Shame-Free Self Care

I got an e-mail response to yesterday’s blog from a woman who asked “can you address the practical side of it? How do you deal with the sweaty, rubbing aspect of bodies, especially in the heat”

This is a big deal because we live in a society that tells us that our bodies, if they are fat, are not worthy of care.  We also get the message that the needs of a fat body are embarrassing and shameful.  We are in charge of whether or not we believe these things, and I do not.  I think my body is amazing and worthy of great care.

My first experience with this was when I decided to look for a solution to inner thigh chaffing (aka “chub rub”).  What shocked me most was that it wasn’t just fat women – there were thin women dealing with the same issues.  That’s when I realized that these aren’t just “fat people issues” it’s just that fat people are the only ones encouraged to be ashamed of them.

For me, it’s all about honoring the needs of my body without guilt or shame.  Here are some examples:

Chaffing

There are all kinds of cremes and powders to address this. There’s a thread about those here [TW – not a Health at Every Size Space].  Making sure that your clothes fit well is another part of it.  When I’m wearing skirts I often wear leggings under them (long length if I want them to show and bike short length if I don’t want them to show).  This also helps with the fact that I have a hard time remembering to sit like a lady and I have a tendency to just high kick for any old reason!  There are also cloth pads that you can buy that go under your bra or in your tunny fold to prevent chaffing.  I bought the bra ones because sometimes I dance in an underwire bra and that makes the skin under my breasts really sad.  The pads cleared the problem right up.

Showering

It’s possible that a combination of body size and/or arm length and/or inflexibility will lead to you know being able to reach your whole body when showering.  Consider using loofah or other sponges that have long handles, getting a shower head that separates.  While you’re at it, consider investing in a big, ginormous towel or two (I have found that it’s completely awesome to have a towel that matches my bodies proportions) and make sure that you dry off thoroughly.

Treats!

Your body is awesome and it can feel awesome to treat it well with special things and decorations.  It can be as simple as a scented lotion or a bubble bath, or as dramatic as a tattoo or piercing.

More of Me to Love, Ample Stuff, and My Size USA all offer products specifically to help people take care of their large bodies. (I don’t get paid by any of these sites, More of Me to Love was the major donor on the Billboard Project).

Regardless, if I let people shame me into not taking good care of my big amazing body then the shamers win and I’m the only one who suffers.

So, today is “ask me anything about self-care day”!  Leave a comment with your question, and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.

I also wrote this week for iVillage about the Vogue article involving the mother who decided to make body shame part of her 7 year old daughter’s inheritance.  Feel free to read and comment if the mood strikes you!

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on March 28, 2012 at 6:05 am  Comments (57)  

57 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I saw the comments were closed to the chaffing issue but wanted to add Desitin. Those of us that also ride in competitive trail riding and endurance riding (horseback) use this, and thinner people too from saddle chaffing as well. But awesome and cheap. Also, I am not a long skirt person and love shorts and shorter skirts. How most companies make shorts for bigger girls is rather appalling, I rarely find the length and fit I like. What i have discovered and love because it fixes every problem at once for me are skorts! Right length, inside short prevents chaffing and no camel toe. And freedom. There are getting to be more out there to choose from.

    • I’m with you on the skorts! Love them, buy whenever I can! I love the chaffing gel by Monastat! It’s powder in a gel suspension. It stays put almost all day!

  2. I have lots of trouble cutting my toenails and shaving my legs. Part of this is back and flexibility issues, but I would love suggestions on making this easier.

  3. Sorry, don’t think last comment went through. I have trouble with cutting toenails and shaving my legs. Part of this is due to my bad back, but I would love suggestions on making this easier!

    • I don’t have any physical issue cutting my toenails but used to cut them too short all the time. Now I try to get a pedicure every 4-6wks. My mother has always had funky toenails and now because she has diabetes she goes to the podiatrist to get hers cut. Not sure if either of those are options for you.

  4. The lovely Hanne Blank did a self-care entry awhile back that introduced me to Salux washcloths. I have been grateful every day since. These are nylon scrubbie sheets long enough to grasp in both hands and wrap behind one’s back — invaluable for scrubbing my own back (not to mention backside) without needing to be a contortionist. Just because I *could* manage to twist enough to do without them doesn’t mean I liked doing so.

  5. Any ideas on removing, reducing dark skin patches under your boobs, underarms, between your thighs. I’ve read these are from PCOS, I thought all fat people had them. Also any ideas for errr extending your reach when using the toilet? I know there are a couple of wand type products out there but I usually only have an issue at work, where I can’t store personal items anywhere near the bathroom.

