Wearing restrictive clothing is related to a host of health problems. A couple of weeks ago I posted on my Facebook page that I changed into another outfit before noon. There wasn’t anything wrong with what I had on, except I was in discomfort. There is a very good reason for it: wearing restrictive clothing around your waist (waistbands, belts, shape-wear) and rib cage can cause damage. Read more here.
I’ve become that person I said I would never be: the one who lives in pants with elastic waist bands. Here’s what is happening when you feel those ‘I can’t wait to get home and take off my bra’ moments.
Tight waists displace your internal organs.
- Restrictive clothing (and sucking in your belly) displaces your internal organs either upward or downward. This increases the pressure in your abdomen, and as a continual habit, the pressure can cause the tissue (fascia) that joins one group of muscles to another, to thin and tear. Upwards pressure displaces the stomach and intestines against the diaphragm. Downwards pressures pushes the intestines against the pelvic floor muscles, and in women against the uterus. Some of the complications of upward pressure are hiatal hernia, and downward pressure uterine, bladder and rectal prolapse and diastasis rectii.
- You can also get bladder and vaginal yeast infections (‘foundation’ compression under garments) and constipation.
These are the prop jeans from ‘The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants’. If only there were such a thing!
As a teen I lived in jeans: the real, non-stretchy ones. These days I rarely find a brand of jeans that fits the way they used to. What happened? Has the fit actually changed, were they always uncomfortable and has my tolerance level changed? Sadly, magic traveling pants do not, in fact, exist.
Most of today’s jeans have lycra in them, so they should fit better, right? But have you put on a pair of jeans with lycra in them and been shocked said pants now show every ripple, and cellulite you didn’t know you had? Now we are told we need to wear lycra undergarments to cover that up. Wearing something like Spanx now means instead of pressure around your waist, you have it all over your belly. Don’t trade in your stylish jeans that fit for underwear that is slowly strangling you from the inside out!
The pain is real.
- Tight waists restricts blood flow to your internal organs which means they get less oxygen, which means your tissues are starved and cells start dying off. This is what is causing the pain.
- The less blood supply you have, the less oxygen your organs get, and as a result you get poor lymphatic drainage. If your lymph is not draining it creates a back up of waste products, which creates more pain.
Tight bras affects your ability to breathe, and more.
You know those days when you come home and the first thing you do is take off your bra and get into PJs? That is your
- Restrictive clothing affects how you breathe (shallow), cause nerve damage, give you heartburn due to stomach being displaced.
I have acquired a very low tolerance for restrictive clothing and uncomfortable clothing. Now I am sympathetic to those people I said I’d never become.
If you think the discomfort from wearing binding clothes is a price you have to pay for fashion, you might want to rethink your priorities. I am less tolerant of uncomfortable clothing because I’m healthier and more tuned in to changes in my body as a result of not wearing constrictive pants. Through practicing Restorative Exercise I became aware that I was sucking in my belly almost all the time. Once you’ve felt a relaxed belly it is hard to go back to wearing constrictive clothing. It is just so freeing.
My advice? Go with the flow and let your belly be free. If it is to be a choice between fashion or killing off my own cells, so-long fashion, hello oxygen. And here is a source for some exercises that will get you back in tune with what a free body feels like. And here is a post I wrote on moving your rib cage.
Daily Movement Multivitamin DVD
When I was a kid my mother did a big grocery shop once a week. She made a plan of what we were going to eat for the week, and except for stocking up on milk, that was about it – she didn’t usually go back to the store for more. (Of course there were a lot of reasons for that.) When I started my own household, I thought this was the right way to shop – the most efficient, ‘proper’ way to shop – so that’s what I did, except it never really worked.
My husband comes from England where, growing up, his mother and grandmothers went to the green grocers for fruits and vegetables, the butcher shop for meat, the fish mongers for fish, and so on, getting what they needed daily from small specialty shops. Food was bought to be consumed on the same day – or within a few days. Although this changed when they moved to Canada, I think what you learn when you are young stays with you and he still likes doing the shopping like this – even more so now that we live in an urban environment where there are shops close by.
For decades we did the big weekly shopping because there wasn’t an alternative to walk to a store: we lived way out in the country. Walking to the store would have taken the whole day and we wouldn’t have been able to carry enough to make it work. Yet even when we moved into the city and had the opportunity to walk to the store, we still drove because it was our mind-set by then: a big weekly shop was just more efficient, we believed.
What changed was two things: not being self-employed anymore and having shops close enough to walk to. I soon found that working in an office Monday to Friday job left me with a lot of chores to do on the weekend, and doing a big weekly shop that left me tired and cranky wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my time. We’ve shifted gradually to picking up things as we need them: not daily because we don’t really need that, but several times a week. We also make shopping part of our weekend excursions by stopping at a market on our way somewhere else.
Getting Exercise while doing your Shopping
Here’s how daily shopping gives you more nutritious movement.
