(Butts, boobs, and body image)

“You don’t even fill your sports bra”

That was a comment one of my ultimate team mates made in our hotel room while we were changing to go play at an out of town tournament. I’m pretty sure she didn’t intend to be mean, and we all laughed. It was definitely true. Instead of tightly holding the girls in place, my bra was big enough that it had wrinkles. It didn’t help that the two friends with me were both more genetically gifted than me in the boob department.

Prior to making the team, I had made some changes to my eating and exercising habits that lead to me losing about 25 pounds while also putting on muscle. It was pretty cool! I had always been active and played sports, but I also had always done so carrying a bit of extra weight. I didn’t think it limited me as I did fairly well. But between the weight loss and the strength gain, my game completely transformed. I remember laughing after I missed a disc because it hit my wrist: I had to re-calibrate my jumps to account for my new-found vertical. It’s the only time I’ve ever been okay with dropping a disc.

I also got to buy new clothes, which was so fun! In particular, I loved that virtually everything I tried on looked great. I was used to that critical inner voice talking to me when I shopped. You know, the one that notices and highlights the muffin top instead of appreciating the big picture of how beautiful you are. That inner voice was gone – mostly.

There was a downside to the downsize. I had always been a B cup. I was fine with downsizing all of my other clothes, but I was not ready to become an A cup. More accurately, I wasn’t ready to admit that I had become an A cup. In fact I just didn’t acknowledge it and I continued to wear B cup bras that were a bit big.

I’m not trying to disparage any A-cuppers out there. I’m just sharing this story because it’s a reality for most women that we rarely talk about: When we lose weight, our boobs will shrink. Often we lose boob weight before we lose belly, butt, or thigh weight. It’s a bit cruel really. If penises shrank with weight loss, would any man have 6 pack abs?

Part of what makes A-cup acceptance a challenge for me, is that my genes are such that in addition to smaller boobs, my butt is on the bigger side. You might be shaking your head and thinking that I’m just being self-critical, but I have independent confirmation from several sources. My favourite was when I was in my early twenties and was locking my bike downtown, when a street person asked, “spare some change?”, to which I replied “sorry, I got nothing” (not sure what happened to my language skills that day). The street guy looked me over as he replied: “What are you talking about? You’re beautiful! Great smile, nice body, big ass, but that’s okay.” True story!

It’s been years since the boobs-don’t-fill-the-bra comment, and I have since retired from competitive ultimate, although I still play (so fun!). Since I no longer have that much need for speed, I’ve relaxed my nutrition and exercise habits a bit, which has resulted in gaining a few pounds back. I tend to stay about 10 pounds above ‘game weight’, which makes my boobs close enough to a B cup that I managed to avoid downsizing bras. Until recently, that is. I signed up for my own Get Lean program and have lost a few pounds over the past 6 weeks. This is both good and bad.

For the most part, I’m very happy with my body, even before losing these few pounds. Usually when I catch a look in the mirror, or at a photo, or a video, I think ‘nice!‘ But there are still times when I notice a little muffin top, or a bit of a belly, or a slightly too big butt. As I drop these few pounds, the former happens more often, but I still catch myself scanning the reflection in the mirror for things I don’t like. Why do we do that?

It is absolutely true that we can improve our physique through lifestyle changes, but it’s all for naught if we can’t forgive our own imperfections. Here’s the harsh truth: No matter how much weight you lose, you aren’t going to be perfect. I was reading an interesting ebook last night about habits, that had a point that really stuck with me: “To change  your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself“. The author was making that statement to encourage identity-based habits, which I agree with. But I think it applies beyond that. I think that if we want to lose weight to look great, we have to start believing that we look great now. If we don’t will we believe we look great once we’ve lost weight?

If every day for years (decades?) you have looked at yourself in the mirror scanning for your worst feature and moving around to expose your worst angle, how is weight loss going to change that? At what point in the journey will you suddenly start scanning for your favourite part with a smile, instead of looking for your most hated part with a frown? If the way you look at yourself is really a habit (and it seems to be for many), then the answer is that you won’t. Instead you’ll continue your very strong and consistent habit of looking for the worst.

It’s time to start a new habit that will eventually kick that destructive habit to the curb. Starting today, look at yourself in the mirror and focus on the love. It can be a smile, a curve, a muscle, an especially beautiful area of skin; it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you do this everyday, and that you look for and acknowledge something beautiful about yourself.

Now back to my boobs (can’t believe I’m writing that on the internet!): I am very excited to announce that I finally made the plunge: I bought my first two A cup bras! Funny story though – I didn’t actually try them on at the store. Apparently I’m not that accepting yet. Instead I waited until I got home. Well! It turns out one of them is actually a 38B that was on the wrong hanger (anyone in Ottawa need a new black Calvin Klein 38B bra?). I thought it looked big for an A! Bra #2 is better, but it’s a bit tight (the back strap, not the cup). Turns out when dropping a cup size, you should probably go up a number. Even with the slight mis-fit, I gotta say, my girls look and feel great in this new bra, and I’m looking forward to another bra shopping trip soon. Anyone have any favourites to recommend that look great on an A-cupper?


Elsbeth Vaino, is an A-Certified personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada who runs an 8 week on-line Get Lean Challenge.


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1 Comment

  1. Man, do I get this. When I lost 50lbs 4 years ago, I went down to a 34A before I lost a single pant size. Now, hilariously, all my bras are too tight because I’m developing more muscle and the bands aren’t big enough! (But yeah, still totally an A-cup. I get the cheapies at Target for 13.99.)

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