A waste of money and potentially harmful

Angela Haupt

THE WASHINGTON POST – After Kim Kardashian shared details of the extreme three-week 16-pound weight loss regimen she set out to slip into an iconic Marilyn Monroe gown for this month’s Met Gala, the result was hardly the admiration she probably expected. The reality TV star has been excoriated on social media not only for publicizing her potentially harmful crash diet, but also for advocating unhealthy slimming strategies in the past, including endorsing and selling a popular shapewear product that persists against the best medical advice: the waist trainer.

“Kim Kardashian was gorgeous at the Met Gala, but she’s been promoting unrealistic body standards for YEARS (diet teas, corsets, expensive procedures) and she’s talking about losing 16 pounds in three weeks to fit into Marilyn’s dress (which no one should get to wear) is appalling,” sports website Girl at the Game founder Gabrielle Starr wrote on Twitter.

Corsets, for those unaware, are undergarments that create an hourglass figure by tightly compressing the waist. They rose to popularity during the 2010s thanks to praise from celebrities and Instagram influencers, including the Kardashian family, and remain so despite being roundly criticized by health experts. Kardashian’s shapewear company Skims started selling a $68 waist trainer in fall 2019; similar products come from a variety of other brands, including YIANNA ($23 to $32), LODAY ($22), and Spanx ($68).

If the concept sounds familiar, that’s because it is. “They’re essentially glorified corsets,” said Stephanie Faubion, director of Mayo Clinic Women’s Health in Jacksonville, Florida. “I’m sorry to see that we’ve gone back to the 1800s.”

Those who endorse the corsets on social media claim that wearing them regularly, for several months, trains their hourglass-shaped waistline and promotes weight loss as they eat less (some corsets are designed to stimulate sweating, which is thought to lead to combustion acceleration). belly fat). Some worshipers even sleep in it at night.

But health experts have said the claimed benefits are just hype. In fact, the name “waist trainer” is a misnomer, said Faubion, who is also medical director for the North American Menopause Society. “It’s not about training your height to do something different. It’s not going to change your shape,” she said. “It’s your height – it’s not a dog.”


Wearing a waist trainer for a few hours during a night out — to achieve some aesthetics — is fine, said Daisy Ayim, a Houston-based cosmetic surgeon and OB/GYN. “If your goal is to look good in this outfit, yes, you will temporarily benefit from an hourglass figure,” she said.

Some people may indeed lose weight after wearing a corset, Ayim noted — but any pounds lost are likely to be water weight. Clothes are heavy and don’t breathe well, so wearing one may cause you to sweat more, and the weight lost this way will come back quickly. Excessive sweating doesn’t reduce belly fat, she said.

Waist trainers aren’t likely to spoil your appetite either. In a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, researchers looked at whether wearing a corset could help people maintain the weight loss achieved by following a calorie-restricted diet.

The study authors were ultimately unable to draw any conclusions because the corsets were so uncomfortable that the participants did not comply with wearing them.

Some corsets are for women recovering from childbirth. According to a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, wearing an abdominal bandage after cesarean delivery resulted in less pain and bleeding, compared to not wearing it. In specific situations, some people will benefit from wearing an abdominal wrap or wrap, said Natalie Toshkoff, a New York-based pelvic floor physical therapist. It could provide stability and feel good on their incision, “like a hand that’s always there to support them.” But I wouldn’t say a corset would be my first choice for that.”


Although research is sparse, experts agree that wearing a corset regularly creates a variety of risks.

“It’s not a benign thing you’re doing,” said Jennifer Wider, a New York-based physician who specializes in women’s health.

Waist trainers can:

Restrict your breathing
Corsets are very tight, and wearing them restricts your diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates your heart and lungs from other organs, Toshkoff explained. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts; when you exhale, it relaxes.

But if you’re wearing a corset, “he won’t be able to go through his full range of motion,” she said.

After several hours or repeated use, “it may not be good for your breathing”. (Kardashian wore a corset to the 2019 Met Gala and revealed she had to take breathing corset lessons.)

Many TikTok videos feature people wearing corsets while working out, claiming it aids weight loss. But it can be dangerous.

“You’re compressing your diaphragm,” Wider said. “You’re not able to take a really solid, deep breath when you’re exercising.” If you don’t get enough oxygen, she says, you could pass out.

Affect your internal organs
The compression created by a waist trainer “can impact your internal organs and how they work,” said Dena Barsoum, physiatrist in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in White Plains, New York. “Our organs need space to function, and a waist trainer really limits that space.”

Long-term use can move your organs – like your kidneys – into unnatural positions, and even cut off the blood flow that allows them to function properly. There is not enough research available to understand whether this damage is permanent, experts agree.

Even centuries ago, doctors noted cases where their patients wearing corsets suffered damage to internal organs. In research published in Cureus in 2020, the study authors said wearing restrictive clothing may contribute to organ damage via “compression, bruising and ischemia”, and added that further research is needed. justified. (Ischemia refers to insufficient blood supply.)

Cause digestive problems
Waist trainers overwhelm your digestive system, which could lead to constipation by “blocking normal motility and the flow of material through the intestines,” Barsoum said.

You might also experience heartburn, as it puts pressure on your lower esophagus and causes “fluids to flow back into your stomach,” she said.

Weaken your musculoskeletal system
Muscles get stronger through activity, “so if a waist trainer holds your waist in a certain position, the muscles don’t do anything,” Barsoum said.

“Muscles can sometimes get weak because they don’t have to do any work.”

This is one of the reasons why experts recommend wearing a corset only for small periods of time, such as at a big event, if at all. Sleeping in one or wearing one all day, week after week, will dissipate core strength.


Faubion said reducing belly fat is a laudable goal: Excess fat around the stomach is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. “But the height trainer is not going to deal with it,” she said.

So how are you? Faubion recommended prioritizing a healthy diet, especially cutting out simple carbs.

Ayim agrees that “good nutrition is the way to go” and suggests supplementing it with regular exercise.

“The only way to approach a waist trainer is to see it as a temporary fix,” Ayim said. “Nothing slimming comes out of it, nothing permanent comes out of it, and nothing significant comes out of it.”

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