A problem shared: How can I fix my 'thunder thighs'?

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

  • Anonymous woman, from UK, finds trousers fit her legs but are large on waist
  • Despite being a health professional, she only realised has lipoedema recently
  • Clare Bailey suggests manual lymphatic drainage massage to reduce 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. Despite being a health professional in my 50s, I only realised I had lipoedema recently. I’m now keen to tackle it. Can you help?

A 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)

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

Lipoedema is a surprisingly common, yet overlooked condition caused by deposits of diet-resistant fat, and is all too often misdiagnosed as obesity or lymphoedema (localised fluid retention and swelling). It gets worse at puberty, pregnancy and menopause, affecting women who tend to deposit fat disproportionately around their legs, buttocks and arms.

Lipoedema is believed to affect as many as 10 per cent of adult women and tends to run in families. It is 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.

But there is good news. You will have a relatively lower risk of heart disease, strokes, raised blood pressure and diabetes, with less dangerous body fat stored around your middle because it is not a metabolic disease.

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

Preventing the fat deposits in the first place is key. 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.

This is best done following a low carbohydrate diet because raised blood sugars stimulate insulin which in turn promotes fat deposition.

In the later stages, treatments may involve compression stockings and manual lymphatic drainage massage is needed to reduce fluid.

But the only treatment found to remove the fat deposits is liposuction, which involves breaking down fat cells and sucking them out via a fine tube inserted under 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.

Watch this space as the clinical standards body NICE is considering making liposuction more available to lipoedema sufferers.

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The new mental health superfood

I love mushrooms. Eating more of them has been linked to health benefits including a lower risk of cancer and premature death. U.S. research suggests a strong link between mushroom consumption and lower odds of depression, due to an amino acid called ergothioneine. They are a great source of this.

You can write to Clare at [email protected]uk or Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.

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