Want to whittle your waist and immediately appear thinner and leaner?
There’s a product promising all of that, but it actually could be causing irreparable damage to your internal organs.
It’s called a waist trainer, and the idea is just that: to train the waist to be smaller. If it looks like a medieval torture device, that’s because it almost is. These type of corsets were popular in the 1500s. Advertisements promise you can tame your midsection by wearing this thing continuously, but doctors warn it could cause serious long term damage.
It’s the newest slim-down secret that has stars pumping its popularity all over social media. Reality TV stars from Snooki to every one of the Kardashians have endorsed the products.
“Just because a celebrity promotes it doesn’t mean that it’s safe or that it works or that it’s proven,” says spinal surgeon Dr. Paul Jeffords.
Jeffords says the claims made by waist-trainer manufacturers about shrinking your size are just plain ridiculous.
“If I were to take a rubber band and wrap it around my finger tightly and leave it there for an hour, I’m going to have this indentation in my soft tissue, but it’s not going to be permanent. An hour later, my finger is going to look normal again,” he says.
However, the damage caused by a waist trainer could be permanent. “My focuses as a spinal surgeon are the musculature effects and what effect does it have on the spine, the bones, the ligaments, the nerves. And certainly there can be some significant side effects with the prolonged use of these type of devices,” Jeffords says.
“It just crams all of your organs together. So over a long period of time, wearing it too much and too frequently, it can cause damage too,” says health and wellness expert Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, an Atlanta physician.
The Science of Eating Blog shows a diagram of just how dramatically your organs can shift while wearing a corset. But evidence of damage was published long before bloggers picked up the idea.
French doctor Ludovic O’Followell published Le Corset, a paper exposing the dangers of too-tight trainers, at the turn of the 20th century. X-ray technology was in its infancy, but he used it to show photos of squashed rib cages and displaced organs. At the time, he was advocating for more flexible corsets.
Dr. Taz says waist trainers makes heart burn and indigestion worse, and women pass out after wearing them because they can’t get enough air. Your diaphragm, colon, liver stomach, and small intestines can all be shifted around inside your body after wearing one for too long.
“The side effects or negative effects can be long term or permanent, but the benefit is not,” said Dr. Taz.
Finding people to talk about the benefits of waist training can be tricky in Atlanta: sales reps, store owners and representatives of a company that manufactures them didn’t want to talk to a reporter about it.
But there is plenty of information on websites of companies that sell waist trainers, including the suggestion that you should be wearing the device for 10 hours a day. The fine print says users need to eat healthy and exercise to actually see results.
Doctors say women who want to see a smaller waist should keep the diet and exercise, but lose the waist trainer.
“There’s no magic bullet. It’s going to take effort, hard work, dedication. Just like anything else in life that’s worth having, you have to put a little effort in to it,” said Dr. Jeffords.
Dr. Taz says if you want to wear one of these trainers occasionally to create a silhouette for a special dress, that should be fine. But when it comes to long-term use, she says — flat out — don’t.