“The idea that one can reshape abdomen by applying outside pressure is ridiculous at best and potentially dangerous at worst,” says one doctor.
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From Kim Kardashian to Jessica Alba, celebrities have been promoting waist training, showing off their corsets on Instagram and other social media. The trend, which started in the early 16th century and was recycled in the 1920s, is back.
“Waist trainers are a good catalyst in targeted weight loss,” says 36-year-old L.S., who asked to remain anonymous, from Long Island, New York.
“You lose inches in the right place. It’s great support in keeping your core tight and encourages proper form while working out,”
L.S. has been wearing the waist trainer “Perfect My Silhouette” for the past three months—and claims she lost close to four inches on her waist.
But modern medicine proves that wearing them can cause health problems from nerve pain to digestive problems and high blood pressure.
Corsets have been an important part of fashion since 16th-century Europe. There were options of wearing them as an outer or inner garment and as the word itself says deriving from French “corset” it means a kind of laced bodice. The corset was first introduced in Crete, where it was worn as an outer garment, and originated as innerwear in Italy. Catherine de Medici, an Italian noblewoman who became Queen of France, introduced it to France and consequently popularized it throughout Europe. Throughout the years, the structure of the corset has changed: in the 1500s, they comprised of only layered fabric until it was improved by putting the insertion of steel, wood—or most commonly in the Elizabethan era—whalebone or baleen to maintain stiff appearance. This “invention” gave women flat stomachs, narrow waists and perky, uplifted breasts.
In 1790’s with the adoption of neoclassical fashion and the rumors that body lacing can causes many health problems, especially during pregnancy, the popularity of corsets dropped. Women who wore them were considered slaves to fashion and it even caused rational dress movement. Also known as a Victorian dress reform, reformers proposed and designed more comfortable clothing then trends of that time. It had great impact on women’s undergarments. Dandies, men devoted to importance of physical appearance and great manners, brought them back throughout 1840’s and some men wore them claiming it helps their back pain. The trend slowly disappeared.
It is only until recently that we would’ve never thought to restrict our breathing. In the past Catherine di Medici promoted this method in the present today’s reality celebrity royalty promotes it. Jessica Alba swears that is how she melted off extra baby weight and Kim Kardashian, queen of selfies regularly posts a photo or two of her wearing Waist Gang Society, a popular brand of waist trainer. Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson, Brooke Burke-Charvet and many other stars have been seen wearing them.
What’s not to love?
“It hurts for a few days until you get use to it and it can leave skin discoloration due to bruising so best to wear it over a tank and not directly on your skin,” L.S. says.
We reached out to Waist Gang Society and Waist Eraser, another successful shapewear brand, but by the time of publication, did not receive a response.
Zoran Svorcan, M.D., director of ED Psychiatric Services at Montefiore Medical Center, says waist trainers are a scam.
“It does not work,” he says via email. “The idea that one can reshape abdomen by applying outside pressure is ridiculous at best and potentially dangerous at worst.”
He says it’s ridiculous because the waist trainers make people look thinner only while they are wearing them, in the same way wearing small shoes would make feet look smaller. Once the waist trainer is removed, the body resumes the original shape.
It’s dangerous, he says, because “outside pressure makes it so uncomfortable to eat that you automatically consume fewer calories,” and that a person may not ingest necessary nutrients.
“Imagine somebody constantly sitting on your stomach,” he says. “You can develop acid reflux because of the pressure waist trainers put on your stomach. Prolonged acid reflux can cause carcinoma of esophagus.”
In addition, he says waist trainers may put the user at risk for constipation and pneumonia, because of the pressure the trainer puts on intestines, diaphragm and lungs.
“Just imagine trying to exercise while someone is sitting on your abdomen.The muscles you are not using—back,abdominal,oblique—will get weaker and weaker resulting in possible injuries—and guaranteed flabbiness.”
He adds that, at the end, idealizing a certain look puts psychological pressure on otherwise healthy women, and that eating disorders are oftentimes quite lethal.
Similarly to fads and pills and tricks that promise losing weight quickly, waist training corset companies advise you to work out, watch what you eat and maintain regular exercise while on the program: the regimen already supported by doctors, physical therapists, athletic trainers and coaches. Waist training, it seems, provides short-term results with potentially long-term health risks.