Waist Training: "Training" Has Nothing To Do With It

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Unless you've been living under a rock, you've likely heard of waist "training."  All walks of celebrities are now doing it, Instagramming it, and claiming it as the key to their beautiful physiques.  And I'm looking at them (just like everyone else in America) thinking that it really must be that awesome waist trainer and certainly not their full time personal chef, trainer, nutrition coach, and most definitely not the plastic surgeon they have on retainer... oh, and for sure, NOT Photoshop!  

In fact, even Kimmy Kardashian is doing it (a little late to the game, if you ask me, as this trend started back in the 1500s), so why wouldn't you... because you know, she's an expert on all things fitness... and um... definitely those things that her sponsors pay her to advertise.  [Psst:  In my humble opinion, she's not the authority on anything, save for sex tapes, plastic surgery, and making money from being a terrible role model.]  

The bottom line is that apparently boyish figures are out and the quintessential female body shape — the hourglass figure with a large bust, small waist and curvy hips — is back in vogue... especially if you ask the marketers and vendors of waist trainers, who are laughing all the way to the bank.

VibrantHealth_BUYGREEN

Even my friends have texted me recently to ask my "professional" opinion about whether or not they should wear one.  Well, the short answer I gave them is, "Expletive comma NO!"  If you're interested in the long answer, keep reading.  We'll touch on what it is, if it works, if it's safe, and if it's something that you'll want to be doing.

WHAT IS WAIST "TRAINING"

Waist training is not what it sounds like: training.  In fact, "training" has nothing to do with it.  It's nothing more than a brilliant marketing term that makes it sound like you'er engaging in a productive activity to yield results, when in fact, what you are doing is using a medieval instrument of torture, otherwise known as a "waist-cinching" corset.. you know, the kind that used to break women's ribs, crush their internal organs and make them faint all the time, to disfigure your body.

"Ethel Granger, who laced to just 13" in her corset over several decades, experienced weakness in her core, but as shown here, was still able stand without her corset." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she was still able to STAND... obviously, because her core was so "strengthened."

"Ethel Granger, who laced to just 13" in her corset over several decades, experienced weakness in her core, but as shown here, was still able stand without her corset." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she was still able to STAND... obviously, because her core was so "strengthened."

Of course, you know that corsets are nothing new. They have a long history... of pain, discomfort and health problems. Yes, women have worn them for centuries, because for as long as there have been women, there is nothing they would have bought, done and sacrificed to quell their body dysmorphic issues.  

Going all the way back to the 1500s, corsets were worn to flatten out the entire torso, which was considered immensely attractive back in the day (oh, and over the last couple of decades, too).  Later, when women got the boy figure thing down, just to screw with them, corsets were then used to attain a curvy figure, define their waist... and puncture their internal organs, not unlike today.  History seems to have a nifty way of repeating itself, because no one seems to pay attention to it.

So this corset works by putting pressure on the waist in order to change its shape over time.  Corset marketers also urge you to wear this belt while working out in order to “speed up” the weight loss process and ... cough, cough "strengthen  your core,” because apparently nothing strengthens the core like muscle atrophy.

 

DOES IT WORK?

Waist "training" advocates claim that with waist "training" you can lose up to seven inches from your waistline (which actually sounds pretty terrifying more than anything else and brings up images of Barbie dolls and Disney cartoon characters rather than real women).  They also claim that putting pressure on your waist "generates heat while you’re physically active to help your body burn fat quicker and expel toxins."  But wait, there's more!  It apparently also "doubles as a breast lift, pushing your boobies up to put them in 'the right place."  Makes ya wanna run out and get one, right?  Perhaps if it were true ... 

Everyone is getting in on the waist "training" action and vendors are laughing (at your expense) all the way to the bank.

Everyone is getting in on the waist "training" action and vendors are laughing (at your expense) all the way to the bank.

As my father always said, "things that sound too good to be true, usually are." He is a wise man. Doctors agree. They say that there’s no proof that the waist "training" corset will permanently alter your body’s shape. In fact, it is certain that your body will return to its natural shape soon after taking it off.

Apparently, if you wear a corset only occasionally and reduce your waist some two to four inches, when you remove the corset, your figure will return to its normal shape at once. The corset provides shape and support while you're wearing it, but does not alter your body in any lasting way.  Most corset-wearers will wear them once in a while for special occasions (like Spanx), and find their bodies return to their normal shape almost immediately.  With more frequent wear, the shape of the body may change temporarily.

If the corset is worn regularly for long periods of time, there may be more noticeable changes to the shape of the body that can seem dramatic and lasting.  However, they do not become permanent.  And even if you wear a corset consistently for a period of time, the changes to the body do not typically last.  Women who have corseted for longer may retain some physical changes for a period of years, but these will, eventually, reverse.  Back in the 19th century, women began corseting at a very young age and many experienced deformity of the ribs, among other problems.  However, photos from that era seem to suggest that even women who were tightly corseted when they were young had typical mature figures after childbearing, which means that even the extreme corseting did not have a permanent effect on their figures.


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So does it work?  Kinda.  For a while.  For some people.  Of course, so does foot binding (albeit more permanent), but you wouldn't want to do that either.

