A woman with 10 stone legs lost eight stone when she went on a diet – but was gutted after she was still left with large limbs.
Claire Tickle, 39, suffers from lipoedema – a painful condition which sees fat cells expand in the legs.
The learning support assistant weighed 28 stone – struggling into size 28 trousers and size 20 tops – when she decided to go on a diet.
More than a year later the mum-of-one has lost an impressive eight stone – but despite shifting the weight, her condition means fat continues to fill her legs.
Tickle, from Eastleigh, Hampshire, said: "While I’m thrilled to be slimmer I still have the weight of an adult woman on my legs.
"It’s bittersweet, as people still stare at my legs all the time. There is nothing I can do to stop my legs getting bigger – I’m scared I will be stuck with them forever."
Tickle was 16 and wore a size 14 when she started to notice huge ridges around the bottom of her ankles in 2001.
She said: "It looked like someone had tied elastic bands around my ankles, and my legs were puffy and swollen.
"When my legs continued to gather fat, the doctors kept saying that I was overweight and they gave me tablets for water retention.
"It wasn’t the healthiest diet in the world, but it didn’t explain why my legs were twice the size of my torso."
In 2008, after growing at a rate of around two dress sizes every two years, she was finally diagnosed with lipoedema.
The genetic condition leaves sufferers with an abnormal build-up of fat cells – typically in the leg, thigh and buttocks, and almost exclusively affects women.
After her diagnosis, Tickle’s legs continued to grow, and each thigh hit a 36in circumference by last January – the same size as the average man’s waist.
She said: "At a size 20 on top I was a larger lady, but my size 28 legs must have made up around 10st of my weight.
"People were always gawping and I hated them thinking I was fat – I wanted to tell them it wasn’t my fault my legs were so big."
Last June doctors told Tickle that they were trialling NHS liposuction for lipoedema sufferers and she could be eligible if she lost some weight.
Determined to prove the fat on her legs was a result of lipoedema, Tickle joined Slimming World.
She started eating scrambled eggs for breakfast, a ham salad for lunch and chicken with rice and vegetables for dinner, sipping water and green tea between meals.
Over the next 18 months, Tickle lost an average of 4lbs a month – but the fat on her legs refused to budge.
Tickle said: "As the weight fell of everywhere else I only lost a couple of inches of normal fat on my thighs.
"The layers of lipoedema fat didn’t go anywhere."
This month the mum hit 19st 11lbs, and a size 16 on top with size 22 bottoms but she estimates her legs till weigh in at more than nine stone.
Remarkably, lipoedema only affects her legs, meaning the mum has slim, size 8 feet, hidden under her calves.
Experts have warned that the incurable condition may eventually leave her wheelchair-bound, as she’s been left with osteoarthritis from years of carrying the weight.
She added: "Even after losing weight I’m still in agony and spend every day in constant pain. I struggle climbing stairs and have lower back and hip pain all the time.
"Even the lightest touch on my legs feels like I’m being stabbed."
Though NHS liposuction for lipoedema sufferers is not yet available, Tickle hopes that the crowdfunding page she set up last week will help her to pay for private treatment – which costs £4,200 a session.
She said: "I hope people will donate when they see that I’m not fat or lazy – I’m stuck this way through no fault of my own."
To donate to Claire Tickle’s cause visit JustGiving.