  6. Any suggestion for the darker patches of skin that develop under your breasts, underarms, and thighs. I think they are caused by PCOS, I used to think all fat people had them.

    Also err toilet hygiene. I’m good at home but at work or play I sometimes feel like my arms need to be a few inches longer. There are a couple wand type products out there but they’re not exactly portable. Plus if anyone has used them, are they useful? I think they cost $40-50 and obviously not returnable.

    Thanks.

    • Yes! I thought I was the only one with those pesky dark patches of skin (especially in the underarm/armpit area)! Any suggestions?

    • I have a wand for toilet hygiene but it does not work as well as one would hope it would. I still feel like half of a contortionist when using it. Awesome concept but still needs some major improvement.

      I also have the dark patches under my arms and breasts and inner thighs.

    • Try using the handicap stall. You can grab a bar and pull yourself up to one side, which makes the reach shorter.

      Hope that helps,

      Elle

    • bobbiejo, I know that medically that’s known as acanthosis nigricans, and it is related to insulin resistance. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any advice that suggests anything other than ‘treat the underlying condition’. There may be something more helpful out there if you search under the name…

      • I have read that fish oil helps with the dark patches, and I know for me (and I do have PCOS) that once I effectively treated chafing issues, the dark patches did start to fade, and are now pretty much invisible. I don’t know if it works the same for everybody, but that was my experience. You can also see a dermatologist for more aggressive treatment.

      • Errr just looked up ancanthosis nigricans on web md and mayo clinic. Even though they talk about insulin resistance it’s because we’re obese and should lose weight. D’oh. Gonna try some of well rounded mamas suggestions.

      • Unfortunately, yes, that seems to be the attitude of a lot of sites on the subject. This one, though, has some further info that I’ve found in a few other places, on topical treatments:

        http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1102488-treatment

        Don’t know how helpful any of that is (suspect some of those creams are prescription-only) but it may be worth a try…

  7. Great post! I actually got my ears pierced yesterday:-) As a reminder that I will be careful with myself and take care of myself, and I’m so happy.
    When I stand up, I can see that there are red streaks across the front of my belly. I think they are caused by my belly folding up in those places when I sit down. I don’t think they are dangerous (though I pay special attention to them when I shower) but I don’t like the way they look. Anything to combat red creases due to folds?

  8. I have found that the best thing to use when the skin under my breast chaffs is this nappy rash cream, discovered it when my sons were tiny. http://www.metanium.co.uk

  9. I’m so glad you addressed that horrible woman who put her poor little girl on a diet. Of course she’s got a book coming out… *of course* she does. I wonder when she’ll get her own reality show.

    • I posted a comment about this also on msn.com in which I said that, first of all, if the mother has issues with food and weight, then, duh, maybe her kid is gonna have them too. Second of all, diets don’t work, especially not in the long-term (which took me from age 9 to some time in my 50s to discover). And third, maybe her daughter is just destined to be a larger person. I said, “some people are just bigger than others. Get over it.”
      Stuff like this just p*ss*s me off.

    • I don’t think children should diet while they are still growing, and girls in the pre-puberty phase often gain a little extra weight. I was put on a diet when I was 9 when I put on a few pounds after always having been a very skinny child. It started a lifelong cycle of dieting and then regaining a bit more weight than I lost on the diet. Net result: 23 years later, the skinny kid I used to be is long gone and I’m 84 pounds overweight. Luckily over the last few years now that I’ve stopped dieting my weight has stopped going up.

    • I haven’t been able to read the original article because I know how much it would upset me. I put myself on my first diet at the age of seven, and I can’t imagine how much worse the results would have been if my mother had been forcing it on me. As it is, starting dieting that early wrecked my metabolism and set me up for a lifetime of disordered eating. If my parents had been actively endorsing/mandating the dieting I was doing, I might be dead right now, either from suicide or a worse eating disorder.

      God, I want to cry for this little girl.

  10. I have a question… I have seen thin people wiping their bottoms by twisting their arm around behind them and wiping front to back. I cannot do this, and have difficulty wiping front to back (like ladies are told to for hygiene reasons). I really don’t know what to do about this?

    • Can you maybe wipe twice? Once in the front, then new paper and in the back. That’s what I do.:)

    • Personally I do wipe back to front because I have lower back flexibility issues and cannot wipe front to back either. The key is not to wipe all the way into the vaginal area. You just have to stop before reaching there. I’ve never had a problem doing it this way and feel that I actually have much better hygeine than I did when struggling to wipe the way one is supposed to.
      There is also a place called oversizesolutions.com which sells extenders to help reach down yonder for wiping.

