Lymphedema: To the Man at the Restaurant Who Begged Me to Stop Eating

By: Sarah Bramblette

To the drunk man who begged me to stop eating,

If only it was that simple.

You saw me eating dinner; actually, I only had soup at the time. Your judgment was obviously as impaired as your ability to walk and talk. You stumbled to my table and begged me to stop eating, telling me I was killing myself with food.

If only you were as concerned with your own health as you were mine. You assumed I am unhealthy based on my weight. You assume I am killing myself because I eat. What you do not know is that my excess weight is due to a medical condition called lipedema. I have lipedema and lymphedema (often referred to as lipo-lymphedema). Lipedema is a congenital adipose tissue disorder in which my body produces an abnormal amount of adipose tissue (aka fat) and stores it in my hips, thighs, legs and arms. The excess abnormal tissue does not respond to calorie restrictive dieting or exercise. Lipedema is progressive, and eventually the excessive tissue triggers the onset of lymphedema, which is the accumulation of excess lymph fluid. Metabolically, I am healthy. My blood pressure is…

Stop. Wait a minute.

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I do not owe you or anyone else an explanation for my weight, nor should I have to prove I’m healthy. I was just trying to have dinner with a friend. I’m just trying to live my life — a life already complicated by a chronic medical condition. I do not need it complicated even further by being shamed by strangers. And yet, that seems to be exactly what I have to do. I have to fight weight bias and stigma in every aspect of my life. In accessing healthcare and in seeking employment opportunities, I am faced with people making assumptions about my character, my intelligence and my abilities based on my weight.

The size of my body does not measure any of those attributes.

Weight is not an indicator of health or happiness. Health is more than a physical state of being. Health includes mental and emotional wellbeing. I was enjoying dinner with a friend after a day of work. We were talking and laughing until you interrupted us. You don’t know me or about my life. I don’t know you or the events of your day that led you to drink so much that you were drunk before 6 p.m.

I cannot simply stop eating; my body needs food to survive. However, you can stop drinking. Your body does not require alcohol to function. Please take the concern you have for me and turn it inwards to your own life situation. Save your liver, and I’ll save myself.

Simply put, worry about yourself.

woman eating a chicken wing

Read more from Sarah Bramblette on lipedema, lymphedema and weight stigma on the BEDA’s site.

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