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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