Pillars of Self-Care

Walking is the foundation of my self-care routine and today is a rare day I’m not doing much of it. After a long streak of 60-70 degree weather, winter finally arrived in Washington, D.C. and the sidewalks are alternately covered with heavy wet snow or black ice. At the time I’d normally be heading out for my evening walk, here I am with you, Sturdy Women, snuggled under a blanket, reflecting on what has become one of the great joys in my life. Walking is my daily opportunity to celebrate what my body can do and how far I have come. Two years ago I would have shaken my head and said No, I don’t have mobility issues and No, I don’t have pain. Isn’t it amazing what you can normalize and learn to accept, even as your health slowly (or even rapidly) deteriorates?

Of course, gaslighting and fat shaming from doctors doesn’t help, but that’s another post…

My lipedema journey started in 2019 with a strange and persistent ache behind my knee. It didn’t feel like a sore muscle, but I didn’t know what else it could be. Massaging, stretching, and heating did nothing. It will go away. I’ll ‘walk it off.’ Within a month that knee became a “trick knee,” giving out without warning if, for example, I stepped onto a curb or stood up from a chair. Even though I taught and attended intense spinning classes several times a week, I labored to walk the half mile from my bus stop to my office and always took the elevator at work, even between floors. Spinning worked because I could do it sitting down. I guess this is old age, I told myself. I was 35 and had gained 100 pounds, mysteriously and rapidly.

Yet miraculously, here I am almost exactly two years after my diagnosis, sad that I can’t go for my 2-3 mile evening walk! That pesky 100 pounds? Almost all gone. The two flights of stairs outside my apartment? I take them at a run. Those are truly accomplishments to celebrate and things I’m grateful for each day. It hasn’t been an easy road, though, and I know you Sturdy Women understand. Managing lipedema (or any chronic health condition!) is hard work, but as one woman in my support group says, “you are worth it.”

Even if I’m not walking today, I’m still doing everything else on the self-care list. I try not to think about how much time it all takes, but I estimate it’s a least three hours a day.

  • Clean, low carb nutrition. I went keto more than a year ago and never looked back. It has been a game changer for my swelling, inflammation, and energy level. I do less than 20g total carbs a day with some alternate day fasting. Gail and Kristin with Lipedema Simplified coaching have been amazing resources as have the group classes.
  • Compression! All day everyday. CZSalus is my favorite. Yes, you can get them on Amazon, but they ship really fast from their Italian website and – big bonus – their site offers more colors. Your closet deserves more than black and medical beige, Sturdy Woman. I’ll write a separate future post on compression, but I find both the K1 and K2 work well to control my swelling.
  • Whole body vibration is great to get lymph moving, especially on days like today when I can’t get outside. I have a LifePro Waver that I use on a low setting for 15 minutes each night before I use my pump. There is a great private Facebook group called Vibration for Fat Disorders if you need help figuring out how to use it. When in doubt, put on one of my Music Monday selections and dance it out, whatever that looks like for you!
  • Pneumatic pumping simulates manual lymph drainage (MLD) massage, but at home. I have used a Flexitouch Plus for almost two years. I started out doing it 2 hours a day – one leg at a time – in the extended size garments, but have since sized down twice and now do both legs in a single 1-hour session. There seems to be a sort of weird competition between the pump companies, but I have found Tactile super easy and accommodating as a company. With practice, I can also get suited up alone in about 5 minutes and out of it in about 30 seconds. If you are a frustrated newbie (like I once was) stick with it!
  • While I pump I elevate my legs on my Lounge Doctor wedge pillow. A lot of people seem to use a stack of regular throw pillows, but this has been a game changer for me. Not only does it get my feet nice and high, but there is no arranging, sliding, or toppling to deal with, which is great for those of us who suit up solo. The Tactile tech who visited me a few months ago was really impressed and said it was perfect. Bonus that it’s also a really comfy leg pillow. Even when I’m not pumping I like to use it while watching TV.

Those are my pillars of self-care that, in addition to walking, I do 95% of days. The 5% of time I have to cut something because of bad weather, a late night at work, or a friend in town? So what! That’s life. Consistency is key but so is flexibility.

What are your self-care pillars, Sturdy Women? Drop a note in the comments and let me know how you show up for yourself and what makes your life more joyful, comfy, and fun.

PS – There are no affiliate links in this post, just honest opinions.

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