Check out this great infographic from Lymphedema Products that explains the importance of compression and how garments work.
A while ago I was interviewed for an article about being fired from a job because of my weight (it was NEVER published, but that’s another story and note to self you’re an excellent writer you don’t need others to tell your story). In the interview I explained how that experience was a pivotal moment in my life and the reason I became a member of the Obesity Action Coalition. The author sent me a draft to fact check (yes it was that close to completion and nada), and had written that because of the experience I am now a fat activist. I asked her to change fat activist to obesity advocate. She responded a bit confused.
So you advocate for obesity?
I explained I advocate for individuals affected and living with obesity. Why is that confusing? Sorry, not sorry, but I have never identified with being a fat activist, while I do in fact support the work of the fat acceptance movement, my focus has always been different and I’ve never been welcomed within the community.
I’ve got some real honest to God battles to fight, I don’t have time for the cosmetic ones. – Admiral Fiztwallace, The West Wing
For those who do, great! There is a lot of work to be done, and there is room for everyone. What is disappointing is being shut out of conversations about fat acceptance because of those differences instead of coming together by our shared goals.
Body positive? I’m positive my body is slowing robbing me of my quality of life.
Tomayto Tomahto I say obesity, you say fat. (I actually say fat too, see the name of my blog) However, there is no reason to call the whole thing off.
In my work as a lymphedema and lipedema advocate I advocate for many people not like me, my lymphedema is secondary to lipedema. However, I advocate for ALL lymphedema patients, those with primary lymphedema, those with secondary lymphedema due to cancer treatment, young and old, male and female, upper and lower extremities. There are often debates about which lymphedema treatment is most effective, pumps vs MLD, or new surgical options. I say ALL treatment needs to be covered by insurance so patients can make the best treatment options for themselves.
I approach obesity advocacy the same way. No matter the cause of the obesity, every individual deserves to live a life free of bias. They deserve bias free access to employment, education, and healthcare. The three aspects of life I believe are vital to overall health: physical, emotional, mental.
I believe healthcare is a personal matter, a person has the right to decide if and when they seek treatment. No one should have any treatment forced upon them, nor should anyone be shamed for opting to pursue treatment.
But that is what is happening.
I understand if YOU do not want to be labeled a disease, or a disability. But for some of us, especially those of us with advanced stage lipedema aka lipo-lymphedema, that is our reality so please don’t take our label away.
Please do not tell us how to self-identify. That is the opposite of acceptance.
And please do not belittle and attempt to shame us for succumbing to society’s pressure of what an ideal body should look like. Or scold us for using “bad words”.
We are talking medical terms here, and we are fighting for our lives. We could use some allies.
We are not worried about being able to find the latest fashion in our size, we are too concerned about finding underwear and shoes to fit our extremely large and misshaped legs and feet. I don’t show my arms because I’m brave, I show my arms because few shirts with sleeves fit over them.
We worry about losing our mobility, and it’s not that there is any wrong with needing a wheelchair or mobility scooter but often those that can support our weight are wider than ADA requires for doors. Our issues, like our weight, are beyond what most people can even imagine and thus we feel as if we are being forgotten.
And like the rest of you, we are awesome people. We’re smart, educated, work and/or volunteer…we have a life worth living and worth fighting for.
Most of us are relatively healthy, but the medical conditions we do have are worsened by lack of access to care due to weight restriction on equipment or the bias we face from healthcare professionals.
Wanting to change our bodies does not mean we hate ourselves, quite the opposite, we care about ourselves and our health and we need awareness of our condition. We need to reach those who are suffering without a diagnosis, and we need to be a part of treatment options being developed.
We need people to care, and if we cannot find that alliance within the fat acceptance movement then where else do we turn?
My goal for 2014 was to have at least one speaking opportunity. I achieved that by being selected to give an Ignite at Fitbloggin’14. In addition, I presented at the Your Weight Matters National Convention, and was a Patient Panelist at the Mayo Clinic Social Media Week. The Summer of Sarah, as I deemed it, was a whirlwind of activity highlighted by my appearance on the syndicated television show The Doctors.
So how could I improve upon what I had accomplished in 2014?
A TEDx Talk of course! And thankfully the university I attended, Nova Southeastern in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, hosted a local TEDx event: TEDxNSU. The theme for 2015 was Perception and I immediately thought of how I could apply my story, my advocacy to the theme. With the help of a friend, whom I met at Fitbloggin, I focused my topic and my message and submitted my application.
