Heather Johnson has spent her life on the wicked cycle of losing and gaining weight. However, despite undergoing a life-changing gastric sleeve surgery that helped her lose over 165 pounds, the 38-year-old realized that while the rest of her body got smaller, her thighs kept getting bigger.
The South Carolina native did some research on Instagram and eventually found out she had lipedema — a health issue that causes an abnormal amount of fat to appear on the lower half of the body.
Despite her condition, Johnson — who stands at 5’9″ with a 39-inch waist and each thigh measuring 34 inches — has decided to embrace her physical appearance and has started to model for curvy, all-inclusive fashion brands.
“I’ve been a big girl my whole life. I started Weight Watchers when I was six, I continued to do diet after diet after diet,” she told Media Drum. “I always had a big butt, big legs, small waist and flabby arms.”
At one point, Johnson weighed 425 pounds but now weighs 285 pounds. But once she learned about her condition is when things turned around.
“Instagram is how I found out about lipedema,” she continued. “I was happy to figure out that I wasn’t crazy in the thought that my body was different from other people’s, it was like a relief to know that all these things were connected and had a name.”
Johnson then explained her painful experiences with lipedema. “Your legs hurt to touch, so if someone sits on your legs or pushes on your legs, you could be bruised, also it makes you feel like gravity is pulling you harder than normal people, your legs feel like they have weights in them.
“I have to wear compression clothes to make it comfortable to walk, my legs are always very sensitive to touch, I get bruises very easily, I always wear sleeves on my arms because I have so much loose skin on my upper arm,” Johnson added.
“I decided to embrace it when I realized that this is who I am and if I don’t love myself, no one else will,” the mother of four said.
She then shared the incredible life advice she received from her dad. “‘I’ve always kind of embraced the fact that I’m big even though I’ve always been really self-conscious of it,” she said. “No one really knew when I was a teenager, my dad told me that even if you don’t feel confident, fake it because eventually, you’ll start believing it and so will everyone else.”
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