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?

  • IjUsWannaSay…

    As one who’s been waist training for a few years, it’s important to start easy. Doing ab-work without the corset is important because your muscles weaken when the body relies on something else for support.

    Side bends do help, but refrain from using weights.

    And your diet is extremely important. No foods that cause bloat or tummy gain. I drink green tea and coconut in my diet. Whatever works for you, but go easy.

    This is not a quick-fix diet plan…

  • SE

    Good old fashion exercise and eating healthy will help this. I don’t think the corset will help if you have stomach fat. Get rid of the fat and tone your stomach.

  • JS

    Just wanted to comment at your mention, that the insanity videos are not a “fad” nor are they unhealthy or unsafe. The expectation isn’t that you run yourself into the ground but build up your strength. If you need to modify a move do so, even the really fit people in the video take breaks and have a hard time. Plus its only a 1 hour workout, hardly something as depriving yourself of food. Especially since insanity encourages you eat a lot.

  • http://gravatar.com/geenababe geenababe

    Corsets scare me for some reason. I guess because how they were used back in the old days to change a women’s body shape.

  • heavenleiblu

    Although I’m not a supporter of waist/corset training, I have to say that while that makes sense for general health and fitness, it’s not going to help a boxy shaped person (fit or not) define their waist. When I first noticed and began researching this resurgence of this practice, all except one of the women I saw demonstrating this method were fit.

    The point of this is to modify your waistline in order to appear curvy (or to make you appear even moreso, if your waist is naturally defined). I would imagine this is a practice of transgendered women or drag performers as well, considering that (biological) men mostly don’t have the same contours as women.

    I personally think it’s wack, but as someone with a defined waist and ample hips no matter where I am on the fitness and weight spectrum, it’s easy for me to be dismissive of that desire. I’d rather someone do this rather than get surgical (legit or otherwise) augmentation to fulfill a body image fantasy that’s unattainable for their body type.

  • http://www.ajeannine.blogspot.com A. Jeannine

    I see women wearing corsets all over my IG timeline. I was thinking about buying one, but decided to go the old fashion route of eating better and working out!

  • http://confessionsofacurvygirl.wordpress.com confessionsofacurvygirl

    Some women just have a straight or Apple body shape and no amount of working out will change that.

  • LaKisha Bolton

    I’ve bought two to lose my post pardum pouch. Old school mothers have used them for years to pull the middle back together after a baby. I am clean eating and weight training and it will help to stabilize my back. I am naturally curvy, I just want to tighten up what already is there.

  • Rachel

    As a Tight-Lacer, I just wanted to put in my two cents. I am a naturally tiny person (5’4″ and 118lbs) and don’t need to lose weight by any means. HOWEVER, I have a naturally petite figure and not many curves. Regardless of what anyone else thinks of my body, *I* personally have always wanted an exaggerated hourglass figure. So, I suck it up and lace-up on a daily basis. Yes, it hurts, yes, it makes movements difficult, but no, I’m not thinking it’s a miracle diet, I’m not trying to lose weight, I’m simply reshaping my floating ribs to give myself curves. Personally, I see nothing wrong with it. I’m careful, I know my body, and if it gets to be too much, it comes off for a while. It’s body modification. Just like tattoos, piercings, and (yes, believe it or not, they’re considered body mods) breast implants. It’s just a slower process.

  • http://creepingdecade.wordpress.com CalamityJaneNo9

    I got a corset for the purposes of a burlesque costuming night out. I am already quite thin, and I certainly don’t need to lose anything! But I was going for an extreme look, and when you’re already small, even a fairly gentle corset looks pretty extreme. I liked it.

    While I was breaking it in, I also found it really helped with my lumbar pain. So sometimes I wear it lightly laced while I’m at my desk, simply for comfort. Yes, comfort.

    Obviously if you have such problems, a corset is not a replacement for exercise and medical treatment if necessary. In fact, you want to exercise slightly more in order to ensure your muscles don’t get weak from not having to work as much. But even just wearing it a couple hours a day, I find it helps remind my back to maintain proper posture even when I don’t wear it. Medical back braces are not that different from corsets, actually.

    If corsets hurt, you’re doing something wrong. If you are causing yourself serious injury, you’re doing something wrong.

    Extreme tightlacers may very well have side effects to accommodate, but if you get to that stage, you already know the risks and have decided to take them because you enjoy body modification. All body modifications carries risks. This is no different. Live and let live.

  • Cali

    Why do people care so much about what other people want to do to their body ? If they’re unhappy with it and want to modify it let them instead of writing blogs criticizing them . People need to learn how to mind their own business.

  • Tequila

    so what advice would you give to someone who is athletic with toned abs but has a boyish figure?? I find Many athletic women have boyish figures. Boyish figure = no waist. You realize that it’s not about abs being toned or muscular. it’s about the difference in size between your hips and your waist. No amount of exercise would make your waist to hip ratio any different. That is something that comes from genetics.

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