An Instagram star, whose legs are constantly swollen, is encouraging others to embrace their figures and celebrate their differences.
Carmen Smith, based in California, developed lymphedema as a child, which causes her legs, ankles and feet to swell significantly due to a compromised lymphatic system.
Despite once being painfully self-conscious of her body, Carmen said she has learned to embrace its ‘uniqueness’ and is sharing her journey with her 48,000 Instagram followers.
Watch Carmen talking about her story here:
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Carmen, 30, told Barcroft TV:
Be what you wanna be, not stuck in this weird box society wants to keep us in. Our differences make us beautiful. I always tell my followers on Instagram to embrace their bodies at every step of our journey.
Lymphedema is most commonly seen after a lymph node dissection, surgery and/or radiation therapy, but it can also be inherited or caused by injury to the lymphatic vessels.
Im so excited to announce my first very own YouTube channel! Please follow the link in my bio and check out my first video. I can’t wait to continue this journey together, now through video ? SUBSCRIBE SUBSCRIBE ?? . . #eatthecaketoo #carmenrene #bodylovejourney #bodyposi #selflove #itsamarathon #workinprogress #youtuber #subscribe #introvideo #femaleentrepreneur #lymphedemawarrior #lymphedema
In Carmen’s case, she inherited the condition and first began showing symptoms as a young child.
My mum told me I was about three when she noticed something was going on. I was complaining a lot that my feet hurt.
She took me to the doctor and they diagnosed me with lymphedema, stating that most likely I was born without some of my lymph nodes.
Your lymph nodes and your lymphatic system are supposed to be moving fluids through your body, so in my case the blockage is in my legs. That’s why there’s swelling and discomfort.
80 degrees in SoCal what else do you do! ☀️??. Oh by the way, this is my “beach body” and it’s amazing ?. #itsalwayssunny #socalwinter #beachday #chunky #summerbody #plussize #sizesexy #eatthecaketoo #carmenrene #bbw #lymphedema #lymphedemawarrior #cellulitesaturday #beachbody #normalizecellulite #bigisbeautiful #iamnotmylegs #bodypositive #effyourbodystandards #bodylove #honormycurves #plussizemodel #selflove #beautybeyondsize #reallife #ootd #bikini #biggirlsinbikinis
Throughout her teen years and into adulthood, Carmen’s symptoms have progressed and the swelling is more noticeable than ever.
As I’ve gotten older my lymphedema has progressed. I do remember, y’know, they would look at my feet or say something about them.
It would just make me horrified and so uncomfortable and embarrassed. To this day, I don’t like people looking at my feet.
As a child, Carmen had to wear flip flops all the time as they were the only shoes she could find that fit her feet comfortably and she would always attempt to hide her most swollen leg – the right – when posing for pictures.
All month is #LymphedemaAwarenessMonth so I’m hoping to make as much of an impact as I can! I never wore shorts growing up and I never EVER wanted people to look at my feet. My feet are still such a vulnerability for me if I’m being completely honest. Because of my poor circulation they tend to callus easily and are far from what society seems as #prettyfeet . Through this journey with you, I have challenge myself to really love the parts of my body that make people stop and stare. The parts of my body that make me feel most vulnerable. Not just say I love my body but to believe in my soul that my feet are perfect for me just the way they are. That my lower legs are worthy of all my love. We are on this journey together, please believe that! . Photo by @cordobaphotography . . #lymphedemawarrior #effyourbeautystandards #eatthecaketoo #carmenrene #bevulnerable #iamstrong #iamworthy #bodypositive #bodylove #bodycare #selflove #curves #plussizemodel #bodyposi
Enduring comments and looks from strangers knocked Carmen’s confidence for a long time, but gradually her mindset began to change.
The turning point was telling myself that I have to start being in a more positive mental space, y’know, saying that I’m not going to be defined by what someone else has to say about my body.
In her photoshoots Carmen often plays with implied nudity and models her favourite lingerie, which attracts comments from other women whose partners would never allow them to show off their body publicly.
Oh you have a chunky #CelluLIT booty and tummy rolls?? ME TOOOOO ? Oh you have #stretchmarks and #varicoseVeins ?? ME TOOOOO ? Oh you have a beautiful, lovable, worthy body?? ME TOOOOO?. How amazing would it be if everything you thought was “wrong” with your body became something you could see as beautiful and worthy of your love? Let’s try it out! Who’s with me? #TheScaleSaysConfident . . Photo by @cordobaphotography . #cakeday #empoweryourbody #carmenrene #eatthecaketoo #bodypositive #bodylove #bodyconfidence #embracethesquish #sizesexy #effyourbeautystandards #confidence #workinprogress #fatgirlflow #bbwlove #femaleempowerment #bodyempowerment #loveyourself #taketimeforyou #humpday #celluliteisbeautiful #celebratemysize
Carmen’s boyfriend Kahari Jumal, 43, has no such qualms and has a straightforward message for men who are scared of their partners flaunting their figures.
