Reader Ramblings: All About Binding

Last week I asked my readers if they had any ideas for posts I could write. I received a few questions that I think are quite common and not addressed in enough depth sometimes.

Binding can be a pain, both physically and emotionally, but it can also bring great relief. To bind effectively, it’s important to understand the options out there.

3 Tips on Binding

If it hurts, don’t do it.

Binders are usually tight and uncomfortable, at times they can restrict breathing and motion slightly, but this should not equal pain. You need to find a binder that fits, does its job, and doesn’t kill you in the process.

Wear it only when you need it.

If you are going outside to meet people, put it on. But if you are at home watching TV, don’t wear it. This goes back to #1.

Find the right fit.

Keyword is find – there is no “best” binder, there is a “right” one for you. There are binders that will better suit your body shape and size over others. Some can be excruciatingly tight and not really flatten while others can be comfortable while doing the job. What works for you might not work for others – try to find reviews of people with a similar build.

Specifically, Underworks is the most popular line of binders, especially the 997. I had one myself and, after some customization, it was in fact my favorite binder. I also liked LesLoveBoat‘s binder. At the time it was a new company and not many people had heard about it. Should I have needed one, my next binder purchase would’ve been from there. (Read more about the other binders I tried.)

Binding with a Large Chest

Levi once posted Binding 101 for big chests (almost two years ago) and I still find it extremely informative. Plus, the pictures illuminate the power of good binding technique. This second post is another Underworks 997 review. Although it is composed mostly of 4 large images, you immediately get the picture of what this binder does. The bottom line is, you can bind effectively with large breasts, if you know how to.

Moreover, it isn’t just about the binder itself; your look comes down to which clothes you wear: what tops you wear, how you wear them, and how many. Layering can help with a flatter look, so consider an undershirt and a sweater if it’s not too warm. The color of the shirt affects perception, with darker shirts offering a slimming effect and hiding certain details from your contour. The style is probably most important: try button downs. Even though I have a personal preference for v-necks, I imagine crew necks are probably a safer option. Lastly, don’t wear shirts that are too tight, though extra baggy certain doesn’t help either. My advice for this is always to shop around in different stores, since sizes, cut, and style vary by store. Once you find something that fits well, try to buy shirts that are similar in style.

Binding with Anxiety

I’ve been asked what mental tools I used before top surgery to help cope with chest and binding dysphoria. I’ve already written about how to deal with dysphoria in a general sense, but let’s talk specifically about binding.

You have to find what you’re comfortable with. It’s a balance: physical discomfort over emotional/social discomfort. Through self-awareness, discover when and where you’re willing to sacrifice one over the other.

I usually take the mindset of physical (dis)comfort trumps everything. I had a rule that if my binder was painful, I would take it off. For instance, I used to commute from Philadelphia to NYC and back in a single day. I tried wearing my binder all day, but it was extremely unpleasant. My solution was to go into a bathroom and change in and out it before the two and a half hour bus ride. On airplanes I’d also opt to not wear it, otherwise my back and neck and ribs would ache for days. And as much as I hated it, I used a sports bra when working out, never a binder.

To cope with the emotional side effect, I mentally prepared myself beforehand, listing out all of my personal priorities. Knowing that I was giving myself some breathing room – literally! – and taking care of my body above everything else ended up being mentally comforting.

Mental Health

Which brings us to the matter of mental health. Your health – physical, mental, emotional – is important, don’t neglect it. If you have a physical disorder or condition, you go to the doctor. But therapy oftentimes comes with the burden of a negative stigma, so it takes courage to give yourself permission to go.

A psychologist will not solve your problems. The dysphoria will still be there, the anxiety will not magically go away. We all have shitty stuff in our lives that doesn’t necessarily have a solution, or that can’t be changed. What a (good) psychologist does do is give you tools to deal with these issues in a manner that will allow you to move on and live the other parts of your life.

(I include myself in this, since for many years I refused to seek a therapist. When I finally did, the first two were absolutely useless, and did nothing more than reinforce the idea that mental health professionals are just rocks sitting on couches. However, I’ve finally found someone that makes me comfortable, and despite having overcome most of my anxiety and depression, I still experience clear benefits from talking to my therapist. In sum, I cannot encourage this enough if you have anxiety, dysphoria, or other major stressors affecting your life.)

General Resource Articles for Binding

Finally, check out these very informative articles for more information, tips, and guides on binding.

5 responses to “Reader Ramblings: All About Binding

  1. Regarding physical discomfort and binding, what I find most helpful is to find a couple of different “levels” of binder. For me personally, dysphoria relating to my chest varies. Some days I hate having large lumps of tissue on my chest at all, and others its more about what society associates with people who have breasts than the actual tissue itself. Once I started binding full time, however, I started to feel profoundly awkward wearing a bra on my less-dysphoric days. Sometimes going out in a bra would actually make a “good day” turn into a more dysphoric one. I’m also somehow incapable of just going without something covering my chest under my shirt, I just feel completely exposed no matter how many other layers I have on.

    So, instead of wearing an actual underwire bra, I now have a small, spandex-y sports bra (look for ones that specifically advertise for making things secure, and that don’t have cups) that I wear when I’m not actually binding. It does about half the job of an actual binder, but its also a lot more comfortable and if I wear loose clothing its hard to tell anyways. This way, I can avoid actually binding all the time but still avoid the feeling that my chest is sticking out a ton.

    Besides the possible negative health effects of binding full time, I’ve also heard that long term binding can effect the elasticity of the skin in ways that can later cause issues for top surgery results, so if top surgery is an eventual goal for you consider binding as little as your dysphoria will allow you to. (I mean, you should do that anyways, but hopefully this might give some people an extra reason to take care of themselves!)

    • thanks for the suggestions!

      for the record, I never in my life used a real bra, I always just used sports bras. they are a completely acceptable option for when you are not binding.

  2. Really outstanding post! I appreciate so many of your points, but especially those about pain. K was almost constantly in pain – to the point where he didn’t identify terrible gallbladder problems as being unrelated to binding until it was too late and he had emergency surgery. Also, he has continued to have some occasional pain many years after top surgery and, through the recent discovery of a chiropractor, has several ribs out of alignment from binding – a problem typically resulting from a serious accident.

    • It’s these kinds of stories you “hear about” but think they can’t happen to you. Thanks for sharing.
      Sometimes we are in so much emotional pain we push ourselves to extreme physical pain, but we must remember to balance them.

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