When a Pear Shape Figure is a Medical Problem (and Why Liposuction Can Make It WORSE)

Bianca Zen | 18 Nov 2014

For nearly as long as she can remember, Alison White has had big legs in comparison with the rest of her body.


Alison White of West Yorkshire has lipoedema. 


The condition which involves an abnormal build-up of fat cells in the thighs, buttocks and legs. 

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'I've always had a flat stomach and a small chest, and I'm slim enough that you can see my hip bones sticking out a bit,' says the 32-year-old director of a market research company, who lives in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

'But even though my waist is no bigger than 30 in, each of my thighs is about the same, and my calves are 18 in.

'My legs are like tree trunks all the way down to my ankles, then I have a ring where it always looks as if I've been wearing tight socks.'

Alison had assumed she was 'just a fatty' and when she hit her teens, she started to pay more attention to what she ate.

'I got into the habit of not eating much at all - just an apple and a bit of cheese and bread now and then.

'I got down to a size ten on top, but had legs that looked as if they should belong to a much bigger person.'

To disguise this, she wore trousers rather than skirts and over the years continued to diet, trying everything from Atkins and Weight Watchers to meal replacement drinks, but nothing shifted the fat on her lower limbs.

'In 2010, I basically didn't eat for two months,' says Alison, who lives with her boyfriend James, who runs a business making corsets.

'I tracked my measurements at various points on my legs during the process, and though I dropped more than two stone overall - going from 13 st to 10 st 8lb and losing five inches from my waist - my legs stayed the same size.'

Finally, in April, she had a lightbulb moment when her boyfriend came across an internet article on a condition called lipoedema.

'James said: "I think this is you." I told him to stop being cheeky - my legs weren't nearly as big as those of the girl's in the picture.

'But when I read it, I realised he might be right. And I was relieved to discover I had an actual medical condition and that I wasn't the only one.'

Lipoedema is an abnormal distribution of fat that mainly causes the legs - and sometimes also the arms - to gradually become enlarged, says Dirk Pilat, a GP in Tower Hamlets, London, and medical consultant to the charity Lipoedema UK.

Both legs tend to be enlarged at the same time and to the same extent.

Those with the condition have an excess number of fat cells in affected areas, as well as a build-up of fluid in those cells. 

Read more at the Daily Mail