Talk Lipoedema

Food and lipoedema

Healthy eating 

At Talk Lipoedema we are frequently asked for information about what foods are helpful for lipoedema. In this section you will find an overview of general healthy eating advice, and guidance on where to go for more help and support. Unfortunately, there is currently very limited research evidence about what foods can benefit someone with lipoedema. At Talk Lipoedema, we are working with various professionals with a keen interest in lipoedema, and will soon be developing more information about food and lipoedema that will become available here.

A survey of 190 women with lipoedema showed that many had tried and tested different ways of managing their body shape and size through changing their eating habits (Alsop and Smith 2019). A total of forty five different types of restrictive diets were listed by those taking part in this research. The study also showed that some women with lipoedema had challenges with managing their weight, or had experienced eating disorders. We therefore know how important it is to talk about eating healthily, and provide practical and realistic advice on food and lipoedema.

Eating a healthy and balanced range of foods is important to our physical and emotional health. Lipoedema symptoms such as pain and swelling can be influenced by what we eat. Some people with lipoedema also experience additional weight gain that can be difficult to control. Trying to lose weight by restrictive dieting (and calorie counting for example) is usually not effective in the long term. This is probably due to how the body adjusts its metabolism, resetting when someone stops ‘dieting’, so weight is quickly regained.

Caring for ourselves through small, healthy changes in what we eat is a great first step. Read below for more information and scroll to the end for useful links.

General advice on eating for health

It is important that you have a balanced diet. Try following recommendations from the Eatwell guides produced by NHS and Governments across the UK to achieve a balance at every meal. They recommend:

  • Eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg each day. Choose from fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced.
  • Starchy food should make up just over a third of the food we eat. Look at the higher fibre, wholegrain versions of these.
  • Dairy products are good sources of protein and some vitamins, and they're also an important source of calcium, which helps keep our bones healthy. (We are aware many within our community suffer dairy intolerance's, so if this is the case, switch to the the dairy free options that are now widely available).
  • Try to include pulses, such as beans, peas and lentils; these are good alternatives to meat because they're lower in fat and higher in fibre and protein too.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and eat less processed meat like ham, sausages and bacon.
  • Aim to eat at least two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily fish such as salmon or mackerel.
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts
  • Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of fluid a day.

If consuming foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.

Want to know more? You can download the Eatwell Guidance here:

Weight gain in lipoedema

Many people with lipoedema experience generalised weight gain.   It is possible that this is linked to the genetic influences in lipoedema, but we need more research to understand the processes.

For many complex reasons, there has been a gradual increase in the average weight of the general population across the UK and the wider world. Having lipoedema might mean that you may have been diagnosed as being obese.

The International Lipoedema Association suggest that being overweight can aggravate lipoedema, making it more difficult to manage and treat, and resulting in reduced mobility which may lead you to a sedentary life style. Read more about what you can do to keep moving here Exercise

Being weighed

NHS clinics often use weight, height and body mass index (BMI) as ways of monitoring weight and the possibility of health risks. This is not always a good indicator as to the health of people with lipoedema.

Another way of identifying the possibility of health risks through measuring would be using the Waist to Hip Ratio Calculator. The waist to hip ratio measurement is calculated by dividing the measurement of your waist by your hip measurement. The waist to hip ratio calculates the possibility of health risks and is an indication of whether you have an apple- or pear-shaped figure.

Research from the Institute of Preventative Medicine in Copenhagen has indicated people who have more weight around their waist could be subject to more health risks than pear-shape figured people, who have more weight around their hips. See Waist circumference and body composition in relation to all-cause mortality in middle-aged men and women

Measuring your hips and waist

In order to get optimum readings for your waist and hip measurements, measure the circumference of your hips at the widest point of your buttocks.

For your hips, measure your waist, which should be just above your tummy button. Waist-to-hip-ratio-calculator

Support with managing your weight and healthy eating

If you have difficulties in managing your weight, ask your doctor or practitioner for more information and support.

If you meet the criteria they may refer you to the healthy weight/weight management services in your local Health Board or Health Trust.  This is usually a multi-disciplinary team including nurses, psychologists, dieticians and physical activity therapists. Some of these services are not familiar with lipoedema, so getting an accurate diagnosis is important. They may be interested to read the professional pages here on our website or your can find a copy of this information to download in the resources section below. Be prepared to talk to them about your history, experiences and symptoms of lipoedema.  It is worth knowing that anyone who is keen to have weight loss surgery, will be asked to follow a weight management programme before being considered for surgery.

You also may benefit by chatting to other people with lipoedema on our support groups and find out what has worked for them. We will have some case studies coming shortly.