When Kim Kardashian talks, people listen. So when she claimed to be “obsessed” with waist training and snapped a selfie wearing a waist shaper, the Internet went nuts and a hot new slimming trend was born. But is it really something new? And more importantly, is it SAFE? Let’s take a look, shall we?

Waist Training 101

Waist training is a concept that has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years (some say warriors of ancient Crete first wore them because a small waist was a sign of strength). Certainly, the look became quite popular first with aristocracy and then common wardrobe in the 19th century. These devices were known as corsets, and both men and women wore them to give the appearance of a slim waist; these usually involved stiff boning and tight lacing from the back.

People who wore corsets daily did indeed sometimes “train” their waists to become smaller; this was somewhat due to the fact that they could not eat as much. However, tight lacing corsets also caused organ displacement, body disfigurement, and mucus developing in the lungs due to shallow breathing. After the corset was removed, the body would regain its shape. 

Corsets Vs. Waist Training

The traditional corset can still be found but is more associated with adult costumes or extreme fashion. One woman wore a corset for 4 years and wrote a book about how much she enjoys it. Cathy Jung is over 70 years old and currently has the Guiness Record for the smallest waist on a living person and says she still wears a corset around-the-clock.

Cathy Jung
Image credit: www.cathiejung.com

On the other hand the new so-called waist trainers are different from corsets in the fact that they don’t usually lace up and are designed more for athletic use than to be worn all day and/or night. 

These new products (like Miss Belt, Genie Hour Glass, and V-Shape Trainer for men) promote them as devices to wear while exercising; they often claim that working out with them will condition your body to be slimmer and/or the increased level of sweating will help “spot reduce” fat around your midsection.

The Good, the Bad, and the SCARY

There are some pros and cons to the concept of waist trainers. First, we’ll start with the pros. A waist trainer can indeed make you look slimmer without any exercise at all when you put it on. If you wear it under clothing you may be able to squeeze into a cocktail dress (although on the other hand you may appear stiff and have trouble breathing).

Another pro is that maybe wearing such a garment can make you feel a little better about yourself and remind you to eat less. This could also lead you to be more confident and, yes, even a little sexier.

Here’s the bad: there is no evidence wearing a waist trainer while exercising will result in a slimmer waist. In fact, the whole concept behind “spot reduction” where you focus on or cause a certain area of the body to exert or sweat more resulting in greater fat loss is a myth. 

An article published in Yale Magazine cited a 1971 study conducted on tennis players, who certainly favor one arm over the other, and found no statistical difference in their levels of fat between either arm.  This is because when we burn fat we get it from sources all over our body, not just one particular area. Also, spot reduction exercises are generally not as effective as they tend to burn fewer calories than overall cardio. They may make your muscles stronger, but there could still be a layer of fat over them so no one can see.

In addition, increased sweating does not necessarily lead to more weight loss. Consumer Reports did an investigation of a waist trainer called the Belly Burner and found joggers had the same metabolic rate weather they wore it or not. Increased sweating may also lead to dehydration and while this may result in temporary weight loss (as well as dizziness) you will gain it back once you start taking in fluids again.

Finally, the UGY: wearing a waist trainer that constricts movement and breathing during exercise can reduce its benefits or harm you, if not both. Quite simply, if you can’t take deep breaths you can’t really exert enough energy to lose weight. You could also give yourself indigestion, acid reflux, back acne, and quite possibly faint like the corseted ladies of yesteryear.

Conclusions

Now that you know a little bit more about what waist training is (and what it isn’t) as well as what it can (and cannot) do, we hope you’ll at least look at some of these products’ claims with a more skeptical eye, if not avoid them altogether. To review:

  • A waist trainer is different from a corset, although both are designed to make you look slimmer.
  • Wearing a corset 24/7 for several years can result in a thinner waist, but can also lead to internal damage and is not recommended by most doctors. (The waist will expand again eventually once the corset is off.)
  • Wearing a waist trainer or corset for short periods of time can give you confidence or make you feel sexy, which is perfectly fine.
  • Wearing these devices during any kind of workout not only doesn’t have any added benefits, but can possibly harm you.

Let us know what you think or your experience with waist trainers below!

Cover image credit: @kimkardashian