Leslyn Keith, OTD and Catherine Seo, PhD
A chance meeting at the first National Institutes of Health (NIH) Symposium on Lymphatics held in the USA in September 2015 has led to an amazing journey of discovery and innovation over the past two years. Catherine Seo and Leslyn Keith first met over a poster presentation of Leslyn’s research (see below) which demonstrated success for those using a ketogenic diet to manage lymphedema and obesity (Keith, et al., 2017). The participants in Leslyn’s study who implemented a ketogenic diet achieved greater weight loss, percent body fat decrease, and limb volume reduction than those who chose not to adopt this eating plan.
Clinicians and researchers believe that lipedema is resistant to diet and exercise. “I wonder if this can work for those with lipedema?” Catherine queried. A ketogenic diet is so radically different from the plant-based, high carbohydrate diet consumed by most industrial nations over the last 40 years, we thought it just might work. That question began a process and a collaboration that continues to grow after 2 years.
Results from Keto for Lipedema Ladies
A ketogenic way of eating restricts carbohydrate intake, keeps protein at a moderate level, and emphasizes dietary fat. When following this way of eating, meats (beef, pork, poultry, fish), dairy products and eggs are consumed to satiation and supplemented with non-starchy vegetables. Grains and sugar are eliminated. Fruit is eaten very sparingly, and limited to low glycemic berries.
We began to offer online classes, support groups, and an in-depth program. As results were reported from women all over the world, our groups grew…and then there were more results. Areas that had disproportionate fat distribution typical of lipedema changed. Symptoms reduced or were eliminated as inflammation began to resolve.
One such story is from Zoe who recently shared her pictures and wrote, “I don't feel embarrassed how I look anymore! The ‘before’ picture (on left in June) was sent to me by my husband who later commented that he had no idea how out of proportion I was, and the ‘after’ picture was at the weekend (November 3) - 5 months of keto!” ~Zoe W., London, UK
Zoe continued, “For years I've wanted to fix my weight and live my life with the zest and vigor I feel inside. I've struggled with my energy levels, malaise, pain, low self-esteem and I've even felt embarrassed and shame. So, it's seven months since I started my keto journey and I've realized that despite the weight loss slowing down my motivation is still in full swing....So, my Non-Scale Victory (NSV) for December is that I'm living the dream, it's not the sunny skies, sandy beaches, lottery winning type of dream.....it's a simple dream, of looking normal and feeling fine.”
As of today, over 5,600 women with lipedema from the Lipedema and Keto WOE Facebook group are contributing to a growing bank of anecdotal stories. These astounding narratives include accounts of weight lost, pain diminished or completely resolved, upper AND lower body measurements decreased, blood panel results improved, and quality of life increased. We are still learning about WHY this way of eating seems to work so well and plan further research in a clinical trial, but in the meantime, thousands of women with lipedema are having their lives transformed merely by changing how they eat.
“I'm down 46 pounds since December 2016 and feeling great!”
~Merial C., MO, USA
“I started Keto the last week in May this year (2017). First ever size 10 pants from a size 20 and the first small size top from size XL. I’m down 17kg/38 lbs. I’m doing a happy dance.”
~Janine P., Victoria, Australia
Practical Tips – How to Stay Keto Through the Holidays
This article is the last of a four part series on lipedema and the ketogenic way of eating. Many of you have been following our series and have decided to try a ketogenic way of eating to improve your health. Congratulations and welcome! It may seem daunting at first, especially at this time of year with so many social gatherings all centered around food. We would like to share with you a few tips that will help you keep to your eating plan.
First, plan ahead. This means being aware of your limitations and trigger foods. Think about what temptations may exist at an upcoming meal or social gathering. Consider how you will successfully divert yourself and adhere to healthy eating. Have an idea of how you will respond to questions about your diet, if asked. Let your host know of your diet restrictions to prevent their disappointment when you decline to eat a high carb dish they may have spent all afternoon making. Offer to bring a contribution to the meal to ensure you will have something to eat that you know is ketogenic.
Try defensive eating. Eat a small ketogenic meal at home before a social gathering if you are concerned about limited keto options and probable plentiful temptations. It is easier to resist an enticing, but very high carb, dish if you aren’t hungry. This is the same strategy many people use to avoid spending too much at the grocery store. A satiated shopper buys less food.
Once at the event, fill your plate with foods you can eat. It won’t be as obvious that you eat differently from others if there is food on your plate. People don’t usually notice what is on your plate, but may notice if you don’t seem to be eating very much. An empty plate may encourage questions, which is fine if you enjoy sharing what you have learned about ketogenic eating. If none of the offerings adhere to your eating plan, hold a drink (preferably water). This gives the appearance that you are consuming something, and thus participating in the main activities of the event, which is eating or drinking.
Consider hosting the social event in the future. This gives you complete control on what foods will be offered. It can be a great opportunity for demonstrating how delicious and satisfying a ketogenic way of eating can be. A friend hosted a lovely Thanksgiving meal last year for friends and family, only some of whom ate keto, without saying a word. Everyone raved about the delicious meal and never seemed to notice the lack of bread and potatoes.
Remember that social events may be centered around food, but they really are about community, sharing, family and connection. Enjoy the people, atmosphere and environment and take an opportunity to fast. Short term fasting by skipping a meal can quickly get you into fat-burning mode. Instead of leaving the party feeling bloated and uncomfortable, you will enjoy mental clarity and feel refreshed. Luxuriate in the fact that you are improving your health while you are holding a drink of water and enjoying great conversation!
Lastly, keep some basic ketogenic principles in mind. Despite being urged to overindulge, remember to eat only to satiation. Stop when you are full, even if this means leaving delicious keto food on your plate. Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is not only healthy but may make you feel less hungry and more able to avoid the allure of non-ketogenic foods. Avoid anything that says “gluten-free,” “all natural” or “low fat.” These foods can still be high in carbohydrates and be off-plan.
“I've been a Keto girl since March 28, 2016. This way of living has given me my life back...I feel better at 41 than I've ever felt in my life. My advice to anyone starting out or stalled and frustrated (because yes, stalls happen.), is to drink lots of water, take tons of pictures (the scale is a big liar sometimes), and most of all, trust the process. You've got this.” ~Candice P., Georgia, USA
The ketogenic way of eating is becoming a lifestyle for many with lipedema and lymphedema worldwide. While it’s not a cure, it makes management of complex and progressive diseases easier. And for today, that’s a great next step.
Keith, L, Rowsemitt, C, Richards, L (2017). Lifestyle Modification Group for Lymphedema and Obesity Results in Significant Health Outcomes. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. First published November 21, 2017.