Is It Safe And Effective To Use A Waist Trainer?

The hourglass figure has long been glamorized in popular culture. Other body shapes may have surged in popularity over the years, including the willowy look of the '60s and the "heroin chic" thinness of the '90s. But a cinched waist has reigned supreme as an integral part of the ideal female aesthetic since China's Han Dynasty (via Science of People). In today's era of social media influencers, a slim waist with curves in the breasts and butt is projected as perfect, often leading those who don't fall into this category to feel inadequate.

Enter waist trainers. Kim Kardashian's shapewear brand Skims explains that a waist trainer is a boned garment that squishes your waist and smooths your abdomen. Worn under your clothes and secured with velcro and hooks, waist trainers claim to improve posture and sculpt your middle section over time to enhance your curves and slim your waist. Waist trainer companies advise beginning training by wearing them for two hours a day, eventually working up to 10 hours (via Girls Gone Strong). Some also recommend wearing them during exercise for added benefits, including weight loss, and progressively tightening the trainer every week. 

While a waist trainer might sound like a miracle solution for those who have been made to feel unattractive by society's obsession with the hourglass shape, medical professionals have some concerns.

Is it safe to use a waist trainer?

Websites selling waist trainers argue that it's completely safe to use a waist trainer if wearing it properly. However, several experts challenge these claims, highlighting the potential consequences of wearing waist trainers. WebMD points out that waist trainers can result in several health problems by shifting your internal organs for extended periods of time. Forcing your vital organs into unnatural positions can lead to long-term damage to your lungs, stomach, liver, and kidneys, and can actually weaken your core strength over time. This is because even though they do keep your core tight while you wear them, they maintain your posture for you rather than engaging your muscles. Waist trainers can also deprive your body of oxygen (via the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery). They reduce lung capacity when worn, which can lead to low energy or, in severe cases, passing out or fluid build-up in the lungs. explains that waist trainers may cause harm to your skin in the form of irritation and bruising, as well as psychological issues. In particular, because waist trainers typically have a temporary effect, they can actually increase negative body image. You might be pleased to notice that the waist trainer has slimmed your middle section but then experience disappointment when your body returns to its normal shape. Additionally, waist trainers can result in numbness or pins and needles in your legs, and may also cause heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux. Despite these risks, some people may think wearing a waist trainer is worth it for a visibly slimmer figure. But do waist trainers actually work?

Do waist trainers actually work?

Waist trainers propose to have several benefits. They claim to permanently cinch the waist, lead to weight loss through targeted sweating and calorie restriction, and strengthen the core. While they may be able to support those with weakened abdominal muscles in the early stages of healing, experts argue that the rest of the claims are false (via The New York Times). The fat, organs, and flesh that make up a person's midsection can't be "trained" to hold a different shape, it's not possible to "target tone" certain areas of the body, and most people likely won't be able to stand wearing a waist trainer long enough for it to affect their appetite or calorie consumption. Medical News Today explains that waist trainers can create a slimming effect and reduce the circumference of a person's waist, but this is only temporary.

Ultimately, waist trainers aren't likely to sculpt a person's figure dramatically or for the long term, and they also have the potential to cause the outlined health problems (via Healthline). While the website concurs that you're not likely to experience negative side effects if you don't wear a waist trainer too frequently or too tightly, it's unlikely to provide the permanent results you're looking for. Rather, long-term weight loss comes down to a healthy diet and consistent exercise, and slimming specific body areas while maintaining curves elsewhere is only possible through surgery. The good news is a tiny waist is absolutely not essential to health or beauty, and societal pressures don't have to dictate what your body should look like. You're beautiful just as you are.