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If you don’t know what a waist trainer is, chances are that you haven’t been keeping up with fitness models on social media. Waist trainers act as modern day corsets that, when worn for several hours a day, claim to shape your silhouette by creating the appearance of a cinched waist and curvier bust and hips. While they get a lot of hype on social media and have grown in popularity as a way to achieve the coveted hourglass figure, their effectiveness remains up for debate. You might be tempted to ditch your next-level abs workout and don one yourself. But, first there are some things that you need to know. Read on to find out exactly what a waist trainer can and can’t do for you.
Can: Alter Your Shape … Temporarily
To put it simply, a waist trainer is akin to a large elastic belt. The idea is, that, by consistently wearing one for extended periods of time, it’ll “train” your midsection to hold a smaller shape. Thus, it will create that hourglass appearance. “There is certainly some truth that these work, but you have to understand how they work,” emphasizes Dr. Matthew Schulman, board certified plastic surgeon and creator of his own boutique office. “The pressure exerted by the waist trainer will cause bending of the ribs and also squeezing of the internal organs. These changes will occur after consistent use of a waist trainer over extended time. This is how the body appears slimmer and curvier,” he explains.
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Dr. Schulman also notes that latex trainers can induce sweating, which can lead to water weight loss and contribute to a slimmer appearance. Although it’s important to note that this can lead to severe dehydration. So, while a waist trainer can alter your shape, it’s a dangerous practice with short-lasting results.
Can’t: Create Permanent Change
Those seeking permanent or longer lasting results would be better suited seeking out more natural methods. That’s because, while waist trainers appear to work on a surface level, their effects don’t last long. “When the waist training stops, the bones and organs will go back to normal,” Dr. Shulman says. Our bodies have a miraculous way of doing what they need to do in order to remain healthy. In this case, that means your internal organs shifting back to their normal positions in order to work their best. “Changing the shape of the body can only occur with diet and exercise, and sometimes with surgical procedures, such as liposuction and tummy tucks,” says Dr. Schulman.
Can: Harm Your Body
If bending of the ribs and squeezing of the internal organs sounds a bit frightening to you, you’re not wrong. Plenty of celebrities and social figures will tout the ease and ability of waist trainers. However, there’s a lot more going on under the cincher than we realize. Women of the Victorian era may have worn similar corsets to constantly appear thinner. However, we now know much more about their negative effects (ever wonder why they had fainting couches?).
“The real issue is the potential damage that intense waist training can have on the body,” Dr. Schulman says. “Some people have larger organs and this may be part of the reason why they have a naturally wider shape. If you compress these organs, you may have some issues.” These issues are higher risk and far more important than the discomfort you’ll feel while wearing a waist trainer. “For example, compression on the digestive organs may result in indigestion and acid reflux. Compression on the bladder can lead to difficulty urinating and the feeling that you have to constantly urinate, because the bladder is not being completely emptied. Compression on the ribs may prevent you from taking deep breaths and can result in you feeling like you are short of breath. Additionally, the compression can simply cause pain and soreness,” Dr. Schulman says.
Likewise, extended use of a waist trainer can potentially bruise your bones, place too much pressure on your organs, cause heartburn (as your stomach shifts upward), decrease energy levels (due to lack of breath), decrease blood circulation, and even cause muscle atrophy (due to no longer relying on your core for posture and support). Combined with a harsh fixation on body image, it can become quite a dangerous product.
Can: Be Used Safely
The above may have scared you off of waist trainers for good. But, it’s important to note that they can be worn for short periods of time and, therefore, not result in these harmful effects. “In general, I advise against formal waist training. This means, avoiding wearing waist trainers every day and incrementally making them smaller and smaller in an attempt to get the waist as tiny as you can,” Dr. Schulman notes. “Instead, I prefer that people think of waist trainers as a ‘shapewear on steroids,’ and wear them for special occasions or under certain clothing. In this case, the goal is to look slimmer and curvier, but not [to] try to change your body’s bone structure.”
“If someone insists on waist training, I caution them to be careful, not use one that is too tight, [and] allow their body to have occasional breaks from training. If they experience pain, indigestion, or other physical symptoms, they should stop immediately,” advises Schulman.
Here’s the bottom line: As with all things, it’s important to be cautious and fully informed before deciding if you want to use a waist trainer. For healthy, doable, and maintainable results we’ll always recommend a healthy diet and exercise. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals for your body. But, it’s important to know that every body, in every shape, is beautiful and deserving of love and respect.
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