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  • I am Not Obese. I am Just Fat.
  • Sarah Bramblette

My body mass index classifies me as super morbidly obese, however my overall vital health statistics would indicate otherwise. I celebrated the American Medical Association’s classification of obesity as a disease for several reasons. First, obesity as a disease involves other medical complications of which I have none, so finally perhaps I can say I am not obese, I am just fat. I am fat, as in my weight is caused by Lipedema and Lymphedema. Lipedema is a congenital condition, which causes my body to produce and accumulate abnormal amounts of adipose tissue in my legs, hips, thighs, and arms. There is not much known about Lipedema in the medical profession, even though it was identified in 1940 by doctors at the Mayo Clinic, and not many treatment options exist. Abnormal Lipedema tissue does not respond to restrictive caloric diet or exercise. Lymphedema is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system. The second reason I celebrated obesity being classified as a disease was the hope that more research would be conducted on the actual causes and treatment of obesity and that research might include adipose tissue disorders. My vital health statistics are all normal, yet I still face challenges getting proper treatment in healthcare.

My Story

As I sat staring at the metal beast, I decided to make one final attempt to mount it. I placed my right foot on the step and used both hands to boost myself up, my lower legs were so large there was no room for my left foot. Immediately the exam table began to tip towards me, then slammed loudly against the tile floor as I quickly stepped off. It was a game of exam table teeter–totter I had played many times before and lost more often than won. I gave up, placed the sheet meant to cover my legs on the chair in the corner and squeezed myself down between its arms. The exam gown pinched my arms, barely covering the front of me and draped over my legs.

My Legs

One of the main reasons I was seeing a new doctor, my first doctor visit in several years. My previous family doctor had retired. I was not ill, I was concerned. My weight had reached a point to where I was scared for my health and I wanted to get help and answers. I wanted answers about why my legs were so large and leaked fluid.

The answer I got was one I had heard before “It’s your weight”.

To the doctor’s credit, she did explain it a bit more, she said the fluid in my legs was due to my excess weight putting pressure on my legs. However, she did not actually know how much I weighed. The scale in her office only went to 350lbs, and even with the add–on weight it could not register a weight for me, so we only knew I weighed more than 400lbs. I asked her if she knew if the hospital or another office had a scale that could weigh me. She did not. She may have sent me home with a prescription for a diuretic, I do not remember. I know I was not sent home with any help for my weight or my legs, just a follow–up appointment. It was during that follow up appointment that I advocated for myself and asked if she would refer me for physical therapy, so that I could do some safe and monitored exercise. She agreed, and I began physical therapy in the pool.

At the pool I met other people who looked similar to my size. I noticed their legs were normal size and wondered why? Then I thought about sumo wrestlers. Sumo wrestlers weigh hundreds of pounds and their legs are normal too. What was wrong with my legs? One day I heard a man in the pool tell another [End Page 85] patient that he had lost weight. I wondered where he was able to weigh himself, and hoped it was not rude to ask him. He told me...


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