Maintaining a Healthy Weight

For lipoedema patients, an important element to support self-care is maintaining a healthy weight. This also helps reduce the risk of other obesity-related conditions such as diabetes, cancer, cardio-vascular disease and joint degeneration. However, it is probably one of the most difficult aspects of care to embrace – especially if lipoedema has been present for many years. 

It is generally acknowledged that dieting has very little impact on the lipoedema fat.  Lipoedema UK completed a Big Survey in 2014 which illustrated that only 5% of the respondents who dieted lost weight evenly across the body; 82% had lost weight - but only in parts of the body that were not affected by the lipoedema. So, dieting may enhance the body disproportion; highlighting the abnormal limb size and leads to frustration and a cycle of emotional/comfort eating and further weight gain. 

However, a significant proportion of lipoedema patients do also have general obesity (often due to the yo-yo effects of dieting and the effects of the worsening lipoedema which begins to effect mobility). For obesity patients reducing the non-lipoedema fat tissue through a healthy eating programme, and appropriate physical activity is even more important.

Finding ways to eat healthy well-balanced diets is crucial for long-term successful management. It must start with appropriate help, advice, support and information to find a healthy eating plan that suits individualised food preferences and life style.

Eating healthier is easier said than done, read our healthy eating BLOG to learn more.  

One of the easiest ways to learn more is to go to the NHS UK website (www.nhsuk/live-well/eat-well). One of the recommendations is to follow the Eatwell Guide .  You may find it difficult to follow the guide each and every day at first – but if you try and adhere to the basic principles once or twice a week, the process will become easier and before you know it, you will become much more conscious about the food you eat each and every day. 

Exploring the Eatwell Guide will show you what to eat, why – and how much you need to maintain a healthy weight. It looks at the building blocks of our diet such as:

  • Carbohydrates or starchy food, which makes up over a third of the food we eat. Try and choose wholegrain or high fibre versions if possible, such as brown rice – or potatoes with skins left on
  • Fruit and vegetables should also make up over a third of what we eat every day as they a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre (we need at least 5 portions of a different variety each day). But try to avoid too many glasses of fruit juice or smoothies – only one per day counts, no matter how many you have
  • Protein - preferably in the form of beans or pulses (rather than red meat) is recommended. But fish too is important - 2 portions of fish per week is suggested – one of which should be oily fish such as salmon/mackerel
  • Dairy food is important to help keep our bones strong (e.g. milk, cheese and yoghurt) - but choose lower fat/sugar options wherever possible (e.g. plain yoghurt, low fat milk)
  • 'Good’ fats (unsaturated fats) help us absorb vitamins A, D and E so they are an essential part of our diet. But fat not used by the body is stored as body fat – so we need to be especially careful to eat olive/rapeseed oil (as opposed to butter/lard), and almonds, brazil nuts, and avocados

However, we also need to try and cut down on our salt intake to no more than 6g per day. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease. Around ¾ of the salt we eat is found in food we buy such as breakfast cereals, and ready meals, soups, crisps and breads. So do check the food labels before buying (1.5g of salt per 100g means it is high in salt).

Sugar is another culprit (it increases the risk of obesity and tooth decay) and is present in many packaged/convenience food and drink. And do try and cut down on sugary fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits and pastries too. 

The fluid we drink is as important as the food we eat and drinking at least 6-8 glasses a day is recommended in the form of water or lower fat milk. NOT alcohol, which contains empty calories.

Of course, you can also eat too much of a good thing – and maintaining a healthy weight means burning off the extra calories you may take in daily. So being active and exercising will compliment this healthy eating guide!

By following these very simple rules daily, you really will start to make a difference to your general health and weight management. AND of course, your lipoedema!

It is important to remember that although attempts to lose weight may not have a huge impact on the lipoedema fat (though in many cases it can) - preventing and/or reducing general obesity in other body areas through healthy eating (and being active/appropriately exercising) will help prevent deterioration in the lipoedema and your general health.