IS IT SAFE?

What the concept marketers are trying to sell is that wearing a waist trainer for many hours a day (some women sleep and work out in theirs) makes you sweat and therefore lose weight (ahem...  kinda like taking a water pill perhaps?), but also pushes on the abdomen and thus, restricts your appetite.  However, Dr. Raffi Hovsepian, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon says that the results are "temporary and that health complications can result."  


People should know better! You are blocking oxygen, reducing flow to your lungs, heart and other organs which in turn slows metabolism as your cells become deprived of oxygen. “Organ failure can also occur. In a word: don’t.
— JJ Virgin, New York Times bestselling celebrity fitness and health expert

There are the obvious risks, such as discomfort, chafing skin and rashes, and even rib and organ damage.  In addition, there are also other surprising issues that can arise, such as damage to your metabolism as a result of the belt cutting of oxygen flow your organs, which is likely the antithesis of your goal.

If you look at it from a medical perspective, the risks far outweigh any aesthetic benefits, especially when doctors are telling us that corsets will make it harder to breathe, which can cause rib breakages and even small lung collapses.  [Um... no thanks.  I like breathing and I need my ribs.]  Urologist Jennifer Berman adds that the garments can affect food intake and cause digestive problems. 

But wait, there's more!  Dr. Orly Avitzur, a neurologist and the medical adviser at Consumer Reports, who has written about the dangers of waist "training" extensively (read more here and here) says that there are a "myriad of potential health consequences of wearing a tight corset for prolonged periods of time," including "damaging a nerve in the groin, which can cause a condition called meralgia paresthetica in which there may be painful burning and tingling of the thigh."  She adds that she has seen this condition frequently, "often as a result of wearing tight, compressive clothing like shapewear or skinny jeans."


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Interestingly, there is an old medical journal article from the turn of the 20th century that describes a shop girl, who wears her corset too often, being diagnosed with meralgia parenthetic.  Apparently her pain was so intense that she was treated with morphine.  Yikes!

Dr. Avitzur adds, "Tight, constrictive garments have also been implicated in contact dermatitis and recurrent abdominal pain, possibly due to constriction of the bowels.  Bottom line: They are a bad idea." 

What about wearing it during your work outs?  Well, that may even be worse.  When you are exercising, your lungs should not be constricted. They should be able to expand to their fullest, especially during cardio or an intense workout. According to Dr. Travis (you know, the cute one from that show, The Doctors), corsets should definitely NOT be worn to the gym or during vigorous exercise. He says:  “It doesn’t help you lose weight. If anything, if you wear it too tight, you’re not allowing your body’s natural core musculature to develop."

 

BOTTOM LINE

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a magical garment we could wear that could eliminate belly fat?  Or a pill we could take that would make us look like Sofia Vergara?  Or unicorns?  Yes, all wonderful, yet all equally unrealistic... at least in this lifetime.  

All waist "training" does is compress your abdomen and displace and rearrange the fat from that area. It does NOT get rid of the fat.  It's nothing more than smoke n' mirrors, and in no way healthy. It's not even a "quick fix," because in actuality, you are not fixing anything, but instead, potentially limiting your body's ability to function properly.  Just like limiting water intake for a couple of days days might make you appear slim (and thirsty)... until you gulp down that liter bottle next to your bed, waist "training" is nothing more than an illusion.

I would advocate that there are only two instances when I think it makes sense to wear a corset:

1. Post Partum 

I wore a BellyBandit post-partum compression garment, which was recommended to me by my ob-gyn (and is by the way, totally different from the corset being marketed to women today) for three weeks after I had my daughter, and it seemed to help push things back into their rightful place... things that had been displaced by having another human in my belly.  After the initial 3 weeks, I wore the Bellaband for a bit, which gave me lighter support, and was more like a girdle than a corset

I wore the BellyBandit right after birth. It was a little bulky, but snug and effective.

I wore the BellyBandit right after birth. It was a little bulky, but snug and effective.

The Bellaband was terrific while I was pregnant, as it allowed me to put off buying maternity clothes, as I was able to wear my regular jeans and pants without having to zip them up. I also wore it for light support after the BellyBandit had sufficiently pushed everything back into place.

The Bellaband was terrific while I was pregnant, as it allowed me to put off buying maternity clothes, as I was able to wear my regular jeans and pants without having to zip them up. I also wore it for light support after the BellyBandit had sufficiently pushed everything back into place.

2.  As a girdle for a special event

Yes, it's uncomfortable and sweaty and bulky under your clothes, but if you really want to impress someone (from afar, because God knows they'll know you're faking it if they accidentally brush up against you), then by all means wear one for a few hours.  

So if you haven't been carrying around another human in your pouch, don't fall for this newest gimmick, and definitely don't waste your money, time, energy and, most importantly, health on the "snake oil."   And for the love of your intestines, if you do choose to wear one, please don't do so for hours on end, or work out and/or sleep in it.

The bottom line is that the only way to a lean physique is through diet and exercise.  Eating well, eliminating refined and processed foods from your diet, and having a well-planned, diverse and consistent workout regimen will yield the abs and waist of your dreams.  [Contact me to find out how easy it can be!]  Everything else is a complete "waste."