I think this is it… I may have finally lost my sanity. The other evening (while trying to go to bed), I saw an Instagram post (from one of my Insta-friends) showcasing “waist training.” Is she wearing a corset? I blinked, rubbed my eyes, and turned up the brightness on my phone. It sure did look like a corset. It can’t be. What “training” could you possibly do in a corset? Maybe this is a joke. Maybe I’m seeing things. I looked at her Insta-comments: things like “looking great girl!” “keep up the good work!” “it’ll all be worth it soon!” and “I’m going to have to try this!” littered the comment section. Keep up what good work? Try what? What in the world is “waist training?”
Well, I guess I won’t be going to sleep anytime soon. See, I have this inability to complete/continue a task if I encounter something I don’t know. If I don’t know what a word means, I will look it up immediately (thank you, urban dictionary ;) ). If I hear about a new trend or medical treatment, I must find out about it NOW. My curiosity of “waist training” and need for instant information didn’t serve well for my sleep that night. The information I gathered on waist training didn’t serve well for my sleep the subsequent nights, OR my sanity. I still am in disbelief that people are doing this…
Waist training, also known as “tight-lacing,” “getting waisted” waist erasing” and “corset training,” is a process where people try to shrink their waist sizes by wearing tight, compressive corsets. The goal in waist training is to wear the corset for as many hours in a day as possible, with the hopes of permanently or semi-permanently reducing the waist size. Some people report wearing the corset for 23 hours a day. While doing a waist training protocol, individuals may focus on reducing calories consumed, limiting “unclean” foods (junk foods), and exercising in the corset, but the most common aspect is the corset cinching/tightening.
Does having a smaller waist give you some sort of advantage in sport? No.
Does it help increase longevity or prevent some sort of scary disease? No.
Does it improve your overall health? No.
Does it improve self-image? Debatable. I feel like it reinforces image as the main component of self-worth, which is superficial and vain. But that is just my opinion.
Is it a fast way to achieve abnormal and exaggerated body modifications to reinforce societies unrealistic expectations of what women should look like? Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
The reason so many women are waist training is simple. Vanity. And hopefully ignorance. My goal is to educate all of you beautiful women (and men!) on the short and long-term consequences of “corset training,” so that you reconsider putting your bodies through this unnecessary mutilation.
On first thought, I assumed everyone MUST know how dangerous it is to tightly compress all of the most important organs in your body. Oh how wrong I was. The more I researched waist training, the more I found people ecstatically doing it. There is large a cult-like following of waist-trainers with impending (or existing) eating disorders and body image issues. I mean, if Jessica Alba and Kim Kardashian are doing it, it must be safe right? Some of the waist training websites even talk about all of the health benefits of waist training– from constipation relief to headache reduction and everything in between. WHAT??? I CANNOT EMPHASIZE ENOUGH HOW WRONG THEY ARE AND HOW DANGEROUS THIS IS!!!
I urge you to continue reading and to discover the short and long-term complications of using a corset before deciding to use one.
The compression of the corset causes compression and increased pressure within the stomach. The stomach isn’t capable of handling as much food (similar to a lap band), and the pressure causes upward movement of stomach acids. The pain associated with indigestion is called heart burn.
Heartburn is a symptom of indigestion (see above) that feels like tightness, burning, pain, or discomfort in the chest that is due to the stomach acid eroding the tissues of the esophagus.
The ribcage is supposed to move freely to allow for expansion of the lungs. The corset inhibits the full expansion of the ribcage, and doesn’t allow the lungs to fully inflate. When this happens, only the upper part of the ribcage can expand, and causes an over-working of the accessory muscles of respiration. This will eventually lead to upper back and neck pain, because those muscles aren’t supposed to work that much.
Because the lungs can’t fully inflate, a corset wearer may have difficulties achieving adequate respiration and will experience shortness of breath.
The corset takes a very tightly-packed abdomen, and then squeezes it even more. The organs are squished and displaced, reducing the blood flow and function of the organs.
Tight corsets may impede the venous return of blood from the lower part of body. If there is excess blood in the lower half of the body, and blood flow and oxygen are reduced to the brain, the end result is fainting.
Because the corset is so tight against the skin, the pressure and compression may irritate the skin causing chafing, bruising, and callous formation.
Increasing the pressure on the intestines and bowels make it harder for them to work. Bowel movements/ intestinal transit may slow with the use of corsets, so stool and waste may take longer to evacuate. Having excess stool build up in one’s intestines will definitely make a person feel bloated.
All of the organs are held in certain places in the thoracic cavity and abdomen by connective tissues. When these organs are squeezed and pushed in different directions for long periods of time (thank you, corsets), it can weaken and lengthen the connective tissue. Visceroptosis is a condition where the organs have weakened connectors, and are “sagging” in a downward fashion. Side effects of visceroptosis are: heart burn, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal distension, vertigo, loss of sleep, and headache (just to name a few common ones).