Don’t be insecure. You make the choice. You’re a grown woman.
The couple first met while working together and Carmen’s first impression certainly stuck with Kahari.
She was walking by and the first thing I noticed as she walked by was her stature. And I thought, ‘Oh wow! Wow!’
All I could say was wow. It looked good. That was my first impression of Carmen the first time I saw her.
You know what I didn’t see on tv or in the media growing up? Someone who looked like me and had a healthy happy relationship that had nothing to do with being fat. Society has this funny way of telling us who we should be attracted to and who we should end up with. I say forget all that and go for what feels right. So What that I can’t wear his shirts like all the girls in the movie? So what he has a 6 pack and i have beautiful supple rolls? Embrace the differences. Do you laugh together and find joy even on the darkest days? Then go for the gold my friend. The opinions of others won’t bring you happiness and damn sure won’t bring you an orgasm ?. #sizesexy . Photo by: @cordobaphotography . #effyourbeautystandards #lawofattraction #plusisequal #beyourownstandardofbeauty #carmenrene #eatthecaketoo #boudoirphotography #hisandhers #havefun #lovemore #laugh #bevulnerable #bodylove #couplegoals #loveislove #interracialcouple
Carmen says Kahari has played a key role in the transformation of her self-image by helping her to see her body through his eyes.
The way my boyfriend makes me feel about my body is something that I wish every woman could experience.
A partner who empowers you and encourages you to love your body the way they say it, it will change the way that you see yourself. For me, he was, and has been, a huge part of me being able to do what I do.
Smith regularly shoots with friend and photographer Efren Cordoba, who has helped to promote her distinctive brand of sexy.
“She’s got that whole purpose driven warrior queen save the world type of vibe”. ✨ Staring life right in the eye like What’s next? . Photo SLAYED by @cordobaphotography shot @cordobacreatives . Lingerie: @fashionnovacurve . . #carmenrene #eatthecaketoo #everybodybeautiful #lymphedemawarrior #lymphedema #lymphedemaawareness #queen #glowforit #stronger #strongwoman #femaleempowerment #feelempowered #bodyempowerment #bodylove #bodypositive #bodyconfidence #bbwlove #bbw #plusmodelmag #plussize #getoverit #biggirlswag #bigisbeautiful #sizesexy #effyourbodystandards #effyourbeautystandards #iambodybeautiful #celluLIT
For her first photoshoot explicitly focusing on her lymphedema, Carmen used signs to highlight the hashtags she has become known for – #lymphedemawarrior and #eatthecaketoo.
Carmen’s photos have sparked a strong response from other lymphedema warriors who are struggling with their body image.
Positive reactions on Instagram make me know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. 100 per cent.
The women who are in my inbox saying, ‘Hey my legs look like yours. I’ve never seen anyone whose body looks like mine. Thank you for putting yourself out there. You’re making me feel comfortable’. That stuff is big!
Embrace the squish ?. As my birthday comes to an end I feel nothing but gratitude and excitement to see what this new chapter brings. I feel better than ever in my skin and I will continue this journey of #selflove. I will continue to encourage all of you to do the same and forever love the body you have as you work towards all of your goals. … #bigisbeautiful #workinprogress #birthdaygirl #plussize #bodyposi #bodypositive #bopo #confidence #bodyconfidence #bebrave #beyou #bevulnerable #beinyourskin #bbw #rolls #celebratemysize #chunky #fatandfit #effyourbeautystandards #eatthecaketoo #carmenrene #instagood #instamodel #dirtythirty #lymphedema #lymphedemawarrior #tummylove #becauseitsmybody #normalizenudity
Since she learned to embrace every inch of her fabulous skin, Carmen has never felt more at ease in her own body and wants to continue encouraging others to inject some body positivity into their lives.
I describe my self image now, as I just love myself. I can say that 99 per cent of the time. I’m only human, so of course I have my bad days.
Nobody’s perfect, but nine times out of ten I can wake up saying, ‘You’re doing a good job, you’re taking care of your body, you like what you see in the mirror.’
I think, if we could all do that, honestly this world would be a whole lot more positive than it is now.