Zoe’s Story

I first noticed my legs were big as a teenager in school. Kids were cruel and I was called ‘thunder thighs’. Jeans didn’t fit and I couldn’t wear leggings like the other girls. I already felt “different”.

This coupled with other things that happened in my teenage years, meant I developed a terrible relationship with food. I didn’t understand it at the time but years of therapy mean I now know I suffer(ed) with disordered eating and binge eating disorder with purging. My poor relationship with food is an ongoing battle as is the battle with my weight and body image.

I had a complete nervous breakdown in 2003 and then battled with anxiety and depression for many years. My weight was completely out of control and in the end, out of desperation I underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2008.

This was very successful and I lost the best part of 13st. But I still was not a “normal size ” my legs were still huge. I was a size 12/14 on top and a 16/18 on the bottom.

I had two babies and for a while it was ok. I returned to work in 2016. Then I began to try and lose weight again. I started running.

This was huge for me. As a person who always felt “different ” from everyone else. Overweight, in the way, always worrying about what I looked like and what people thought of me, thinking every time someone looked at me they were thinking, ‘she would be better if she lost weight’. I was now putting myself amongst fit people, sporty people and I’d never been sporty in my life! And I was in public… wearing running tights!

I was part of a running club and I was doing well. 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, 50k! Triathlons no less.

But, my legs were still huge. Every time I saw race photos I cried.

So then I decided to have a series of painful operations to have the loose skin removed from the huge weight loss I had 8 years previously.

The surgery to my top half of my body was amazing. I was very happy with this.

But it made my legs even more out of proportion. So, I had a remedial thigh lift… Big mistake.

After the surgery the swelling just didn’t go down. My legs began to grow. I was distraught. I was struggling to run. I stopped doing triathlon, I stopped going to running club and stopped going to park run. My mental health was rapidly going downhill.

I was in so much pain with my legs, I felt cheated. No matter what I did my legs were massive.

Then I found Professor Mortimer at St George’s hospital in London. He diagnosed me with Lipoedema and it finally all made sense. He said to me, ‘it’s not your fault, you couldn’t have done anymore’. I actually cried.

Some days I feel so angry. My whole life I’ve struggled with the way I look. I developed an eating disorder and became morbidly obese as a result. Every Doctor and nurse I ever spoke to always had something negative or unpleasant to say about my weight and it completely takes over your life.

But it was Lipoedema. I was never going to change my legs.

Now I’m fighting for the treatment I need. The NHS don’t recognise this as a medical condition. They think treatment for varicose veins (I need this before liposuction) and liposuction is cosmetic. But it’s so much more than what we look like.

I hurt. I actually hurt ALL THE TIME. But do you know what? I’m still running (slowly compared to 5 years ago) and walking 25+ miles each week. I am lifting weights and eating a good healthy diet. I deserve a chance to be comfortable.

To not feel like I’m dragging two, 10 ton weights around .To not get ulcers, cellulitis or pain. I’m 44 years old and sometimes I feel 144. But I cannot give in.

If I do a 8 mile walk with a friend I’m lifted mentally but I pay for it for about 3 days afterwards. I’m in such pain. But I cannot NOT go out. If I do my mental health plummets.

But none of this is taken into account by the NHS.

Most of all, I fear it getting worse. Of losing my mobility completely.  That would be utterly devastating for me.

So the medical world needs to wake up and listen to the experts who know and understand this condition and stop writing us lippy ladies off as simply ‘fat’. Give us a chance… please give us curative treatment and the support we deserve.