I chose the title Breaking Bias as a hint at the popular television series Breaking Bad because perception was a key element in that plot. But overall because my message, my idea worth sharing, is that we must end the weight bias that exist in healthcare.
Today my story of living with lymphedema and lipedema airs on The Doctors TV Show. I taped the segment back in September, just days after my 37th birthday. I was suppose to be on a cruise with my sisters, but sharing my story to help spread awareness about lipedema and lymphedema was an awesome way to celebrate!
I was in the midst of my major advocacy trip in Washington, DC, which was a part of what I deemed the #SummerofSarah, when I was contacted by producers. So it turned into a whirlwind of travel, but worth every moment of the experience. I admit, as with any media opportunity I was on alert for any possible twist or negative spin that might be attempted. I once was not selected for a TV show because I was too happy and confident, usually the media wants to portray fat people as sad and miserable.
However, The Doctors producer had read my blog, so he obviously knew that my life was not sad or miserable, it was actually how I was was living my life despite having a chronic medical issue that caught his attention. The entire staff of The Doctors were so nice, and thanked me for coming on the show to share my story. Of course, I am VERY thankful for The Doctors giving me a national audience in which to share my story.
The actual doctors on the show thanked me as well, and I was impressed by the information they presented and the way my story was told. The segment was short and sweet: like me! It’s odd that I provided them the pictures, I told them my story, and yet I was still moved to tears when they played the video.
My story always makes me cry, I’m crying as I write this, its emotional thinking about how much I have had to fight to be where I am today. No one, especially those who live with chronic illnesses, should have to fight so hard against bias and stigma and insurance bureaucracy in order to live. But I fight because I can, I know others are not as strong as I am to stand up to the critics and naysayers.
“I could either get angry or get active, and I chose to get active and fight for change.”
What is my alternative? I have never let others’ opinion of me stop me from living the life I want to live, my body provides enough challenges, there is no sense in allowing outside influences to have a negative affect on me.
Living with lymphedema and lipedema is not easy, it’s a painful daily struggle that requires constant management. There are setbacks. I am currently recovering from an infection in my left leg. It’s my life, it’s the only life I know, so I make the best of it and I think those who know me personally would agree I do a pretty good job at living life to the fullest!
Again, I want to thank Nick, Dr. Travis Stork, Dr. Rachael Ross, Dr. Jim Sears, and Dr. Drew Ordon for allowing me to share my story with your audience.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Director of Communications, OAC
SARAH BRAMBLETTE HONORED WITH THE OBESITY ACTION COALITION’S
“OAC MEMBER OF THE YEAR” AWARD
Tampa, Fla. – Ohio resident Sarah Bramblette was honored with the Obesity Action Coalition’s (OAC) “OAC Member of the Year” award during the 3rd Annual Your Weight MattersSM National Convention, Together We S.H.I.N.E.
As an OAC member since 2012, Sarah has dedicated herself to raising awareness of the OAC, weight bias and the disease of obesity. In 2014, Sarah was featured in the OAC’s publication, Your Weight Matters Magazine, where she provided readers with an in-depth look at living with lipedema. She was also the first-place winner of HealthCentral’s #LiveBold Anti-stigma Photo Contest. She is a lipedema, lymphedema, obesity, and health insurance advocate and blogs about her life experiences at www.born2lbfat.com. Sarah is currently working toward a master’s degree in health law.
Sarah has worked closely with the OAC leadership, other members and staff on a variety of issues in 2014. From weight bias issues to representing the OAC in the media, she has gone above and beyond for the OAC.
“I honestly cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award than Sarah. Since joining the OAC, she has continually raised the bar for what we look for in an OAC member. To Sarah, being an OAC member is not just simply joining the Coalition. She takes being a member in the OAC to a completely different level. The OAC is grateful for Sarah’s dedication. We congratulate her on winning the OAC’s most prestigious award,” said Ted Kyle, RPh, MBA, OAC Chairman.
About the OAC
The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), a nearly 50,000 member-strong National non-profit organization, is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals affected by the disease of obesity through education, advocacy and support. To learn more about the OAC, please visit www.ObesityAction.org.
About the “OAC Member of the Year” Award
This is the highest OAC honor and is awarded to an OAC member who has gone above and beyond to help the OAC. The recipient of this award should be an exemplary OAC member and continually represent the OAC in their efforts to impact the obesity epidemic nationwide.
