Health and hap­pi­ness

Ioana’s hour­glass fig­ure is the re­sult of a med­i­cal con­di­tion and def­i­nitely not fake!

Real People - - REAL PEOPLE -

Thigh candy

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!

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