Lately a phenomenon has taken over the Internet and and social media.
Waist trainers, waist shapers, waist cinchers... whatever you call them, they all have one thing in common: People are obsessed with them. You see them on all the big names like the Kardashians, Madonna, and Jessica Alba. All it takes is a simple google search and you'll find dozens of brands promising to give you that quintessential hourglass shape. Do an Instagram search for the hashtag #waisttraining and you'll find 465k+ posts...
I mean who wouldn't want to strap on a nice little undergarment and shrink their waist into a curvy Kardashian-esque shape? Tiny waist, hourglass figure... sign me up!
But do waist trainers really work? Will they really help your waist whittling efforts?
To start, let's take a look at what these companies "claim" their waist trainers will accomplish. Despite all the social media promotion, complete with big name trainers (who should know better), there are a few important details left out.
The claims are many, but the common ones cited by advocates (aka the companies selling them) state that "waist shapers will help you lose fat and inches from your waist, metabolize fat, release toxins, compress your core, and reduce food intake throughout the day."
These few claims alone are enough to make my head explode with frustration.
First off, let's not forget that these devices are made primarily of latex. For those of you who've worn latex gloves, what happens? Your hands sweat like CRAZY!
So, makes sense that you're going to sweat a hell of a lot when you wear a waist trainer. What happens when you sweat? You lose water weight. Let me repeat that, you lose water weight. NOT fat.
Enter problem #1. Subject A wears a waist trainer, sweats like crazy while she works out, weighs herself and POOF! Two pounds gone! She concludes she must be wearing a miracle device. What she fails to recognize is that she didn't lose actual fat. That number on the scale wasn't a real indicator of her progress. As soon as she drinks some water and has a nice carbohydrate-rich dinner, she'll put the weight right back on.
Lets also not forget that most women who are trying waist trainers for the first time are also ramping up their exercise routines and following a healthier diet. Naturally, they will lose weight and mistakenly believe they have their waist trainers to thank.
Let's discuss problem #2. Let me ask you a question. Do you like having your internal organs function properly? What about your digestive system? I'm guessing your answer is yes.
What you may not realize is that while wearing a waist trainer you're compressing your internal organs which can lead to improper functioning and digestive issues. By constricting the midsection of your body, your diaphragm, which allows the lungs to expand and contract, cannot do its job (1). "Medically, it doesn't make sense that cinching your waist tightly will make it permanently smaller," says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., 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." (2)
What's even worse is when women try to work out while wearing the device. Not only will you be unable to breathe properly, but your core musculature will not be able to develop properly (2). Exercising produces an increased need for oxygen, which cannot be supplied while wearing a waist trainer. Your lungs will literally not have enough room to expand.
Let's jump back in time a bit. Think back to your middle school days when you learned about the Victorian era. Remember all those lovely ladies who would cinch up their tight little corsets, powder their noses, and try not to pass out under their ruffled dresses? Their organs may have been impinged, but don't worry because they looked damn fine in those dresses.
You learned about the negative side effects of corsets in your grade school days. Waist trainers aren't much different, they're just wrapped up in a cute little package with some fancy marketing and have celebrities being paid way too much money to promote them.
Lastly, problem #3. Spot reduction. Waist trainers companies will often claim that wearing their devices will help you reduce fat off your waist. Scientifically, this is a load of crap. Spot reduction (aka targeting certain areas of the body for fat loss), isn't possible. You cannot pick and choose where to lose fat. Take a look at this study (3) where subjects performed abdominal exercises to reduce abdominal fat. Bottom line: It didn't work. Here's another study (4) that reached the same conclusion.
So what's the best way to shrink your waist?
Well hopefully by now, you'll agree that a waist trainer isn't the answer. You also know that you cannot target specific areas of the body to lose fat.
You need to reduce overall body fat. The best way to do this?
Here's a simple recipe:
1) Follow a proper nutritional plan built for your body and your goals. Forget the cookie cutter diet plans and one-size-fits-all diet books. Find a coach who can help you determine your proper macronutrient levels and develop a nutritional plan customized to you.
2) Strength train. If all you're doing is cardio, you're not going to get the results you want. You can do cardio 'til the sun don't shine and you'll never get the lean, athletic look that most people desire if you don't have any muscle mass. And ladies, don't be afraid to pick up the heavy weights!
3) Be consistent. Do the above two points consistently at the right levels and you'll achieve success. Be patient with yourself and stick to it! Too often people flip flop all over with their workouts and never see progress. You're not going to transform overnight, so stick to it and the results will come.
Like most things in life, quick fixes rarely work. If they did everyone would walk around looking like they came off the cover of a fitness magazine. Put in the work.
Like I often tell my coaching clients, you get out what you put in. Put in crap and that's exactly what you'll get. Put in the work and it will pay off.
Have a friend who is thinking of getting a waist trainer (or, already has one)? Do them a favor and share this article with them.
This article originally appeared on www.ProShapeFitness.com
1. "The Dangers of Waist Training." The Doctors. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.
2. Crain, Esther. "The Dangers of 'Waist Training'" Women's Health. N.p., 26 Aug. 2014. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.
3. Vispute, SS. "The Effect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.
4. Ramírez-Campillo, R. "Regional Fat Changes Induced by Localized Muscle Endurance Resistance Training." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2013. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.