About the Your Weight Matters Convention
The Your Weight Matters Convention is a National convention focused on providing individuals with quality, evidence-based education on weight and its impact on health. For more information on the Convention, please visit www.YWMConvention.com.
“A picture is worth a thousand words, this picture turned out to be worth $500…
“I’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game…
I never imagined a day at the pool with an underwater camera would lead to my story of living with Lipedema being featured on HealthCentral, nor that the contest would be an experience in itself. There are several stories to be told, the story of being fat shamed while at the gym when the picture was taken, the story of why I entered the picture for the HealthCentral #LiveBold contest, and the story of the connection I made with fellow contestant and second place winner Gabe Howard.
I became aware of the contest through the Obesity Action Coalition, I have been a member since 2012 and am known for being a strong advocate against weight stigma and bias. Upon seeing the contest guidelines, to share a picture of how you live bold with a chronic condition, I immediately thought of this picture. While I initially thought the picture made my butt look big, I quickly realized the powerful message captured in the moment. I crafted my words to fit the image and submitted it for the contest. I did not set out to win the contest, my only intent was to share my story. However, as voting continued I saw I had the potential to win and ramped up my social medial campaign to solicit votes.
One day I decided to check out the #LiveBold hashtag on Twitter to see which other contestants were promoting their stories. I came across Gabe’s posts, I had read his story and really connected. I began to follow him on Twitter and sent him a Tweet. I liked his story so much, that I started requesting that my friends and family vote for both of us. It turned out Gabe lived only two hours from me. Small world indeed, his father is actually from my hometown. Win or lose, I had made a new friend.
So then the announcement came and I won! My story was going to be featured on HealthCentral.com. This was huge, not only for me, but for the Lipedema and Lymphedema communities. The prize was well timed also, as I was preparing for my trip to Washington, DC to attend the National Lymphedema Network Conference and Lymphedema Lobby Days. I used the $500 Visa Gift card towards my hotel expenses.
So it turns out HealthCentral’s offices are located in Alexandria, VA and when they heard I would be in DC they invited me over to meet the staff, tour the offices, and lunch. I also filmed an interview with them to be included with my blog post, Living Boldly With Lymphedema and Lipedema
Lesson learned: Never underestimate the power of your story…or a picture of you in your swimsuit.
I shared my journey to health in the pool during my FitBloggin’ 14 Ignite in Savannah, GA. This was my first FitBloggin’ conference but it will definitely not be my last. Forgive my rushing, the point of an Ignite is to give quick information within 5 minutes, I excel at talking fast, I fail at getting to the point of a story within 5 minutes. Overall, I shared my story, I raised some awareness about Lipedema and Lymphedema and I found an entire new community of support and friends.
Must be nice to get a massage! – No, it would be nice to not have a chronic illness.
Yes, that’s me. Yes, I’m naked under there. Being naked doesn’t phase me after years of medical related appointments from doctors appointments to physical and occupation therapy for me legs. I’m so used to taking my clothes off that I once walked into a physical therapy appointment and starting taking my shoes and pants off while talking to my therapist, I then started to take my shirt off and she exclaimed “Sarah, what are you doing?”
Whoops my bad, guess I forgot where I was.
Through a decade of living with a chronic illness I’ve learned a lot of about how to manage my condition but more importantly my overall health and wellness. For years I had manual lymph massage two or three times a week, and while a massage sounds nice the application of layers padding and compression wraps really ruins any relaxation achieved through the gentle touch of massage.
Now every month I devote a day to self care and get a massage and pedicure. Both are important to maintaining my physical health and my emotional health. The massage helps my lymphatics and the pedicure keeps my feet in a healthy condition. Both help relieve stress. I know and trust both the massage therapist and the pedicurist, as it is important that proper techniques are used to avoid any complications.
I know many fellow Lipedema and Lymphedema patients fear the idea of anyone seeing their legs and fear the though of getting a pedicure. I’m sure they could never imagine getting naked for a massage. But I assure you, like doctors, these professionals have seen it all and are there to make you feel better not to judge.
So I encourage you to make self care a priority in your life. If you are not comfortable going to others for a day of pampering, take the time to do a little DIY spa treatment at home. Take a bubble bath, rub on some nice lotion, paint your nails a fun color.
How do you take care of YOU?
