WATCH HER LIPOEDEMA STORY, BELOW »
Ioana, who lives in London but if originally from Romania, shies away from the term ‘Instafamous’ – although this is undoubtedly what she is. Her body positive posts and dedication to motivating and supporting her Instagram community is incredibly refreshing in a world of airbrushed figures and ads for quick fix weight loss products.
Her journey to this point in her life has been anything but straightforward, as she’ll be the first to tell you. Having always been curvy, Ioana talks about her yoyo’ing weight during various points in her life, including when she failed her training to enter the Police Academy aged 19, and during her time spent in America.
But posting her first transformation picture did more than set her up for a lifetime of fitness related adoration, and Ioana said she began receiving lots of messages from people asking or suggesting that she may well have lipoedema.
A trip to the GP proved inconclusive, but a further visit to a specialist confirmed the condition. Something Ioana said she had suprisingly strange feelings about.
“It was hard for me to accept. I had all the symptoms. In my brain I don’t want to accept it – I want to keep pushing and training. I don’t want to let myself down. I’m happy with myself, why do I need to change?”
We spoke to Ioana about her fitness, her diagnosis and how she’s planning to spread the word about Lipoedema with her followers and the world…
Name: Ioana Chira
You are clearly an inspiration to your social media community – what is it about your posts that you think people resonate with so much?
I believe people like my positive attitude towards life and fitness world in general. My posts are uplifting and I always try to motivate my supporters to live a healthy life. In my journey, I’ve realised that unless I do everything for myself I won’t be able to stay consistent for the long term.
When were you diagnosed with Lipoedema?
I was diagnosed with lipoedema in November last year. It was a bit painful, to be honest. I went to my GP around May after I’d been reading about it and seen I have all the symptoms. I wanted to avoid being told again that I have to lose weight and instead that with the right diet I will be fine.
I showed my GP pictures and told her that I believed I had Lipoedema, especially considering that you can almost count my ribs however the shape of my legs would hardly change regardless of exercise. However, I still had to get a referral to St George as my GP said she couldn’t tell if it was Lipoedema or not.
My first appointment was for August, however that has been delayed by NHS and rescheduled for November. I was so disappointed that I had to wait six months just to be seen by a specialist.
In November I went to the Lymphoedema clinic. I had to go through a questionnaire about me and my family history, my symptoms, my endless failures with diets. All this was done with a consultant and then he called Dr Gordon. They both agreed it was lipoedema and they believed it to be stage 2. I didn’t have any other check apart from them looking at my legs and confirming it’s Lipoedema. I then got my second appointment for February for compression garments.
How did you feel after getting your diagnosis?
Even though I was 90% sure that I had lipoedema, there was still hope I might be wrong. Getting the diagnosis was a shock and a release at the same time; quite hard to explain. It was good to finally know what’s going on with my body, but hard to accept that I am different and I need to embrace it.
I went to the hospital on my own and had to take that hard news by myself. I cried for the whole day and for the following 2 weeks at least was very sensitive and every time when someone would try to bring up the topic I would start crying.
The whole month of November was a battle. I had to watch a lot of motivational videos and get myself back to normal.
Did/has the diagnosis of lipoedema affect your fitness regime and/or your diet?
Having the diagnosis helped me remove a bit of the pressure I was putting on myself. I could finally understand why I hate running and why it is so uncomfortable for me.
I started adapting my training and avoid exercises that could affect my knees or put too much pressure on it. I haven’t stopped training because I simply love it and it is my passion.
In terms of diet, I started to research a bit more and see what could work for my condition. I watched a webinar organised by Catherine Seo and she showed that people with Lipoedema that had success with the ketogenic diet. I also joined the Talk Lipoedema group and met Karen Windsor. She totally changed her body through keto, it’s a real success.
For those suffering from lipoedema, what sort of diet and exercise would you recommend?
From my own experience and from seeing other examples the low carb way of eating is what appears to works for the condition.
Depending on what stage the person is and how much weight is being carried on the legs, training can be adapted. There are so many solutions: uphill walk, stairs climber, elliptical, bicycle. We know that lippy ladies are very flexible so yoga classes, Zumba and pilates are also great.
In my opinion, the most important thing is for lippy ladies (or men!) to do is to stay active and try to keep the condition under control. Even though is so hard to see results, the worst we can do is give up and feel defeated.
You mention you have been meeting up with a community of ‘lippy ladies’ – has this helped you come to terms with the diagnosis?
The lippy ladies meeting is one of the best things ever. We have monthly meetings and it’s amazing to be surrounded by people who truly understand what you are going through. I believe the first meeting was in February and since then we’ve seen a lot of progress. There are a few amazing transformations going on and I can’t wait to share their stories on my social media.
Coming to terms with my condition is just one of the benefits. The girls motivate me to keep going and we support each other. Seeing their success makes me realise that there is hope for us.
I have learned so much more about this condition, considering that I am still a newbie in this world.
Prior to your diagnosis, you didn’t wear compression garments, are you now wearing garments? (If so, are they helping you or have you struggled with them?)
I got my compression garments however I am not a fan of them. I worn them a few times and then stopped. I personally don’t feel comfortable wearing them. Since I started training constantly and lost weight my legs are not swelling anymore hence I don’t feel the need of wearing them. My training leggings are similar to compression garments and they help me keep everything in place while training.
Has being part of a community of like-minded ladies helped you?
Definitely. Seeing how lipoedema looks different on each body helped me understand this illness more. We uplift each other in a world where we mostly get judged for something that is out of our control. I call this my escape. It is refreshing to see successful examples of people dealing with the same condition.
Unsuccessful stories are also a lesson because it makes me realise what could happen if I stop my journey.
What advice would you give those living with lipoedema who want to stay fit and healthy and have perhaps opted not to go for surgery?
Don’t be afraid of being judged. I am going through that every single day. People telling me that I train so much but my body hardly changes.
Train at home or go to the gym. Go there with your heart open and a clear mindset. You are doing this for yourself, for your own health.
Find the diet that works for you and make it a lifestyle. Seems like low carb lifestyle is what works for us. Give it a go, don’t be afraid of trying one more time.
Can you outline a short meal plan and exercise plan below as an example of what you might suggest for other lipoedema ladies?
Things that you will find in my diet: spinach, kale, salad, broccoli, bacon, steak, eggs, avocado, tomatoes, cheese, halloumi. Eat good fats and avoid processed food as much as you can.
For my lipoedema ladies, I would suggest swimming, cycling, elliptical, stairs climber, uphill walk, body weight exercises or light weight and high reps. On my page, I post a lot of videos that could be helpful (people with knees issues should adapt them of course).
How are you planning on helping to spread the word about lipoedema? Will you be doing any programmes specifically for those who have the condition?
On a more long-term basis, once I do more research and get in touch with more people I may do a programme for our ladies. At the moment I feel that I still have a lot more to test on myself before being able to put something together.
Everything in this article is Ioana’s own view and own opinion on Lipoedema.