  11. Chub rub: I have a pair of the quick-wick bike shorts from Junonia to wear under skirts. They’re expensive but great — comfy and breathable.

    Zeosorb powder, you can find it in the foot care part of a drug store, is great for the rashes that can build up under breasts and belly.

    You didn’t mention sweating, but of course we’re supposed to be ashamed at being big sweaty scary fat people, while thin people “glow”. It’s been a real problem for me in professional situations, because I’ve got hyperhydrosis on my face and scalp, so they’ll sweat A LOT even when I’m not that warm, confirming every prejudice about the scary sweaty fat lady. Luckily I found that you can get glycopyrrolate, which is usually an oral medication, mixed into a topical treatment by a compounding pharmacy. Mine put it in what looks like a roll on deodorant bottle. I have problems using it every day — it can get where it shouldn’t be and cause side effects. But having it available for important events has been a life saver! Ask your dermatologist.

  12. Lane Bryant has a new anti chafing liquid to powder lotion that’s pretty great called Keep It Smooth. It’s kind of expensive, but it smells nice and sort of fancy/feminine which I like better than smelling like a baby. It has worked really well. I’ve always had issues with this, especially in the summer. My latest issue is when I get sweaty down there and then my underwear rubs in the groin fold down there, causing issues on both my labia and inner thigh. I need to look into the short style tights because they might just help solve that by clinging into those spaces and reducing the friction, but beyond that I”m not sure what’s the best thing to do.

    • Thanks for this info! I deal with the same problems and wasn’t aware that LB had a product to help with it.

    • I love Lane Bryant’s Keep It Smooth! A little goes a long way so it makes it more economical.

    • Jen, I started having that problem with my underwear too, so I switched to Lane Bryant’s boy short style underwear. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s helped a lot. The leg holes are cut lower, and some of them have no elastic at all.

  13. I had no idea about those bra liners! I have a rather prodigious rack, and while I love the shape and support underwires provide, when I sit down for any length of time the wires dig into my skin/ribs and it just HURTS. Now I can order those and wear my Intimacy bras again!

    I’m still working to find spandex or other shorts to wear beneath my skirts – leggings/tights are great in the wintertime, but in the summer I need something a little shorter.

    Thanks so much for putting all of these resources in one place!

  14. The first thing I thought of when I read the first pgh of this was pampering products! One of my favorite things to do in summer when I know I’m going to be hot and sweaty is to cover myself with a luxurious powder. I usually use LUSH brand because I’m addicted to how good they smell. It helps a lot with just getting dressed after I’m all wet from a shower. Clothes just slide right on and it makes me feel and smell great. Pamper yourselves! You’ll feel good :)

  15. I had thigh chafing even when I EDed myself into a size 4. In fact, that’s how I found FA – I was researching liposuction to “fix” my thighs, and stumbled upon “Rethinking Thin”.

    If creams and bike shorts don’t work for you (on me, they wore off and rode up, respectively), try pettipants. They’re pretty ugly, but they work great for me!

    (Hint for any designers out there: I would pay pretty good money for some cute pettipants – maybe polka dots?)

  16. Does anyone have a suggestion about how to get a mattress that can support a larger body without wearing out in a couple of years?

    • Yes, this! :)

    • I have a sleep number bed. Both my husband and I are larger people and we’ve had a lot of luck with the bed. The rails get smushed down, but you can get new ones pretty cheap and it’s like getting a new bed very couple of years. You can also take the bed apart and straighten up the parts and that helps a lot.

      We’ve had the bed for nearly 10 years and we’ve bought 3 sets of rails. We take the bed apart every 2 months or so. (it sounds like a bigger pain than it actually is, we struggle with getting the mattress protector on more than taking the bed apart).

    • I bought a steel platform bed frame (http://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/DuraBed-Queen-size-Steel-Foldable-Platform-Bed/5201282/product.html) because my box spring would break. They hold 2K lbs so super sturdy. There is some squeakiness, I think I need some WD 40 :)

      I would check out The Original Mattress Factory for a mattress and box spring. I am really impressed with the construction of their sets. I have only had mine for a couple of months so I speak of the durability yet. I know Living XL and Brylane home have mattresses that are supposed to be made for plus sized folks but last I looked there weren’t a lot of reviews.

  17. In normal society I am considered ‘extended’ plus size. I have problems finding clothes that fit let alone fit in all the right places. I also have migraines which makes items with scents off limits for me. Any solutions for chub rub with these issues?

