Waist TrainingIt’s a general truth that just about everyone’s trying to lose weight or change their bodies around these parts. Most of the time, telling people to eat veggies and exercise just isn’t flashy enough to get people’s attention, and crazy fads are born. One of the latest for women looking to achieve that sometimes-elusive hourglass shape involves wearing Victorian-era corsets, a lot.

“Corset training” or “waist training” has gained in popularity over the last couple years, prompting many a fear-mongering news report and spawning hoards of women who claim their waists have actually decreased in circumference. Message boards populated by black women have pages and pages of threads for people interested in learning more: what corsets to buy, how often you should wear them, how to make realistic goals, etc.

The idea of wearing a corset for most of your waking hours sounds pretty extreme, but, as xoJane.com’s Lesley pointed out, so does never eating bread or only eating cereal for lunch. Or, the Insanity workout. As fads go, corset training may actually be pretty benign. The difference between this trend and The South Beach Diet, though, is all the media hype about who it’ll ruin your organs and cause permanent damage.

An article in The Huffington Post quotes a doctor saying that corsets are horrible and could ruin your body in such a way that you might (gasp!) actually gain weight. He kind of goes on and on about obesity and struggling to lose weight and how people should do it, but it doesn’t seem to be that waist training is catching on among people who would be deemed clinically obese. The women (on the Internet, at least) who seem most interested in doing this are thin (or thin-ish) and want a smaller waist, not to necessarily lose major pounds.

Another doctor in that same article (a cosmetic surgeon, actually) says that he advises his patients to try the method, as it’s a “non-invasive, non-surgical way of modifying your body shape.”

Like most diets, there isn’t a clear bottom line on whether waist training is “safe.” It could probably cause problems for some women, but so does extreme dieting. What’s more interesting to me, and rarely discussed, is not what people (mostly women) are willing to do to achieve a smaller body or thinner waist. It’s what motivates people to be so unhappy with their bodies that they’ll even consider something so extreme in the first place. That, to me, is just as worthy of discussion and news write-ups and possible solutions.

Back to Lesley at xoJane.com, who writes that most diet fads are not, inherently, really, really bad, but within the context of a society that assigns value to women based on their looks, everything we do to change our bodies sort of matters. She writes:

Like the corset, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with changing one’s food intake or attempting to reshape one’s own body, but these things still happen in a particular social context. A corset is just a corset and a diet is just a diet — but both take place in a world where these things have currency and meaning, where they may be socially redeeming, when administered with moderation, or frightening and destructive, when taken to extreme ends.

What do you think—have you or would you ever try corset training? Is it dangerously unsafe or just another fad?

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  • chenchen

    first and for most, the insanity workout is in no way dangerous. it’s an exercise plan, and it does not talk about diet. they encourage you to drink enough food and water. it’s basically an online Physical Education lesson. It keeps you fit.

    However, the corset is another thing. It is proven, and is a fact, that prolonged wearing of it, as it is in a committed diet, will cause some serious discomfort(it’s not even in the sense of extreme hunger)and a huge shifting in your organs, primarily your liver, and a risk damaging them. Glenard’s Disease, which can be caused by long-term tight-lacing of a corset, is marked by muscle atrophy and a shifting of the organs away from their natural positions [source: Orchard]. Also, it is inevitable during the process that by wearing a corset it tightens and squeezes your ribs so that it will cave inwards to the torso in order to obtain that “curvy figure”, and this process will probably hurt. (a lot) It kind of reminds me of feet binding. go google feet binding and be horrified :D

    so really, don’t take the shortcut. it’s a well known fact that in diets, the faster you lose the weight, the faster you gain it back. Corsets don’t take away fat, it squeezes it in, that’s all it really does.

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  • I’ve had passing thoughts of trying it, and it wouldn’t be a matter of losing weight (don’t feel any need to do that) but of reshaping. I’m slim but have a more ‘boyish’ figure without much waist definition. Wouldn’t mind a little less in the waist, a little more at the rear and hips. 

  • Guest

    Is it too late to do tightlacing with the steel boned ones if you’re in your 30s, if you’re already lean? Like I’ve heard of folks going from 30 to 24 inches, but how about those of us who would like to go from the 24s to the 18-20s and also reshape bone? AFAIK this is very different from wearing panty girdles