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Physician warns why we need to stop glamorizing waist trainers

·3-min read

Dr. Alok Patel is In The Know’s health and wellness contributor. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter for more.

Scroll through social media or look at a magazine and society’s version of the “perfect” body will smack you in the face. Not surprisingly, many people have insecurities because of this constant bombardment — and may wish they had different features. Naturally, this paves the way for the savvy fitness industry to exploit insecurities and offer a quick fix. And there’s a reason the fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar one.

This brings me right to the trendy waist trainer.

As a physician and journalist, I’m skeptical about all the claims I’ve read about waist trainers. I can’t find any actual scientific backing for claims that waist trainers can “mold your waist” or “train your fat cells.”

It seems that waist trainers are likely a waste of time, especially if you’re using them for fitness goals.

Waist trainers are like a modern relative of the corset. Corsets themselves have been around for centuries. Originally made with whalebones, these articles of clothing evolved over time to incorporate different materials and shapes, both for comfort and to cater to the desired societal figure of the time.

Fast forward to today, there are still videos online of people synching corsets and waist trainers as tight as possible to get an exaggerated hourglass figure. And, naturally, there are serious health risks with this type of behavior.

Think about your body, specifically your digestive system, that keeps you running like a well-oiled, high-functioning machine. Do you think it wants to be squeezed for hours at a time? Your stomach, small intestines, gallbladder, kidneys, colon, liver and pancreas are doing just fine without any type of device synching your midsection. Doing so could cause issues with digestion, acid reflux or even worse, especially if you have underlying gut health issues.

Take a moment and appreciate the muscle right above your torso, which expands when you take a deep breath. Thank you, diaphragm. Your diaphragm and ribs need room to expand — and you could potentially limit that with a tightly enclosed waist trainer, especially if you have an underlying heart or lung disease.

But if we’re talking about a less restrictive shaping undergarment, that is another story completely. I have heard people say they feel more confident wearing shapewear, and I believe everyone has the right to look and feel their best — as long as they aren’t wreaking havoc on their internal organs or affecting their ability to breathe, eat, move and digest.

But beyond anatomical concerns, I worry about the message sent to young people about body positivity and health due to the waist training fad. I’ve had patients as young as 11 years old ask me if they should be using waist trainers. I had one patient go on TikTok and show me videos with the hashtag #waisttrainers. There were so many of them that they collectively had over 465 million views. Welcome to the culture that kids are being raised in.

Credit: TikTok/Screenshot
Credit: TikTok/Screenshot

Remember, body positivity is all about feeling great about your individual body. Don’t let societal standards stop you from being your fierce, sexy self.

If you liked this story, read about how to navigate online mental health resources.

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