- First of all you get the extra walking just going to the store, whether you are making a separate trip from home or adding it onto your daily routine. If it is a separate trip, you of course get the extra walking to and from the store, but even if you are stopping into the supermarket on the way home from work, don’t discount those extra steps. I usually shop the outside aisles for raw ingredients, but often there will be one thing that takes me up and down the inner aisles. I’m covering a lot of the same ground a few times a week that I would have done weekly and it is extra!
- Secondly, I am only buying what I can carry (hopefully) but walking home with not only the weight of the groceries, but the size and shape of the items (the load) makes me use my body in a different way than I normally do. I use different muscles with more variation as I shift hands, carry with both arms, tuck things under my arms – just to get them home. Even more fun is carrying things without a bag! a(For more on this read It’s the Great Load Lesson, Charlie Brown, by Katy Bowman.)
- Compare the amount of work it is for your little shop to your big shop: with your little shop you probably have a hand cart or carry your items to the checkout, then you carrying your items home. In the big shop the wheeled shopping cart does the work, the items are bagged and wheeled to your car. There might be a bit more work to unload them and get them to your kitchen, but nowhere near the same movement nutrients as carrying things in your arms for a walk home.
- You can combine picking up food with entertainment. I realized how far we’d come on the weekend when we walked to Granville Island and picked up some things in the market. It is about a 45 minute walk and a short ferry ride away, but we walked at least an extra hour around the market and shops, and we came home with a bag of bagels, a block of butter, some corn tortillas, salsa verde and smoked salt – without bags. Granville Island has gone plastic shopping bag free and we didn’t have any bags with us, so we carried it. (We did get a small bag for the butter – apparently they are 100% plastic free yet.) That’s a pretty different movement experience than buying a weeks’ (or more) worth of groceries and loading them into the car.
I suspect there will always be times when we drive to pick up things – because we have the option if we need or want it – but I am now firmly of the mindset that shopping more frequently is the way to go and if you can manage it, you will be doing your body a big favour.
Devices for turning your desk into a standing workstation are popular right now; I have one myself and it is so good to have the variation. But here is something you should know about standing work stations: your body might not be strong enough to stand and work all day. People who have to stand for work know what I’m talking about. About 7 years ago I got a job in a coffee shop and it was the most physically taxing thing I’ve done. It was much more demanding than teaching dance aerobics classes. That summer I had pain just about everywhere, but especially in my feet and calves.
Standing workstation on top of a bookcase.
Prolonged standing in a relatively small range of motion can give you pain in the knees, hips, lower back, shoulders and neck. Look at it another way: if you’ve trained your body to sit for a long time, starting from a young age, your body adapts to that position. If you don’t agree just consider that graduating from high school trains you to sit relatively still for 12-13 years. If you want to increase your range of motion, you will need to undo some of that adaptation without ‘challenging’ your adaption, which is what can happen when you try to work at a standing desk completely (or suddenly start working in a coffee shop) before your body is ready. In other words, to be able to use a standing workstation without pain, you need to train your body for it.
How to Become a Stand-to-Work Pro
Like with any other training, your gear is important. To become a standing-to-work winner critically examine what you are wearing on your feet. Consider these 3 points in your shoe choices: heel height, toe box, and flexibility.
# 1 Heel height ‘zero-rise’.
Ideally, zero rise (totally flat) shoes, but if you are used to wearing a heel and have heard about the benefits of going flat, it is better to transition into them gradually. Going to a totally flat shoe while moving to a standing workstation may be too drastic a move (but you can alternate between what you usually wear and a lower heel.)
# 2. A roomy toe box with no toe spring.
Ideally your shoe should have a toe box that is wide enough for you to spread your toes sideways and wiggle them up and down. You also want to look at how much toe spring the shoe has, because that can keep your toes flexed upwards. Both a narrow toe box and toe spring in your shoe may even be a cause of plantar faciitis. You will never see a toe spring in a pair of flip flops but you see them on some ballet flats. Does your shoe look like a banana? It has toe spring.
# 3 Flexible Sole.
Most shoes really act like a cast to keep your foot from moving around in your shoe but there are about a hundred muscles in your feet that do not get to move at all if your shoes are so rigid that they prevent natural movement. Do the flexibility test: can you twist your shoe from side to side? Can you bend your shoe at the ball of the foot?
Again, I want to stress that going directly to a ‘barefoot shoe’ may be too much, too soon. You may need more padding under your foot. I don’t own a pair of Lems shoes but I have heard they are very good for transitioning to a minimal shoe. You could also consider using an anti-fatigue mat under your workstation.
# 4. If you currently wear an orthotic device continue to use it as you adapt.
# 5. Don’t just stand there, at your standing workstation. Move around a bit, unlock your knees, stretch your calves, unclench and untuck. I keep a tennis ball close by and I roll it under my foot and use it to stretch my calves.
# 6. Finally, start out by standing for short periods of time, working up to 60 minutes of an 8 hour day. Gradually transition to longer periods of time standing.
