Chief Science Correspondent
It's an extreme case of old (i.e. early-to-mid-1800s) fashion coming back in style. Waist training, the process of gradually permanently reshaping the torso by wearing a tightly laced corset around the mid-section, is one of the fall's newest fashion and fitness trends.
Many users swear by the power of waist training, including reality star Kim Kardashian, who is reportedly wearing a corset to regain her pre-baby figure. One Twitter user reported having shed two inches after only one week.
The basic concept of waist training seems to be that users wear the corset for as long as possible, and as tightly as possible, for an indefinite amount of time. Corset company Waist No Time recommends increasing tightness and duration every day. By tightening certain areas of the body, users can target weight loss in certain areas and achieve the much-coveted hourglass figure.
Despite a large group of followers, experts seem to agree that wearing a corset won't ever permanently change the wearer's body shape.
“Medically, it doesn’t make sense that cinching your waist tightly will make it permanently smaller,” said Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine. “Once you take the garment off, your body will return to its usual shape. It’s also uncomfortable, restricts your movements, and if you wear it really tight, it can even make it difficult to breathe and theoretically could cause rib damage.”
Whether waist training can be effective is still a bit of a debate. Burlesque star Dita Von Teese claims to have reduced her waist by 22 inches through years of waist training. But we've seen these kinds of changes before and while the external effect may look appealing, the internal damage is nothing short of alarming.
A recently rediscovered 1908 article revealed startling X-rays demonstrating the effects of long-term corset wear on women's ribs. The bones moved in towards the chest over time, a phenomenon Dr. Ludovic O'Followell, the author of the paper, believed was a cause of organ displacement.
But the fact that so many people have bought into this latest fad is frightening. We looked hard to find a scientific paper showing how waist training can safely reshape body fat, and came up short. Granted, waist training didn't seem to become popular until late last summer. Even still, there's something worrisome about the fact that companies can make a few claims about corsets impacting metabolism - without a single doctor's testimonial - and thousands of consumers buy into it.
Why have so many people condemned themselves to shoving their torsos into a corset for the next several years? There are definitely some good reasons that waist training users have seen some success. One of the main claims of waist training is that the tight compression prevents the wearer from overeating. This actually makes sense and may an effective way to manage appetite control - but it won't give the wearer an hourglass figure. It simply encourages calorie restriction.
Some corset-wearers have stated that working out in a corset can help the wearer control strength building by maintaining proper posture. There may be some truth to this, and there are actually corsets made of material specifically designed for working out. However, it is also important not to wear the corset too tightly. Tight lacing can result in restricted breathing, which prevents oxygen delivery in the tissues. That's probably not the best plan.
Hopefully, the fad of waist training will die out before serious damage occurs. Corsets are a great way to reshape the body - temporarily. If you want a permanent weight loss solution, skip the Victorian-style pain and just go to a gym.