I entered the HealthCentral #LiveBold anti-stigma photo contest.
(voting is open until August 8th! Click on the link and VOTE for me, vote daily!)
I share my story of how I #LiveBold with Lipedema and Lymphedema and overcome weight stigma.
The story behind this photo fits well into the anti-stigma theme, because I experienced weight stigma just before it was taken. The photo was taken during a trip to the gym to get pictures of me doing various water exercises for my FitBloggin’ Ignite Fitness presentation. As soon as I stepped into the pool this woman motioned to me and began talking to me in Spanish, I thought perhaps she recognized me from water aerobics class but when she realized I did not speak Spanish she quickly switched to English and her intentions were made clear.
“My daughter is as big as you are and she goes to this clinic and has lost fifty pounds. They don’t make her workout, they just speed up her heart to help her lose weight.”Well that sounds safe… Why the hell would you tell someone EXERCISING AT THE GYM about a clinic where they don’t make you exercise? Wait…why the HELL would you approach a stranger about their weight…at the gym no less?
I’m not sure why I try to be nice in response to people who are so rude to me, but I tried to explain that I have Lipedema and Lymphedema and that I have a great medical team that monitors my overall health. No, she still continued. I explained that I no longer live in the area, that I was just visiting so going to a local clinic was not even an option for me. No, she still kept talking about it….I finally just walked away and continued my exercises and photo shoot.
She caught me again at the other end of the pool, she obviously noticed I was annoyed by the conversation so she attempted to suck up.
“You’re very beautiful and have a nice shape.”
Seriously? Yes, I know.
I know that I am fat AND that I am beautiful. I don’t need to be informed of either by a stranger.
I said “thank you”, but that’s not a compliment when it comes AFTER fat shaming. Her initial reaction to seeing me was to approach me about my weight, only after she saw that I was pissed off did she compliment me.
Back to the picture, my boyfriend said he wanted to get a creative picture half in and half out of the water. Upon reviewing the pictures I gave a sarcastic “thanks babe”. I joked about how “objects under the water may appear larger than actual size”, and I soon realized how very powerful the photo was and how it really captured the moment and my story. There is more to me and my story than what appears on the surface. The people who take the time to see past my surface appearance get the benefit of knowing me and my story, and in exchange I get to know them and their story.
We all have a story.
How do you #LiveBold? Share YOUR story of how you #LiveBold despite a health condition.
I had this revelation on the final morning of FitBloggin’ ….
No one tried to save me, or sell themselves to me.
For those who just met me at FitBloggin’ that is a GOOD thing. A very good thing. And a rather refreshing feeling as compared to what I typically experience at least once at other conferences. This is not a negative reflection on the other conferences I attend. I very much enjoy attending and support the work of the organizations. Sadly, it’s the few attendees who are fellow weight loss surgery patients who have good intentions but cannot seem to accept that I accept myself and my weight that put a slight damper on the overall experience.
This being my first FitBloggin’ and not having interacted with many attendees prior to the weekend I wasn’t sure how I would “fit” in at FibBloggin’. I had met my roommate, Nikki from Bariatric Foodie, at a conference last year and communicated often online. This was her third FitBloggin’ so I knew I would make connections via her. I also easily made connections on my own and found a very warm and welcoming group of new friends.
There were people at various stages of their journey, various levels of fitness, and of various types of fitness and nutrition regiments. The refreshing part was the sense that despite the differences everyone was comfortable with themselves at where they were and supporting each other in making changes they wanted.
The focus was fitness and health, not weight. People were focused on achieving goals as a priority and for those who also had a goal to lose weight, they weren’t waiting for some magic number on the scale to appear in order to consider themselves successful, or to achieve what they set out to accomplish.
My Diet Mt. Dew was not referred to as contraband and I was never asked “oh can you eat that?” I never felt as if what I was doing (being myself) was “bad” and the only time I explained myself or my weight was during my Ignite Fitness presentation, which the purpose was to spread awareness about Lipedema and Lymphedema. When I got off the stage after my Ignite, my Twitter feed blew up with comments from fellow attendees, it was an awesome warm and fuzzy moment.
Even more awesome was Roni mentioning the possibility of me leading a water aerobics class next year in Denver! Of course, that requires me achieving my current goal of becoming a certified water fitness instructor, already confirmed the hotel has a pool, last but not least…I have to make sure my graduation from graduate school doesn’t occur that same weekend!