By ARIADNE WEINBERG, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
They say that “Beauty is pain.” But are there times when it goes a little too far? Celebrities strive for perfection, but sometimes at the cost of their own health.
Lately, Kim Kardashian and her 16-inch waist, and other celebrities with their shiny new corsets, have gotten women on a weird beauty bender.
Those not familiar with the trend might think “Corsets? But isn't that something antiquated from the Victorian age or simply for theatrical exploits?” That's certainly what I thought. Corsets were popular in the 14th through the early 19th centuries.
Now, it looks like corsets have come back into style, and not only for fashion. The ladies want their waists as small as possible.
Some even go so far as to have a rib removed in order to achieve this. Unfortunately, corsets are creating many of the same problems as back in olden times, with damsels in distress fainting on couches due to lack of oxygen.
The diaphragm, after all, is still in approximately the same place as it was back then.
This practice of using a tightly-laced corset to achieve an hourglass figure, also known as tight-lacing, might have some short-term benefits, but the long-term disadvantages to your health go much farther than the occasional fainting on the couch (which, really, should be concerning enough all on its own).
I Don't Mind Not Breathing. Give Me Some Curves!
Some people who market these waist trainers suggest that users start with 2 to 4 hours a day, go up to 8 to 10. Eventually, when they are more comfortable, these marketers even suggest you wear them at night.
Really? The problem with this extremity is that not only does it make you short of breath, it actually affects your internal organs.
Some doctors even describe what waist trainers do to your body as "strangling your organs".
If you wear a waist trainer for many hours a day every day, according to Dr. Tasneem Bhatia (also known as “Dr. Taz”), an Atlanta physician who studied at the University of Arizona, it "crushes" your internal organs, including the colon, liver, stomach, and small intestines.
Dr. Galyna Selezneva, an aesthetic medical doctor at Dr. Rita Rakus, a cosmetic clinic in London, explains that the upper organs shift upward, and the lower organs shift downward.
This can cause constipation due to pressure on the abdomen, along with a host of other problems.
A report on the Dr. Oz show depicted two X-rays, one with the corset and one without. The X-ray showed how the internal organs shifted and even how the liver was being pushed into the ribs.
Thinking of strapping on a waist trainer? It's definitely not worth it to damage your internal processing system, just for a temporarily trendy body.
But Can't I Lose Weight?
Well, maybe in the short term, if you're lucky.
Since the corset is compressing your stomach, it will make it shrink, and cause you to want to eat less.
The shift in pressure of your internal organs will also cause you to be less tolerant of certain gas-producing, fatty foods.
So you'll avoid them. And thus you may experience weight loss.
But along with that, the pleasure of eating will be severely reduced because the stomach shifts above the diaphragm and causes acid reflux.
“Extreme compression of the abdomen can result in elevation of the diaphragm and pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, creating an environment conducive to reflux,” said Dr. Amy Elizabeth Rothberg, assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Michigan.
Nobody likes heartburn and indigestion. And even if you do achieve short-term results, without proper diet and exercise (don't try to exercise with these things on), the long term benefits won't exist. You might have a thin waist, but your belly won't disappear all on its own.
What Do Doctors Say?
Along with all of the dangers, almost all medical experts agree that waist trainers are not an effective, long term weight-loss strategy.
Dr. Andrew Miller, plastic surgeon of Associates in Plastic Surgery in New York and New Jersey, affirms that “Corset training in and of itself does not remove fat cells.”
Of course, it may make you want to eat less, but he points out that you can always cut down on calories and exercise to achieve the same effects. That way, you can avoid the negative side effects.
So, what if I just want a thin waist and I don't care about the fat?
Doctors say that even that may only be temporary. Dr. Caroline Apovian, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, says that the garment is fine to use temporarily if you like how it looks, but it is just as effective to change your figure with other, less detrimental shaping clothes, such as Spanx.
In the U.S., waist trainers are not yet approved or disapproved by the FDA. This agency would evalute any health claims made about the product. The reason the FDA had not issued a statement one way or another is simple --- no claims to the safety or lack thereof have been clinically proven or evaluated just yet by the FDA. But we'll keep you posted.
So, you use a waist training corset at your own risk, but it's generally not restricted.
Waist trainers are out there on the market to purchase. However, one waist shaping advertisement, from Velform Miniwaist, was recently banned in the U.K for encouraging unhealthy body perceptions.
The ASA, which regulates all the UK's advertising media, decided to remove the ad because of statements such as “that sexy tiny waist, so small that you'll be everyone's envy.”
Of course, this ad doesn't show the more unfortunate side effects that are absolutely nothing to be envious of.
More Disadvantages - Waist Trainers Can Make You Seriously Sick
Waist training can cause everyday discomfort by pushing on the internal organs.
However, it can also cause more serious or chronic illnesses.
According to Nicole Florence from the Memorial weight loss and wellness center in Springfield, Illinois, since the corset presses against your lungs, it can potentially cause pneumonia.
The problem of fainting and dizziness comes from low blood pressure, because the flow of blood is not functioning as it normally would.
And although a waist trainer does temporarily reduce appetite, if you work out with it, it can also caused increased dehydration from the increase in body temperature and excessive sweating.
If you are like some of the people who hear the warnings and say, “Oh, but I love how my body looks; I just can't leave it!” make sure you take the necessary precautions.
If you do decide to exercise with your waist trainer, stay more hydrated than you normally would.
Reduce the number of hours a day you use it, and definitely don't sleep with it on.
If you start experiencing any feelings of discomfort after wearing it, especially those listed in the article, go to your physician for advice.
And just remember: you can always use corsets once in a while to play princess and leave your body in its natural state most of the time.