Is an anemic condition that is marked by pale skin, fainting, tiredness, and breathlessness. This is a term that was used in the past when using corsets was commonplace, though isn’t used much nowadays.
As the stomach is displaced and squished, eating habits have to change. Eating large portions becomes impossible and eating food may become uncomfortable. With the reduction in portion size and eating frequency, one runs the risk of reduced food intake and malnutrition.
When the menstrual cycle in a woman is disrupted (see amenorrhea above), this causes complications with conception and may make it impossible for a woman to get pregnant.
When women experience malnutrition (see above) and reductions in body fat percentage, amenorrhea (when a woman’s period goes away) may occur.
Wearing a corset long term has been shown to decrease the size of the obstetrical pelvic inlet, which can be detrimental to the developing fetus and could cause complications during the birthing process.
The pressure of the corset increases the abdominal and thoracic pressure and forces the stomach upward. Sometimes the pressure is so great that the stomach is pushed through the hole (hiatus) in the diaphragm where it does not belong. Over time, this can cause bleeding, ulcers, esophageal stricture (esophagus gets narrow due to scar tissue and needs to be expanded with a special tool or surgery), and cancer due to changes in the esophageal tissue.
Scar tissue will build in the esophagus from the damage created by the acid reflux. The scar tissue makes swallowing food and drink difficult.
The entire back is meant to move- that is why we have so many individual vertebrae and joints back there! Each joint is responsible for a certain degree of motion when we move, and the movement helps lubricate the joints in the spine. Making a section of the spine immobile (ie. when wearing a corset) negatively changes the biomechanics of the spine. When you go to move, some joints are not moving enough (low and mid back), which means other joints have to move more (upper back). When joints are exposed to extra movement stress, they are predisposed to undergo premature degeneration. Similarly, when joints don’t move enough, they don’t receive adequate lubrication and nutrients, and will also degenerate faster.
Wearing a corset can predispose the spine to premature degeneration (see above example), which can be a painful process. Degeneration of the spine cannot be reversed, and thus can be a contributor of chronic back pain.
While wearing a corset, one may feel “supported” and may have the sensation of improved posture. This is because the corset is like a stronger version of your core muscles. While wearing a corset, your abdominal muscles and core do not need to work- the corset is doing more than enough “supporting.” Over time, the core muscles atrophy (shrink and get weak) since they are not being challenged. Upon removal of the corset, the core muscles are weak, and the body will feel unsupported. Without proper rehabilitation from a corset, a person will likely revert back to corset wearing to receive the support that their own core is no longer able to provide.
Inhibition of diaphragm The diaphragm is a critical part of respiration, and is responsible for allowing for maximal inflation of the lungs. The diaphragm contracts and pushes abdominal contents downward, allowing the lungs to fully expand. Wearing a corset does not allow the diaphragm to do its job, so it just sits there and gets weak while the corset does its damage. Over time, the body develops a compensatory breathing pattern that excludes the diaphragm (this is bad!), and relies solely on the accessory muscles of respiration and the upper intercostal muscles. This is considered a dysfunctional breathing pattern and may cause many health problems in the future including constipation, neck pain, and head aches.
Wearing a corset increases the pressure on the pelvic floor, reproductive organs, and organs responsible for waste removal. As seen in the “visceroptosis” complication, sustained pressures and displacement of organs can cause a weakening of the connective tissues that hold them in place. In the pelvis, the following can occur due to unnatural pressures on the pelvic floor:
When the connective tissues of the bladder are stretched and put under sustained pressure (like during pregnancy and while corset wearing), they become weakened and less capable of maintaining normal function. The urethral ligaments that help “kink” the ureter become stretched, and are no longer able to sufficiently stop the flow of urine. The result is urinary incontinence, which is exacerbated by stress to the area (coughing, running, laughing).
The increase in pressure on the pelvic floor causes unnecessary strain on the muscles and may completely change the structure of the pelvic floor (see above examples of prolapse). Many of the above listed conditions, and abnormal stresses on the pelvic floor muscles can cause painful intercourse. Pain during intercourse is not fun, and therefore women are less likely to want to have sex.
When you consider all of the negative side-effects and complications that can accompany waist training, it seems inconceivable that a person would still consider putting her (or his) body through such abuse and mutilation all for the sake of appearance. There will be a few die-hard “corseters” who choose to ignore my warnings, and I will end this educational rant with this message to them:
Dearest die-hard “Waist Trainers,”
My office is at 604 Solarex ct #101 Frederick, MD 21703. I look forward to seeing you on a regular basis in the future. I hope your damage, dysfunction, and pain isn’t permanent. There is a good chance I won’t be able to fix everything, but I will try my best to rehabilitate and restore what I can. It is going to take a lot of work on both of our ends, with no guarantees, so I hope you’re up for the challenge.