Curvy model who spent years hiding painful 34in thighs now embraces her body
A woman with large, painful legs is finally embracing her condition after spending years dieting in vain.
Heather Johnson, 38, suffers from lipedema, a painful condition that causes an abnormal build up of fat in the legs and arms.
The mum-of-four, from South Carolina, US, has a small waist and upper body in comparison to her arms, legs and bottom.
Unaware of her diagnosis, Heather spent decades dieting starting from six but entered a cycle of losing and gaining weight.
At the age of 31, she tipped the scales at 424lbs before undergoing gastric sleeve surgery to lose 165lbs.
The model is 5ft 9in tall and has a slim 39-inch waist compared to her 59-inch hips, with each thigh measuring 34in.
She found out she had lipedema through Instagram and now models raise awareness about the condition.
Heather said: "I've been a big girl my whole life. I started Weight Watchers when I was six, I continued to do diet after diet after diet.
"I always had a big butt, big legs, small waist, and flabby arms.
"When I was 31, I weighed 425lbs and I was told that if I didn't lose weight that I would die, so I proceeded to have a gastric sleeve.
"I lost 165lbs pounds but I couldn't really seem to lose the weight in the lower half of my body as much as I wanted.
"Instagram is how I found out about lipedema. I was happy to figure out that I wasn't crazy in the thought my body was different."
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She added: "Your legs hurt to touch, so if someone sits on your legs or pushes on your legs, you could be bruised.
"Also it makes you feel like gravity is pulling you harder than normal people, your legs feel like they have weights in them.
"I have to wear compression clothes to make it comfortable to walk, my legs are always very sensitive to touch.
"I get bruises very easily, I always wear sleeves on my arms because I have so much loose skin on my upper arm."
Now Heather shares sexy snaps online of her wearing beautiful dresses, underwear and bikinis to showcase her condition.
The model revealed: "I decided to embrace it when I realised that this is who I am and if I don't love myself, no one else will.
"I've always kind of embraced the fact that I'm big even though I've always been really self-conscious of it.
"My dad told me that even if you don't feel confident, fake it because eventually you'll start believing it and so will everyone else."
Heather, who has over 508,000 followers on Instagram, is often inundated with positive comments from men and women.
In fact, she says 95% of the comments she receives are the most "positive, rewarding and complimentary".
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She concluded: "My message to the world is to spread love and stop judging people for who they are, what they are.
"It's never too late to follow your dreams, you're never too old, you're never too big.
"I am hoping to bring more light upon this very understudied condition and also help others accept and live who they are.
"People need to love themselves and remember they are amazing and perfect the way they are.
"I want to show them they can be bold and beautiful. That they can wear that dress, that bikini, and that sexy piece of lingerie."
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