Health and happiness
Ioana’s hourglass figure is the result of a medical condition and definitely not fake!
Thundering on the treadmill, sweat poured down my face.
I caught sight of myself in the mirror, my big thighs wobbling like jelly on top of a washing machine!
‘Come on, just another minute,’ I panted. I was 18 and training to join the police force in Romania, where I was from.
But being a size 16 on top and a 20 on bottom meant that I’d have to run more than an extra mile to pass the fitness test.
I’d had an hourglass figure pretty much since puberty. My thighs had ballooned as soon as I’d started my periods at 10.
The kids at school reckoned I was a whale, but my blubber was thick and I took no notice.
‘We’re all different,’ my mum, Lucia, assured me.
Tell the police academy that! Sadly, I didn’t pass the fitness test, despite dropping 4st over a year for it. Miserable, I went straight back on the foods that I’d banned – carbs and chocolate.
Maybe they’d help me decide what to do with my life!
And, as if it was written in the carbs, life took me to the birthplace of big portions – America.
I started work as a business administrator in Georgia. The food was amazing! I’d pile my plate high with burgers and chips.
By now, I was waddling along in size 22 trousers. They still had to be stretchy to accommodate my thighs, which had a mottled, orange peel-like texture.
I was 5ft 6in, yet weighed more than 18st. My calves were swollen, my joints hurt…
I never wore skirts, as my thighs chafed together. They were three times the size of the rest of me.
‘I look 40, not 23,’ I thought. Still, I focused on my career and eventually moved to Dartford, in Kent, where I started as an HR consultant.
With even longer hours, my weight and health were suffering.
So, I cut out all junk, ate chicken, fish and veg, started doing Zumba and going to the gym. As the weight dropped off, I uploaded my photos and videos onto my Instagram account.
Within one day, I’d gained 5,000 followers!
By now, I was a size 12-14 with a 30in waist. But my thighs were pushing 50in… yet I didn’t want to hide them.
Some trolls said I was a fake. You’ve had surgery to have a waist like that and legs like that,
one messaged. I ignored them. Then, one day… I think you may have lipoedema, like me,
a woman messaged. I googled it, and suddenly everything made sense. It was an abnormal build-up of fat cells that mainly affected the thighs and buttocks.
It was the type of fat that, no matter how much you dieted, would never go completely.
I went to my GP.
‘I think I have this,’ I said, handing him my printouts from the internet.
He sent me to a consultant, who said there weren’t any tests for it. But he pressed on my legs – soft and doughy just like someone with lipoedema, apparently.
There was no cure for it. I just had to keep healthy.
I talked about it on Instagram but the trolls still mocked me, saying I was lying! But plenty more women told me they’d been diagnosed because of me.
Now, a year on, I have 700,000 followers. I’m down to around 12st.
I don’t mind the odd spag bol now, but usually stick to avocados, chicken and veg. I swim and lift weights five times a week.
Running is still a no-no, though, as there’s too much pressure on my joints. And buying jeans is a nightmare – they’re always too big round the waist in order to fit my puffy pins.
But I’m healthy, happy and living the thigh life!
Ioana Chira, 27, Dartford, Kent
Before I got super-healthy I have 700,000 Insta fans I’m fighting fit!