A problem shared…GP and mother-of-four Clare Bailey gives her indispensable advice: How can I fix my ‘thunder thighs’?

  • An anonymous woman from the UK finds that trousers are too long for her legs, but large around her waist
  • She is not a doctor, but she was only aware that she has lipoedema.
  • Clare Bailey recommends manual lymphatic drainage to decrease fluid. 

Q Despite being incredibly sporty as a child, I was often teased about having ‘tree-trunk legs’ or called ‘thunder thighs’. Dieting has never helped — I’d get down to a normal weight, but then would be far too thin on the top half.

And I can’t tell you how much I hate buying trousers. Occasionally I find a pair that fit the legs, but they’re always massive on the waist. Even though I was a medical professional, it wasn’t until recently that I realized I had lipoedema. I’m now keen to tackle it. Could you please help me?

I’m sorry you’ve had to cope with the discomfort and guilt about your body for so long.

An anonymous woman, who lives in the UK, asked Clare Bailey for advice on treating lipoedema (file image)

An anonymous woman, who lives in the UK, asked Clare Bailey for advice on treating lipoedema (file image)

Like many health professionals, I wasn’t aware of how common lipoedema is until recently.

Lipoedema can be a common but often ignored condition. It is caused by fat-resistance and localised fluid retention. The condition becomes more severe during puberty, menopause and pregnancy. It affects women who have a tendency to store fat around their buttocks, arms and legs.

Lipoedema can affect up to 10% of women, and it is a common condition in families. Lipoedema is very rare in men. Unlike normal fat cells, which expand and constrict, the fat is ‘locked in’, unable to shrink in response to weight loss attempts.

Good news! It is not metabolic and you have a lower chance of developing heart disease, strokes or diabetes.

Clare (pictured) said treatments may involve compression stockings and manual lymphatic drainage massage to reduce fluid

Clare (pictured) said treatments may involve compression stockings and manual lymphatic drainage massage to reduce fluid 

The key to preventing fat deposits is to avoid them. Lifestyle measures should be addressed, and if you’re not there yet, you should be aiming to get as close to a normal weight as possible.

Because insulin is stimulated by higher blood sugars, this can be done best when you are on a low carbohydrate diet.

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Treatments may require compression stockings, manual lymphatic drain massage and/or compression stockings in the latter stages.

Liposuction is the best treatment to get rid of fat deposits. It involves breaking down fat cells, and then sucking them out with a tube that’s inserted underneath the skin.

In the right hands, it’s a well tolerated treatment, but it comes with some bruising and potential infection.

Widely used in private clinics, liposuction is rarely used in the NHS as it’s still seen as a ‘cosmetic’ condition. But this is not about getting a bikini body, it’s life-changing.

Keep an eye out for NICE, the Clinical Standards Body. They are considering making liposuction easier to patients with lipoedema.

  • More information is available at talklipoedema.org, lipoedema.co.uk.

Mental health is now a superfood

My favorite thing about mushrooms is their versatility. There are many health benefits to eating more mushrooms, including lower cancer rates and fewer deaths from premature birth. A strong association between mushrooms and lower rates of depression has been found in U.S. studies. It is due to an amino acids called Ergothioneine. These mushrooms are an excellent source of it.

Clare is available for correspondence at drclarebailey@dailymail.co.uk, Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.