormally large and have an insufficient blood supply, which makes them harder to break down and burn for energy.
While exercise and diet can be helpful, other methods and treatments for lipedema include:
Low-carb/low-sugar diet – eating fewer carbs and less sugar reduces insulin production. Insulin interferes with fat burning and promotes fat storage. A low-carb/low-sugar diet can also help reduce fluid retention.
Regular exercise – exercise helps burn excess calories and fat but is even more useful for keeping lymph fluid moving freely. Gentle, rhythmic exercise can help prevent the fluid retention that can make lipedema worse.
Lymph draining massage – this is a special kind of massage designed to move lymph fluid up through the lymphatic system and stop it pooling in the lower extremities. This is a very specialist form of massage, and care must be taken because of the increased sensitivity to pressure and risk of bruising.
Compression garments – although compression garments won’t do much for the accumulation of fat, they can prevent fluid retention. The main drawback of using compression garments is that they can be hard to put on and may become uncomfortably tight.
Lipectomy – done for cosmetic and mobility reasons, some lipedema suffers have excess fat removed with surgery. However, like all surgeries, there are risks with this type of procedure, including the infection and problems associated with anesthesia.
Best Diet for Lipedema
There are several diets that may help reduce the symptoms of lipedema. Not only will they reduce your calorie intake to promote fat burning, but they also have a direct impact on some of the potential causes and side effects of lipedema.
A gluten-free diet – gluten is a protein found in wheat that some people find hard to digest. In others, it can cause an inflammatory, immunological response. Lipedema is thought to be made worse by inflammation, so eliminating gluten makes a lot of sense.
The paleo diet – going paleo means cutting out all refined foods and eating a very natural diet. It’s low in gluten and sugar and is good for reducing inflammation. The paleo diet is low in carbs, high in protein, and provides an abundance of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber.
The RAD diet – short for Rare Adipose Tissue Diet, this eating plan was designed specifically for lipedema suffers. It’s a sort of low-fat paleo diet that revolves around eating mostly natural foods. The RAD diet also involves consuming fresh juices and smoothies. It’s meant to be an anti-inflammatory diet that is also lower in calories.
Keto diet – keto dieters invariably lose a lot of water weight when they cut carbs from their meals. As lipedema is made worse by water retention, going keto may help. However, lipedema sufferers should also limit their intake of sodium, something that can be quite high during keto, as that can actually increase fluid retention.
Diet to cut out food sensitivities and intolerances – lipedema is made worse by inflammation, and any food to which you are sensitive should be avoided. Common culprits include sugar, nuts, wheat, artificial chemicals, and dairy. If you know you are sensitive to a particular food, you should avoid it, even if it’s only a mild intolerance.
Exercises to Try
All forms of exercise can be beneficial for lipedema suffers, but depending on the severity of your condition, some may be impractical or even painful. Good options include:
Non-impact cardio – walking or using an exercise bike or elliptical will help burn calories and fat without putting undue stress on your joints.
Cardio stimulates the lymphatic system, helping to reduce fluid accumulation. Research suggests that walking about 10,000 steps (five miles) per day is also beneficial but may be uncomfortable in late-stage two and stage three of the development of lipedema.
Swimming is arguably the best form of exercise for lipedema sufferers, as it puts the least amount of stress on the joints.
Weight training – weight training is a useful alternative to cardio and is advantageous because many exercises can be done while seated. Even light strength training using 5 to 10-pound dumbbells can help increase lymph circulation and drainage.
The important thing is to choose types of exercise you enjoy, can do regularly, and that is comfortable. It doesn’t matter how good a workout is; if you don’t like it, you won’t do it consistently or often enough for it to be beneficial. Try a few different options to discover the one you enjoy the most.
In most cases, the cause of weight and fat gain are easy to identify. Eating more than usual and a decrease in physical activity will create a calorie surplus, and those excess calories are then converted to and stored as fat.
Hormones and gender dictate where the fat accumulates, with men tending to store fat around the abdomen (android obesity) and women around the hips and thighs (gynoid obesity).
For reasons we don’t understand, Lipedema causes fat to accumulate in the lower extremities and in more significant amounts than usual. Excess calories still play a part, but fat gain is usually far greater than would normally be expected.
It’s mainly women who are affected by lipedema, and as many as 11 percent will suffer from this condition. The causes are as yet unknown, but there seems to a link between lipedema and hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy and menopause.
Lipedema, like any fat and weight gain, can affect the sufferer’s health and could even limit mobility. Fat around the ankles and knees can make walking difficult and uncomfortable. There are no cures for lipedema, but several things can be done to make this condition less impactful.
A diet low in sugar and carbs will help, as will avoiding any known allergens. Regular exercise is beneficial, both for fat burning and maintaining lymphatic circulation. An unhealthy diet and inactivity will invariably make things worse.