Period cosplayers and curvy celebs love to credit their physics-defying figure eights to the magic of waist training. And while the wise social media scroller in you knows the photos you see online aren’t always real life, you might be wondering whether there’s any fact to this fad.
Spoiler: Waist trainers don’t actually work. Wearing one of these won’t make your waist smaller. But it will make you uncomfortable and maybe set you up for some health problems. Here’s what you should know before squeezing into a waist trainer.
Waist trainers are undergarments that claim to “train” your waist to become narrower, giving you more of an hourglass shape. They’re usually made of thick fabric and can contain hard metal boning. You’re supposed to wrap them around your middle — as tightly as you can — and cinch the whole thing shut with Velcro, hooks, or laces.
If the design sounds kinda like a corset or girdle, well, that’s because it’s pretty much the same thing. All those garments are meant to suck you in like crazy.
But waist trainers take the whole thing a step further by claiming that wearing one often enough will actually reshape your ab muscles to shrink your midsection for good.
Waist trainers claim to make your waist tinier. And they can… temporarily. A waist trainer will suck everything in while you’re wearing it, and things might stay that way for a short while afterward — until your muscles relax back to their normal shape.
OK, but will they help you lose weight? Well, having a supertight band compressing your stomach makes eating pretty unenjoyable. So if you’re trying to curb your portions, wearing a cincher might help you take in fewer calories.
But a 2010 study that looked into this actually found that most people who tried to lose weight while wearing a corset just ended up taking off the corset because it was so uncomfortable.
There is one actual potential plus: If you have a higher body weight, a waist trainer might give you temporary core support you may need to boost your mobility and flexibility.
But since there are some definite risks (more on those in a sec), you should run the idea by a doctor or physical therapist before giving it a try.
Wearing a waist trainer or a corset for a few hours — like for a costume — will probably be uncomfortable, but it isn’t actually bad for you. But if you’re thinking about making it a regular thing, there are a lot of reasons that’s probably not a good idea.
Waist trainers literally squeeze your insides
Smooshing your middle several inches smaller means all the stuff on the inside is getting smooshed too. That’s not just uncomfortable — it can potentially put stress on your vital organs.
They make it harder to breathe
Waist trainers also squeeze your lungs, which can majorly reduce the amount of air you can take in. That might make you feel like you’re struggling to breathe, leave you feeling fatigued, or even cause you to pass out.
They’ll make your workout way less fun
Exercising in general isn’t awesome when you feel totally out of breath. But there’s more: The breathing troubles will actually cause lactic acid to build up in your muscles, making you feel that burning, can’t-push-any-further feeling sooner.
They could wreck your posture and hurt your back
Despite the short-term core support a waist trainer might provide for some people with higher body weights, using one long-term will actually cause your core muscles to weaken since they don’t have to work as hard to support you. That can lead to a slumpy posture and back pain.
They might take you to Heartburn City
Again, the squeezing, people. Research suggests all that pressure can cause acids from your stomach to splash up into your throat, especially if you’ve recently eaten.
You probably know where we’re going with this, but it still needs to be said: The best way to make your waist smaller is just with basic diet and exercise.
Eating fewer calories and burning more by working out will help you lose body fat overall — and that’ll lead to inches lost around your waist. If you really want to make a dent, cut back on refined sugar and try to get at least 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day.
As for things like crunches and other ab moves? It’s a good idea to incorporate strength training exercises into your workout routine at least twice a week. But you’ll get more bang for your buck with bigger moves like squats, lunges, push-ups, and shoulder presses, since they hit more muscles at once (including your core).
And be warned: Spot exercises like crunches won’t actually shrink your waist, no matter how much you feel the burn.
Our waists come with a glorious preset shape — and wearing a wrap or corset won’t change it without also causing significant damage. Additionally, waist trainers don’t actually work for weight loss or permanently change your shape to give you more curves.
While it’s fine to wear one for a few hours as part of a costume, wearing one on the reg could be unsafe. We say embrace your waist and shape just as they are, and if you want to lose weight, stick with good ol’ diet and exercise.