    Also, I get so hot, doesn’t matter the time of year, that when I get up form sitting on chairs I leave wet streaks on the chairs. When this happens in public it is extremely embarassing. Any ideas?

    • I’ve had the same issues. For me, I find it’s best not to look, because then I don’t have to think about it and then I don’t feel self-conscious. Seriously – it works.

    • This happens to me too. My husband and I call it “swamp ass” because he gets it too. (He’s thin, but he wears an Army uniform and it can be very hot.) Basically i either lean on the chair so that the material on my shins wipes it away or, if that’s too conspicuous or I’m wearing shorts or a short skirt, I just push the chair under the table and walk away really fast.

      It’s the same reason why I have a hard time wearing short skirts in the summer. Sweat literally runs down the backs of my legs all the way to my ankles. Maybe I’m just a sweaty person?

    • Lanicane Anti-chafing gel is odorless. It seems expensive but a little goes a long way. Also the bodyglide anti-chafing stick also has no odor that I can detect. I bought the non-women kind just in case.

      As for swamp ass I think everyone has it. I told my co-worker it just means I have a hot ass :) Probably getting up more often would help??

      • Ooh, one thing though — bodyglide is REALLY hard to remove, at least for me. Even with soap and vigorous showering, I found it left a thick film that made matters worse. But your mileage may vary.

    • I have the same problem with the migraines; my go-to product for the chafing is Monistat Soothing Care Anti-Chafing Gel. It goes on as a gel but finishes as a powder. It is unscented, will not stain your clothes, and I use it everywhere…under my underwire bra, thighs, underarms, private areas. If you get super-hot, you may have to apply every 4 hours or so; I find I have to do that in the summer (I live in NC, so it is humid and very hot) but a little goes a very long way. It also washes off super easy. As far as the streaks on chairs…I have seen thin people do it too. It is just what happens when people sweat and sit, but I understand about it being embarassing. I have been known to carry around a scarf or pashmina as a fashion statement and just “happen” to sit on it. Hope this helps :)

  18. Great post! I will add that blow drying (with no heat) my… sensitive areas… gets them very dry and has really helped with ongoing chafing and rash problems I was susceptible to. My doctor originally suggested it. I also use gold bond medicated powder to keep things dry. I find when I’m dry, I don’t chafe at all, and in the summer, I chafe a lot less.

    I hope these suggestions help!

  19. OK, on the clothing side, does anyone know where I can get the stretchy, Serenada-style underwear like they USED to make rather than the AWFUL high-cut ones that the make now???? They used to make full-cut panties but have switched to only high-cut and thank you, but I do NOT want my gut hanging out the thigh-holes! It’s uncomfortable and it chafes. >< I'm back to wearing granny panties until I can find ones I like again.

    When I asked for them at Catherine's last time, the lady told me kinda snootily that they didn't make that kind. I said, "Well, gee, that's odd, because I'm wearing a pair right now." So even folks who are supposed to cater to fat folks don't always. GRRRR.

    • I don’t know if they are the same, but Family Dollar has boy short underwear, great coverage & comfortable.

  20. I found a powder called Prantal is much better than talc or most anti-chafe creams – it is an actual anti-perspirant. The active ingredient is Diphemanil Methylsulfate, I have only seen it for sale in Australia and New Zealand though, but I guess a pharmacist might know if it is available in other places. I use it under arms, breasts, belly etc as well as between legs. But I also add Monistat/Lanacane anti-chafe powder gel between the thighs to combat the extra chub rub there!

    The dark patches under arms/skin folds etc are usually from excess melanin which can be a symptom of insulin resistance. Besides from getting tested for IR and treating that to see if the patches go away, skin lightening products which act on the melanin production can work. I like Paula’s Choice hydroquinone gel but there are other options, beautypedia dot com has reviews.

  21. Thank you Ragen, for addressing the chafing problem. For many summers, I wore short leggings under skirts. But I found that in very hot weather, that is not very comfortable for me. Then I have read a comment on someone’s blog that antiperspirant also works if you apply it on your thighs – and hooray! it does. Does the trick for me.

  22. I’m so glad you posted this yesterday! I’m having a serious fibro flare & my bras are making me cry. I’m ordering some of those thingies that go under your bra right now! I quit wearing underwire because of the pain even though I prefer the underwire because of the shape of my boobs. I’ve been putting deodorant between & under my boobs lately. It kinda irritates the skin so maybe this will be better. I’ll report back!

    I have some spankx bike short sort of things. They’re made with a hole in the crotch to pee. I cry from pain putting them on (fibro fun!) but once I get them in they support my back & stomach & they don’t have to go up & down all day when I pee. I LOVE them!