Muscle lengthening and strengthening Exercises
You will probably need to undo your adaptation habits in order to stand to work (for longer periods) without pain. One result of sitting for long periods (either in a long session, or over your lifetime) is that the muscles on the back of the legs get shorter which requires the body to compensate in particular ways such as flattening the lumbar curve and tucking the tailbone.
Here are two Alignment Snacks from Nutritious Movement to take you through this series: Stretching the Standing Muscles and Walk This Way, Stand This Way. They can be purchased by clicking on the links below.
The Calf Stretch lengthens the calf muscles.
Stretching The Standing Muscles
Focus on stretching the standing muscles first. Props you need for this exercise series which targets the gastrocnemius, soleus and hamstrings, are a rolled up towel or yoga mat, a dome or even a book.
The Pelvic List strengthens the lateral hip muscles.
Walk This Way, Stand This Way
Your lateral hip muscles need strengthening (they are weak for most people.) In this series you will learn more about balance and strengthening your lateral hip muscles. You will also need a rolled up towel or yoga mat, dome or book for these exercises.
You can improve your breast health. It requires three key things: Blood, electricity and lymph. (Optimal health in any area of your body requires the same three things to flow.)
Blood delivers oxygen to the cells, electricity innervates them, and the lymph system drains waste material from them. The lymphatic system is our second circulatory system but unlike the cardiovascular system, where the heart pumps the blood throughout the body, the lymph system relies on us moving our bodies for it to function.
We usually do a pretty good job of moving our big muscles but there are tons of small muscles that often get neglected. This post is about moving some of those neglected muscles surrounding the breasts so that you can work towards optimal breast health. Here are 4 things you can do that will immediately deliver more blood and electricity to your cells while getting great lymph circulation.
One: Walk with reciprocal arm swing.
Reciprocal arm swing ‘pumps’ accumulated lymph away from the breast tissue. Reciprocal arm swing is a natural way of walking (your arms move opposite to your legs, i.e. right leg forward, left arm back). What is different here is the emphasis on the back swing (cross country ski). Let your arms return naturally to your side as opposed to bringing them up in front of you ‘power walking’ style. You can also do an arm swing while standing still if you can’t get out for a walk.
The back swing reciprocal arm movement also stabilizes your spine as you walk. If you have lower back pain or hip pain, this will be your best friend.
And, ideally you need your arms to be free when you walk – shoulder bags hanging off your shoulder impede your arm movement. I use a backpack or messenger bag.
Two: Ditch Your Bra.
You will have healthier breast tissue if you allow your breasts to support themselves. Okay, maybe you can’t ditch your bra completely. If you have larger breasts you need support especially for things like running, but even larger chested women can go natural sometimes by taking the bra off earlier and putting it on later.
Stop wearing a bra for sleeping (if you do). And especially, don’t wear an underwire bra. Those underwire bras press on the lymph nodes (in your arm pits, sternum and ribs) and restrict the lymph flow. They also restrict movement in your ribs.
Three: Improve your Shoulder Mobility.
The lymph nodes in your breasts need regular and well-aligned use of the muscles in your neck, armpits, shoulder, arms and hands for waste removal. So if your neck, shoulders, arms and hands are tight, chances are your lymphatic drainage is slow.
There are a lot of ways to increase shoulder mobility. One that I like is the posterior block hold. Hold a yoga block behind you by pressing your palms into the surface. Try to hold the block without gripping or using your fingers. You will want your elbows to roll behind you (as opposed to pointing out to the sides) and your shoulder blades to squeeze together. Work your way up to holding the stretch for sixty seconds, and repeat each 2-3 times per day. Try it: it is simple but not easy.
Loading the muscles in your arms and shoulders through hanging is my favourite upper body exercise. You don’t need special equipment or an occasion to do it.
If you are new to loading your arm and shoulder tissues in this way, start out gently and let your muscles do the work – not your ligaments – and keep your feet on the ground.
A great way to begin is to use your door frame. This is a horizontal hang (raising your arm out to the side). Stand to the side of the door frame, hook your fingers over the frame and lean away from the door frame. Vary the load by moving your feet closer or further away from the door way, or moving your arm up higher.
Once you start hanging with your feet on the ground you will start noticing opportunities and places to do it. For example, you can (if you are tall enough) reach up and grab the top of your door frame while keeping your feet on the ground, and get some hanging in every time you pass through a doorway.
When you are ready to hang with your feet off the ground you can use the equipment at the playground or get a pull up bar. I have a pull up bar that attaches in a doorway. If you are hanging from monkey bars (or pull up bars) start with both feet on the ground and bend your knees so that your arms and shoulders begin to take your weight. Check in with your shoulder blades…are your shoulders hiked? If they are, back off and see if you can let them come down a little. You can change you grip, widen the distance between your arms or lessen it. Play with it and have a little fun.There is actually quite a lot to be said about hanging so I am going to pass you over to Katy Says for some additional pointers.
Note: You can’t walk until you can stand and you can’t swing until you can hang. Yes, I learned that the hard way, ouch!