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Bra Bulge Be Gone!

By Pamela Peeke, MD, FACP, MPHJanuary 12, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

There you are standing in the dressing room getting ready to try on that hot new form-fitting cotton tank top you want to wear to your first outdoor spring party. Excited, you whip off your oversized end-of-winter T shirt, and dive into the tank, pulling it down over your jeans. As you twirl in front of the mirror, instead of gleeful exuberance, you gasp and let out a stifled scream.

“On no … you’ve got a major case of bra bulge!”

Layers of fat hang over the back clasp, your straps are digging into more upper back fat resulting in endless rolls of the fluffy stuff showing the world a perfect undie outline. Worse still, as you stare at your front, you notice you now have two more breasts. Up at the corner of each arm pit hangs a new out-pouching of fat that looks like a mini-breast waving in the breeze. With horror, you realize that you’ve got a matching set. Peering directly into the mirror, it looks like you have a big smile across your chest — four breasts in a semi-circle. “Yikes! I can’t go out in public like this!” Tossing the tank, you stomp out of the store, bound and determined to banish your bra bulge.

Sound familiar? The good news is that there is plenty you can do to say sayonara to the extra fat. Where does this stuff come from anyway? Clearly, if you eat more than you’re burning, you’ll pack on the pounds throughout your body. However, it’s even more obvious as women cross the over-forty threshold. As estrogen begins to wax and wane during the perimenopause, women begin to notice a shift in fat distribution from their bottom half to their abdomen and chest. Some women can go up a cup size, and most notice extra fat accumulating throughout their chest and back. Thus the bra bulge. This happens to skinny women as well. Here’s the good news. You can shed most of this and proudly wear that sexy t-shirt. But you’ve got to work it to wear it!

It’s Time for a Bra Fitting
First up, no matter what you weigh, you need a properly fitting bra. This goes both ways. Interestingly, I have patients who have dropped lots of weight and are still wearing the same bra, which now looks like it fits a family of twelve. Others imagine themselves smaller than they are; desperately try to squeeze into that teeny tiny sexy lacy Victoria’s Secret number and ending up spilling out all over the place. So, girlfriends, please get a proper bra fitting.

Here’s Your Reality Check …
There’s no exercise or eating regimen that can target one particular part of your anatomy. You need to do physical activity as well as eat appropriately to remove excess fat from any part of your body. Let’s start with how you’re nourishing yourself.

If you’re not mindful of every mouthful, you’ll be wearing those extra calories. So, start paying attention to your quality, quantity and frequency of eating.

  • Quality
    Women eat way too many carbs in general. Minimize or eliminate the white refined processed sugars in your life, including white sugar, pasta, rice, potato and bread. Eating these bad boys increases your insulin levels making it super easy to do the bra bulge.
  • Quantity
    Brown rice is great, but eating a mountain of it isn’t. Do something radical like read the food labels. Know what a recommended serving size is and stick with it. Try to avoid eating out of large bags and boxes as that’s a sure fire way to mindlessly overeat. Choose smaller plates, and slow it down already! This isn’t a fire drill. Take a walk on the wild side and instead of always grabbing and going, or dashboard dinning, sit down with the TV off and enjoy your food for a few minutes.
  • Frequency
    Eating a smaller balanced meal or snack every 3-4 hours results in decreased appetite and hunger throughout the day. Include lean protein along with healthy carbs (veggies, fruits, small amount of whole grain) and fats. You need all three to get the essential nutrients to support health and energy. And Lord knows we need the energy!

Now, let’s work it out to de-bulge. Here are my favorite activities. You can mix and match them. Experiment and have fun.

  • Breast Stroke It
    There’s no wonder that swimmers have such awesome chest and backs. You don’t see a lot of bulge on these water babies. See if you can find a pool somewhere and once or twice a week swim the breast stroke and work up to doing 20 or 30 laps. The more intensity you add (speed), the greater the reward. If you don’t have access to a pool or don’t like to swim, no worries. Simply get into a squat position and fake it like you’re in the water by doing the same arm movements. To add resistance that water normally gives you, strap on arm weights (1-5 pounds).
  • Move Your Bulge
    Just get up and cook some calories every day with aerobic exercise. Get movin’ and try to make it fun. Dancing is a great cross trainer. You have got to try Zumba, the Latin fitness dance. I love the music and swinging my hips with the best of them. Talk about intensity intervals! The time passes before you know it. Walk, bike and use the elliptical with intervals of intensity. You’ll shed your bulges when you get up and move on a regular basis. Commit to 30 minutes every day for sure.
  • Arm and Leg Lifts
    This is such a simple yet effective way to work your back. Lie on your tummy with your arms straight over your head and your toes pointed to the ground. Lift your left arm and right leg slightly off the ground and hold for a count of 5 and then slowly lower. Repeat with the right arm and left leg. Work up to doing ten times. You’ll feel tension in your lower back muscles which is normal. However if you feel any pain or discomfort, stop and discontinue the exercise.
  • Don’t Resist Those Bands and Tubes
    Elastic resistance tubes and bands are one of my all-time favorite ways to trim and tone. They’re cheap, lightweight, portable and effective. The bands come with instructions for doing every sort of exercise from chest to back. Try them all and throughout the day, pick’em up and just do a few here and there. To attack the bra bulge zones, try these:

a) Seated Row: You’re going to row-row-row your boat anywhere you want, whether it is at your home, a hotel or at the gym. Grab the tubing and sling it around the leg of your bed or a heavy table. Sit on the floor (a mat is helpful) scooting far enough away so that you have moderate tension on the elastic. Legs together and keeping your back straight, allow the tension from the tubing to pull you forward to about a 30 degree angle. Then carefully come back to your sitting position, keeping your back straight. Avoid hunching over. If you don’t have enough tension, move a bit further away. Do three sets of ten repetitions each. Do not do this exercise if you have any back issues unless cleared by your physician.

b) Chest Fly: Grab your tubing and double it over so that each hand is holding the strap as well as the doubled over tubing. Hold directly in front of you at breast level with slightly bent elbows. Each arm pulls away from the center causing resistance and muscular tension across your chest. You’re working your pectoralis muscle. Aim for 3 sets of 10 repetitions each.

c) The Kick-Back: Lie face down on a mat with your legs together and a resistance band under your chest holding one end in each hand with your arms by your sides. Lift your chest and reach your arms straight out at shoulder level in front of you, keeping your shoulders down. Hold for a count of 2 and come down. Repeat ten times.

Music to Banish Your Bra Bulge

  • Duffy ‘Mercy‘ (Rockferry)
  • Eurythmics ‘Wrap It Up‘ (Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This)
  • Funky Green Dogs ‘All Fired Up‘ (DJ Mix ’97 Volume 2)
  • Joan Jett ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You‘ (Up Your Alley)
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