  23. Re: drying off after shower. I sleep with a fan beside my bed. So, after showering, I put a towel on my bed and stand/sit/lie in front of the fan until I feel mostly dry and use my bath sheet (that’s what the larger towels are called) to dry extra well the crevices, etc.

  24. I use 3B Action Cream for chafing, and started using it after I ended up getting thigh rub so bad I was bleeding and unable to walk.

    http://www.neatfeetcare.com/ChafingSweat-Rash-Underarm/3B-Action-Cream.html

    It works really, really well. :)

  25. I saw that one of the sites above was selling seatbelt extenders…I called Chevrolet corporate customer service (the car I own) and they contacted a local dealer and had them set one aside for me. I have not tried it in any other vehicles, but it was free, I just had to pick it up. For those on limited budgets this may be worth a try with other car companies. I just found the number under the “contact us” portion of the main Chevy website and called.

    • I know Scion/Toyota offer one seatbelt extender when you purchase a new car(it states it in the owners manual). Unfortunately there are several different types of seatbelt extenders. Kia doesn’t even make one available to their customers, I found one online by googling it.

  26. The dark skin patches thing is called Acanthosis Nigricans, and it’s a symptom of insulin resistance, as others have pointed out. If you have it, you should be checked for PCOS and watched for blood sugar issues as you age.

    I have a whole FAQ on dealing with skin rash issues from yeast or fungal infections. Lots and LOTS of ideas there. It’s called The Skin Yeast Manifesto and is at:

    http://wellroundedmama.blogspot.com/2009/07/skin-yeast-manifesto.html

    For day-to-day maintenance, Gold Bond powder is very helpful. It has zinc in it, which inhibits fungal/yeast growth. That’s why diaper creme is helpful too…it also has zinc in it. Many of the anti-dandruff shampoos also have zinc for the same reason. In addition, using a blow-dryer on “cool” is very helpful to get all those areas really dry to prevent a flare-up.

    For a breakout, you can use athlete’s foot cream or spray on the affected areas. I find the ones with Tolnaftate the best for me (Tinactin brand) but YMMV. Some people find help with diluted Grapefruit Seed extract or Tea Tree Oil or vinegar, but I personally haven’t found them that helpful. Listerine used topically can be helpful for some people. Probiotics are very helpful, both internally and externally on the rash itself. Helps take away some of the itch and restores the balance of good and bad bugs.

    And of course, if you have a really bad bug, there are prescription medications, usually the ones ending with -azole. If you have frequent break-outs, you probably have a systemic infection and need to treat your whole system, not just spot treat.

    • This was an awesome post! I dug out the Caldesene powder we used on the boys’ butts in our diapering days. We had to use that because there’s only certain powders that won’t ruin reusable diapers. Stopped the itching almost immediately! I’ve also got socks lining my bra until that bra liner thing linked above comes in. If I start itching again I will try some of this Herbal Bottom Balm from Rainforest Babies I have left from diapering days. I am so happy to have both of these posts!

  27. I’ve got a couple other ideas for the under-boob sweat issues. First, make sure that you’re wearing the right size bra. Go in to a bra shop and get measured. I’ve found that independent stores are more friendly than chain stores, but YMMV. Your underwire (or the bottom seam of the bra cup) should be sitting right at the fold where your breast separates from your torso, and the underwire should lay flat against your torso all the way around. If your bra fits like this, you’ll have less skin-on-skin contact that causes the discomfort.

    My other favorite product is from the bedroom accessories company Pure Romance. They’ve got an aerosol spray that dries to a powder on your skin, and let me tell you that stuff STICKS to your skin like nothing else. It’s called Between the Sheets (originally formulated to spray on your bed sheets in case of any wet spots) but it’s perfectly safe to use on your skin. Be careful though, 1) if your skin is broken from chafing, or red and raw, let it heal before you try using this; and 2) spray it on before you get dressed and let it dry completely before you get dressed. It doesn’t take long to dry, less than 30 seconds, but hold the girls up so it has a chance to set up. :) I think Monistat has a similar product, but I like the Pure Romance version better because I like their scents. And as someone with a lot of scent and skin allergy issues, it’s one of the few scented products I can put on my body without any problems at all.

  28. A lot of people think I’m crazy, but I’ve always worn shorts under skirts, even when I was much thinner than I am now. The reason is two-fold. When I was younger, I wanted to disappoint the pervy boys who might lift up my skirt to get a free shot. But also, the shorts prevented chafing. I’ve always had problems with that, regardless of whether I am heavy or slim.


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