Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Corseting: Respecting How My Body Works

This post was originally written for The Body is Not an Apology, where I am a Content Writer.

I have had a binge eating disorder since I was in grade school. Sitting down to eat a family-sized bag of Skittles on my own in one sitting was not unusual for me. Now I know that binging on food, especially sugary food, was the only way I knew at that age to medicate my mental illnesses of panic and bipolar disorder. Sugar does a lot to the brain, especially increasing serotonin, just as antidepressants do - except that sugar is unregulated, and you need more and more of it to get the same effect.

Due to binge eating, I gained weight and started dieting - mostly starvation diets and low-fat diets that made me feel horrible and actually did make me crazy. My anxiety and bipolar disorder went through the roof every time I dieted, but I didn’t care, because at least I was skinny and people treated me better. This is what everyone told me to do, even doctors.

With all of the dieting, I lost all sense of hunger cues, I ate processed foods with no nutrition because they were low in “points,” and I rarely ate fruits (too high in calories) or vegetables because you couldn’t eat them with anything that tasted any good. Sandwich Thins and fat free bologna comprised every meal, while I binged on Skinny Cow ice cream bars in between. As long as I lost weight, the doctors were happy - and the weight loss company I was paying was really happy. I would go for half a day without eating to save up my calories for a meal I wanted if I was going out with friends.

Then, two years later, I could not handle the dieting and I would gain the weight all back. I swung to the other side, still eating processed foods, but not the low-fat ones anymore. Whether I was dieting or not, I had constant stomach issues; rarely did food stay in my body for very long. I was allergic to some of what I was eating and had terrible skin problems as well. Basically, I learned to destroy my body - to never listen to it and what it needed. I was told my stomach issues were all Irritable Bowel Syndrome and it was normal for me to be sick all the time. No doctor ever recommended to me that I should listen to what my body was telling me.

This cycle of binging and dieting slowly started to change when I started wearing a corset daily. First of all, as I mentioned in my previous post, due to wearing a corset, I don’t hate my body anymore, so I rarely feel like I have to diet or look different. Second, wearing a corset requires you to know your body. You have to respect your body.

Rev. Katie with her son. Corset by Dark Garden
When you get a new corset, the steel bones are stiff. It needs time to be seasoned and to mold to your body. You have to learn to listen to your body and to never wear a corset too tight, too long, or if it is applying pressure anywhere that makes you hurt.

I also find that I can’t starve myself in a corset. Whenever I under-eat (such as with dieting), I get light headed, tired, angry, and tend to have faster bipolar swings. In a corset, I become aware of when I am hungry faster, and I have to eat small meals throughout the day, which for me is better for my brain. (Some people do great on intermittent fasting and other patterns of eating.) I think since the corset helps you learn to honor your body and listen to it, corset wearers learn what pattern of eating is best for their bodies and helps them function well.

Previously, I had been able to put up with the extreme stomach pain and other daily issues from eating things that did not work well with my body. Now in a corset, when I eat something that bothers my stomach, I notice right away; the extreme cramps caused by allergenic foods are apparent while corseted. Many people while corseted cannot drink carbonated drinks or foods that ferment in the stomach, such as pasta. When corseted, I don’t eat things my body does not like because I know it will be uncomfortable, and because becoming more aware of my body has made me respect it more. Before I could just get away with ignoring my body and abusing it. The corset makes me very aware of everything my body feels and, for me, this change has resulted in being pretty amazed at how my body works.

My experience with corsets is not unique, and it is also not universal. I am sure some people continue to abuse their bodies while corseted. Different things work for different people. But there is so much negative stigma out there about people who wear corsets that it’s important to shed light on the ways in which corsets help many of us. Society sees corsets as oppressive garments that women only wear for attention, but many of us who wear them have found them to be extremely helpful on our journey to radical self-love.


Rev. Katie

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