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Media Release for The Disease They Call FAT

First Documentary on Little-Known Fat Disease “Lipedema”

(Cambridge, MA – October 21, 2015) – The Lipedema Project, a Cambridge-based non-profit organization, announces the release of The Disease They Call FAT, the first documentary about the little known and generally misdiagnosed fat disease lipedema. A collaborative partnership between the Friedman Center for Lymphedema Research & Treatment at The Center for Advanced Medicine at Northwell Health and Lipedema Simplified, LLC, the Lipedema Project is a comprehensive transmedia program to increase awareness, education, research, and treatment for lipedema.


The Disease They Call FAT is a 55-minute film directed and produced by Media Psychologist Catherine Seo, PhD, of Lipedema Simplified. Executive Producer, Mark L. Smith MD, FACS, is Professor, Department of Surgery Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine System Vice-Chair, Department of Surgery Northwell Health System, and Director of the Friedman Center for Lymphedema Research & Treatment. A lipedema patient herself, Seo suffered extreme difficulties through many years of misdiagnosis and surgical complications. Searching for answers about her own condition, she traveled throughout Europe and the US interviewing doctors, surgeons, researchers, health advocates, therapists, and other lipedema patients. Gathering as much information as she could, Seo found that lipedema is not well known in the medical world, especially in the US, and is generally under recognized in medical education and research. Therefore, it is often misdiagnosed and not treated appropriately.

The Disease They Call FAT is the first educational film about lipedema. Featuring interviews with leading physicians and researchers, as well as patients and health advocates, it relates the latest research and treatment for lipedema, and contextualizes why it a unique and often misdiagnosed disease. It also documents a rapidly growing community of patients and medical professionals that is raising awareness for the disease globally.

Lipedema (spelled lipoedema in Europe) is a chronic medical condition involving abnormal accumulation of fat cells predominantly in the lower body and legs. 17 million in the US suffer from lipedema, and it is estimated 350 million women worldwide have the disease. It occurs almost exclusively in women, and without treatment, progresses during hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause). It can result in pain, immobility, and lymphatic issues. Unlike other fat disorders, lipedema is resistant to diet and exercise, and must be treated through other modalities. Many women are unaware that they have lipedema, a condition that is often mistaken for simple obesity.

Stanley Rockson, MD, foremost lymphatics doctor and researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine comments on The Disease They Call FAT: “Provocative, illuminating and informative, this film turns the spotlight on the common, distressing and poorly understood medical condition lipedema that cries out for attention and medical advances. The film not only explains the problem, it provides much-needed hope in the way that it highlights the awakening of medical interest and the research questions that are beginning to be answered.”

Executive Director of the Lymphatic Education & Research Network (LE&RN), William Repicci says: “The Disease They Call FAT is the opening salvo making clear that there is no turning back in the fight against lipedema. Some documentaries tell a story. This one starts a movement. Powerful. Insightful. Informative. This film introduces us to a disease hiding in plain sight, and makes a compelling case that it is time to end the suffering.”

The Disease They Call FAT was released September 18 online at

It is translated into seven languages. In addition to the film, 70 short interviews that are not included in the film are also available for purchase on the website.

The Lipedema Project, a partnership between the Friedman Center for Lymphedema Research & Treatment at The Center for Advanced Medicine at Northwell Health and Lipedema Simplified, LLC, is a comprehensive transmedia program to increase awareness, education, research, and treatment for lipedema. The Friedman Center is committed to providing education and funding research to identify treatment and a cure for lipedema. Lipedema Simplified is an information portal for patients and healthcare providers to raise awareness about lipedema and its treatment. The Lipedema Project is a unique collaboration between Catherine Seo, a lipedema patient, and Dr. Mark Smith, a physician and surgeon with expertise in the lymphatic system. This partnership opened the door for the Lipedema Project’s acceleration in raising awareness and moving forward with research for lipedema. While this collaboration opened the door, it’s the coming together of patients and healthcare professionals worldwide that has contributed to creating the Lipedema Project as a global “movement.”

Further information about The Disease They Call FAT documentary can be found at

Further information about the Lipedema Project can be found at

Zip file of media assets can be downloaded below. It includes low and high resolutions photos, logos, and pdfs of media release and articles. Additional assets available, please contact us.

Download media files

List of possible interviewees

  • Mark L. Smith, MD, FACS; New York City
  • Catherine Seo, PhD; Boston, MA


  • Dr. Matthew Carmody, Asst Prof, Harvard Medical School; Cambridge, MA
  • Dr. Kim Gudzune, Obesity Medicine Specialist, Johns Hopkins; Baltimore, MD
  • Dr. Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director, Rudd Center (specialty in weight stigma); Hartford, CT
  • Professor Dr Földi, world’s foremost authority on lymphology, Germany


  • Nicole Zepeda; plus-size model with Stage 2 lipedema, New York City
  • Trina Corrao; Indiana
  • Meg Barlament; Washington state

For other locations, please contact PR Director, Kathy Bayer.

Contact: Kelly Holzli, Public Relations