Waist Training: Is It Healthy?

Waist Training: Is It Healthy?
Waist Training: Is It Healthy?

We see waist training all over the Internet and on the Instagram feeds of the curvaceous and famous – but it sounds too good to be true. Can we really get the shape we crave simply by wearing a corset? And, if we can, is it safe?

It’s a trend – but is it a good one?
Waist training is becoming more of a trend due to celebrities taking selfies with their waist trainers on like Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Jessica Alba, and Lindsay Lohan, says Texas-based plastic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Walden.

Modest compression, such as that worn after childbearing or after surgical procedures such as tummy tuck or liposuction are not a danger, says Dr. Walden. But, it can be detrimental if the waist training is extremely and unnaturally tight, such as in the corset-wearing that we are seeing a lot of celebs do. “Wearing a waist trainer doesn't produce real body-contouring type medical results, but perhaps makes the wearer feel more confident in certain clothes and in photos. In some instances, it can make women who are heavier have a bit more mobility and help them feel more outwardly comfortable, stand up straight, etc. The classic hourglass look/ pin-up model look is back in style, as we see with a rise in (Brazilian buttock lift) buttock enhancements and natural full breasts,” says Dr. Walden.

In the late '90s and early 2000s women were more into the sleek athletic look -- Jennifer Aniston, Angela Bassett. Now we look to Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Nicki Minaj and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton. A more global beauty trend is to be full-figured, and with that often naturally comes the desire for a smaller waist (i.e. the hourglass figure).

Does it work?
“The corset itself doesn’t have any direct effect on minimizing your fat or tightening your external anatomy. If you stopped wearing a corset, eventually you’re just going to return to the way you were if you aren't exercising and following a healthy diet,” says Dr. Walden. “It won’t make any lasting difference on your body when worn for a short amount of time. However, if you’re wearing one for days, weeks, or even months at a time, very tight corsets or waist trainers can put you at risk for other health problems such as acid reflux, compression of internal organs, swelling of legs or tissues below the waist trainer, and musculoskeletal aches and pains after long-term wear,” Dr. Walden says.

Wearing a corset won’t make you lose the fat around your waist or make the fat cells go away. “Also, the results don’t mimic those of surgery or noninvasive fat reduction treatments, as some claim. Sometimes people who wear them long-term can get a bit of a pooch or fullness in the lower abdomen/ upper pubic area,” says Dr. Walden.

Choosing a waist trainer
The ideal corset or waist trainer for you is one that feels comfortable and looks good, but isn't affecting your circulation or rubbing or bruising on the hip bones, says Dr. Walden. “Post-pregnancy compression wear such as Spanx can help hold it all in when the female body feels a little like jello after giving birth. I wore one of those for a short while after gestating with twins while getting back into shape, and it helped with some comforting and clothing fit effect. It also helped make my diastasis recti (six pack muscle widening) less wide over time in conjunction with an exercise plan and physical therapy, and also helped with some of the nerve-type aches and pains that goes along with a wide diastasis recti. This was not a very tight and ornate waist trainer that some of the celebs are taking pictures in, though,” says Dr. Walden.

Other options
Liposuction is the “gold standard” for removing fat surgically and permanently, says Dr. Walden.

Alternatively, noninvasive fat reduction like Venus Legacy™, Vanquish, or CoolSculpting® are viable options for those who want modest fat reduction around the waist and skin tightening without a surgical procedure, Dr. Walden says. “For those with skin laxity, diastasis recti, and leftover fat after pregnancy, a tummy tuck may be the best option and give more of a slimmer tightened look that women who use a waist trainer or corset are seeking. In essence, an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) with rectus abdominal muscle plication (tightening) is an internal corset of sorts and can restore one as close back to a pre-baby figure as anything,” says Dr. Walden.

Given that waist trainers can be uncomfortable and don’t get rid of belly fat, consider consulting with a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area to determine if there is a better solution for you.

About the Author

Aly Walansky is a lifestyles writer with over a decade of experience covering beauty, health, and travel for various esteemed publications. Her blog, A Little Alytude (www.alytude.com) was launched in 2006 and continues to be a strong voice in the lifestyles arena. Based in the ever-trendy Park Slope area of Brooklyn, she divides her time between her shih tsu Lily, her soap opera addiction, and scouting out fun new martini bars.