As told by Catherine Seo.

Radical Acceptance and Compassion: The Gift of Lipoedema

Radical acceptance can be defined as “Letting go of fighting reality.
Accepting your situation for what it is.” A Zen version is simply, “it is what it is.”

Perfect idealized images of women barrage us through the media. Slim, tall, flawless creatures of desire that appear with a sense of glamor are used again and again to objectify someone else’s image of reality. It certainly wasn’t my image of my reality. When I looked (notice past tense) into the mirror, that’s not at all what I saw or experienced. My inner criticism only exemplified an inner dialogue of comparison and deficiency that became a constant companion for me on my life journey.

After almost 40 years of struggling with weight and dieting, I successfully shed and maintained a weight loss of 140 pounds (10 stone) beginning at 320 pounds (23 stone). I maintained that weight loss for almost 20 years until I hit peri-menopause. This was with the support of regular attendance at self-help groups, a strong like-minded community, and a structured very low carbohydrate food plan of weighing and measuring 3 meals a day with no sugar, flour, grains or high starch veggies and nothing in between meals except water, diet soda and tea.

Yes, I carried a scale with me, and weighed and measured all meals no matter the situation. I was still considered overweight by most charts, my thighs and upper arms were disproportionate to the rest of me, but I was content with my size 14s and occasional 12s. And then peri-menopause hit, and I blew up seemingly overnight. Though it happened over some time, I regained 25 pounds (2 stone) over a few years while maintaining the same very clean food plan.

Physical issues, a rampant cysts condition that literally erupted in tender areas of my body, and 5 surgeries later, I ended up with significant problems. Surgery done on my thighs resulted in continual uncontrollable swelling. It was during physical therapy with a lymphedema therapist that we realized that I have lipoedema. That was less than 2 months ago.

I walked around for weeks as if in a state of disbelief, a mantra of sorts singing in my head, “You mean it’s not my fault!” repeated again and again. All the years of trying so hard, the self-judgment, the guilt, shame and utter sense of powerlessness and deficiency, the last vestiges of that critical and relentless measuring stick as to how I fared in the world, well, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, began to dissolve. Though Self-Acceptance is a process I have been engaged in for a lifetime, this single event had radical impact.

Beginning to understand the implications of lipoedema, finding a community of like-minded women, taking the actions I can take, have all liberated a decision to affect my own life. I began an exercise program 10 months ago, and feel more physically fit than I can ever recall. I’m walking in my 2nd 5K walkathon on this Sunday, September 23. I have embraced yoga, pilates, walking regularly, water aerobics, and even tried kick-boxing. Not what I imagined for my 60s, I am grateful and look forward every day to my exercise time. I am coming to know, accept, and befriend my body. I am listening to its wisdom and as I am able to do that, my body is responding and healing. I am healing.

My Primary Care Physician (PCP) and my surgeon are both very good doctors, caring and competent. They didn’t know about lipoedema. Many doctors I saw seeking answers, they didn’t know about lipoedema. Specialists and endocrinologists, they didn’t know about lipoedema.

So now I know about lipoedema. And my initial attempt to explain and share the information with my PCP so he could partner with me in my treatment turned into www.lipedema-simplified.org. And now I hope others will learn about lipoedema. There are still so many women who don’t have the information that can help them. While this is only a beginning, it’s a step. Thank you Lipoedema Ladies. We are stronger together than we can be alone. This is radical acceptance. This is moving forward with compassion and kindness, strong and ready.

This is the gift of lipoedema.