Bra-Free Challenge Healthy Breast Practice Number One: Love Your Breast Friends

Thank you so much for joining the Love Your Breast Friends Bra-Free Challenge! Starting February 4th, there will be 11 daily posts through Valentine's Day. These messages will include bra-free fashion tips, links to books, research articles or videos about breast health and how bras are NOT always helpful. I will also share my personal story with my challenge getting out of my bra and how I sometimes still struggle with this new healthy breast practice.

The richest interactions will be on the private Breast Remedy Bra-Free Challenge FB group, so please join that if you can. Or you can create your own chat group or email chain with your friends and share your responses to the daily challenges privately. The best part of a group challenge is the accountability, the energy and the motivation created by large numbers of people with the same intent.

I’m really excited about this new experiment. There has been much debate about the effect that bras have on health. So we will each be able to pose a query to ourselves: how is my bra affecting my breasts? After 10 days, you may notice a difference in the comfort, size or texture of your breasts. That is what happened to me. This is my story.

I am a breast health advocate, a breast massage therapist and educator, as well as a wellness coach. I have been studying breast health since 2009. Early on I heard that wearing a bra may not be healthy for my breasts. But I wasn’t quite convinced and I didn’t understand what the effects might be. I had recently had a professional bra fitting and once I put on the “correct” size (with an underwire), I was more comfortable in my bra. It wasn’t worth the trouble or the stigma. I didn’t want to be the only girl with “headlights” out and about. What would people think?

Then I read Syd Singer and Soma Grimaijer’s book “Dressed to Kill” and I was stunned by the amount of data they had that bras could be causing breast health problems. I started switching out my underwire bras for bras without wires, but was STILL wearing a bra. My breasts were sore sometimes and sort of bumpy (or dense, or fibrocystic) but they were better than they used to be and I wasn’t worried.

Then I started studying lymph drainage therapy, where I learned how to map the lymph flow in a person's body. I could see how the flow changed within a minute of taking off a bra band or bra strap. It was eye opening to me. But was it really that big a deal? I would just massage my breasts after I took off my bra and everything would be fine.

At this point in my training, I signed up to take an intensive course to become certified in managing lymphedema. The course was a grueling 9 days in a row. We would be alternating from lecture to lab throughout the day. This meant that I would be taking my clothes off and on repeatedly to receive massage trades as we practiced our techniques on each other. I decided no way was I messing around with a bra for that, I would just wear a tank top.

By the end of that class, I couldn’t believe how great my breasts felt and how much softer they were. This was in 2015, so I had already been regularly massaging my breasts for years and I did not have this kind of shift in texture. After that I started switching to halter tops and “tank bras”. But I was still afraid to go completely bra-free. What would people think? How would I deal with headlights? I already got enough attention for being the “Boob Lady” and I wasn’t confident enough to be even more renegade.

In 2016 I was contacted by Syd Singer (yes the author!). I was extremely flattered that he had contacted me to ask questions about thermography (I was a thermography tech at the time). He was grateful for the discussions and listed my name in the acknowledgments of his second edition of “Dressed to Kill” that came out in October of 2017.

While I was over the moon about this accolade, I was also ashamed. My name was listed at the front of one of my favorite books, that I talk about in ALL of my workshops and lectures, but I was still wearing a bra. I felt like a complete hypocrite. The second edition had even stronger evidence against bras than the first book. How could I STILL be wearing this constricting, unhealthy thing?

So I spent all of 2018, with some of my amazing breast massage students, trying different bra-free clothing options. I talked to so many women about their bras. And in final summation, I must say that most women wear bras because they think they have to for support (for which there is little evidence) AND they are afraid of the social consequences (and the looks, and the shunning). I was afraid of that too. How was I going to get past this?

During this time, life brought me a really tragic gift. Kat started seeing me as a client. She was in her second round of treatments for breast cancer. She thought she had beat it, but it returned after 2 years. She had already lost one breast and now she had to take heavy chemotherapy drugs for the metastases spreading through her body. She wanted to try everything this time around, so she was adding natural and alternative therapies, like lymph drainage and breast massage, to her treatment plan.

Kat worked so hard and tried so many things but she just kept getting sicker as the doctors kept increasing the chemo. She finally decided that she was miserable and had enough. She went into hospice and passed in September of 2018 at the age of 44, which is my age. I treated her for the last time 2 weeks before she died from her cancer. There are no words for the courage and spirit this woman, daughter, wife and mother, displayed in her final days.

After being with Kat through those month of struggle, it became absolutely preposterous to me that I would be concerned for a single moment about what someone else thought of my breasts and whether or not I wore a bra. As long as they are healthy, who cares??? Look all you want jerk, roll your eyes lady, I couldn’t care less. I love my breasts and I will take the best care of them that I can. And I won’t be a coward about it any longer. Kat showed me how to be brave.

So this Bra-Free Challenge is dedicated to Kat. And the first suggestion I have for your healthy breast practice is to stand in front of a mirror topless, or at least braless in your shirt. Tell your breasts you love them just the way they are. If you do not have breasts, you can say you love your chest just the way it is.

Please take the time to post your breast friends story in the Bra-Free Challenge FB group. Let us know what your breasts or chest said back to you after you told them how much you care for them. You are also welcome to send an email to info@BreastRemedySeattle.com so I will know your story of your courage and your great love for your healthiest self. To receive your Bra-Free Challenge messages by email, please go to the Love Your Breast Friends welcome page.

And I promise you that the rest of the challenge will not be as heavy as today. I knew this would be my toughest post, so I wanted to get through it first. This challenge will make you question some of the things in our culture that are being taken for granted. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it, and there will be breast puns galore. Most important, though, I wanted you all to know how deeply important you are to me and that I am here for you and I believe in you. If I can do this, so can all of you! Thank you for being here and I will see you for the next healthy breast practice. ~Aubrey*