Waist Trainers (and other fairytales)

Waist Trainers (and other fairytales)

Remember I told you in a previous post that I have been lurking FB weight loss groups? I’m looking for the most common claims and the most dangerous common beliefs of the fat loss industry. This is not a small task – there are SO many. But, the one I’m going to talk about today is Waist Trainers.


Like, where do I even begin with this one?


So, in this particular thread in a weight loss group, a woman asked: “Have you tried a waist trainer and did it work for you?” The responses made my head spin.


First, in case you’re unaware, a waist trainer is essentially a corset. You know, those things used in the 1500s. A lot has changed since the 1500s, can we all agree on that? For fun, I did some digging to see what our general herd intelligence was at the time and I found some … interesting things.


Thomas Moore was beheaded by the king who knighted him for refusing to accept his decision to make him supreme ruler of the world over everyone, including the pope. (does this sound like anyone we know right now Donald Trump?)


The same King would behead his 2nd wife – this is fine. Nothing weird about that at all.


On a lighter and more entertaining note, I found these. You’ll be the life of the party if you bring these up at the next social event you attend. I feel brilliant now that I know them…:


People got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. 


Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.


This is the best one:

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would some times knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up — hence the custom of holding a “wake.”


So, can we just all agree that the 1500s wasn’t a good time for collective intelligence? Yet, here we are, in 2020, claiming that waist training – a practice straight from the 1500s – IS A SCIENCE-BASED SOLUTION TO MELTING ABDOMINAL FAT.


In this group, there were women posting photos of their changes pre and post waist training. Some had clear differences and some had no differences with the exception of their pants being higher waisted or their torso being twisted for the photo. As a former competitive bodybuilder, I’m very aware of the poses involved in building the illusion of a smaller waist. So, these were not fooling me. Clearly, many other women in this group, though.


So, let’s talk about the possible reasons for the photos with differences.


First: Waist trainers are extremely tight garments worn for extended periods of time. This means that over time it is possible and even probable that you will “retrain” your waist – except it’s not the reason you think. These women are certain it’s the evaporation of their fat cells in that area or at the very least – the movement of those fat cells. What actually occurs with extended wear is the physical relocation of ribs and organs. When you squeeze your midsection, it forces internal organs like the liver and kidneys into unnatural positions. Overcrowding your organs can affect blood flow and change how organs function. In time, this can lead to permanent organ damage, reduced muscle strength, and even rib fractures.


You don’t need me to tell you that this is bad and probably not worth the small, negligible changes.


Another risk is people who wear these excessively actually cannot breath using the lower part of their lungs, which causes accumulation of phlegm in the lower part of the lungs. Wearing a waist trainer can reduce your lung capacity by 30 to 60% – and I’m sure you can imagine that would make it very difficult to exercise – and many of these women suggested doing just that. Reduced lung capacity will affect your energy which means you probably can’t exercise as hard and you certainly aren’t getting the oxygen your organs require to recover from that workout much less sustain it. And if your chosen form of exercising is resistance training – or weight training – please do NOT wear this garment. 


As a competitive powerlifter, we are fans of using a belt during our very heavy 1RM training. First of all – our belts are made of 13mm leather that does not cover the entire waist because we need to access full lung capacity. We keep them loose until the actual lift and we clip it right before the lift and release immediately after. Most of us choose a lever device for this reason. No one wants to mess with 3 prong buckles when we’re physically spent from a heavy lift. 


1RM training is done every 12-16 weeks at the end of a training block. This is THREE single lifts with a belt as an extra insurance policy. The reason we do this is it does provide stabilization for the core and as a result – the back. However, every powerlifter knows that you DO NOT wear this for daily training because your need to train your core to be activated on its own and with no assistance or you will find yourself injured in no time. So, please don’t do this.


The second reason we might see differences in before and after waist trainer photos is: water loss. Waist trainers are typically made of latex, a non-vulcanized rubber, which is a strong yet flexible material that, when worn on the midsection, causes you to sweat. So, there is no disputing this fact. When we sweat, we lose water. In this case, the sweating is occurring in a concentrated area around the abdomen and since there is no concentrated water loss in the rest of the body – like your breasts or hips – your waist will appear smaller and firmer. So, yes, it makes a difference – until you eat your next meal.


In fact, this a fun fact from the bodybuilding world. I had several coaches who suggested we sauna heavily and do excessive cardio wearing Preparation-H under a homemade wrap of saran wrap. Now, I have known a LOT of really shit coaches and bodybuilding, in general, is a very extreme activity – so, please don’t think that just because a bodybuilder does something that it’s ideal or scientifically valid. Some of the risks of this industry are outright dangerous and should NOT be practised by anyone.


So, why is it that we think waist trainers actually work? Well, this doesn’t help…


When I was researching waist trainers I found a number of companies with very poorly designed websites, btw, that sell them. I saw this on one of their FAQ sections: “When worn daily, a waist trainer will gradually reshape your waist into an hourglass figure by compressing and repositioning body fat”this is absolutely not true. I have no idea why a company would be allowed to make such an outrageous and scientifically invalid claim but here we are. I assume because the only people reading these websites are those who believe they work and want to believe this so wouldn’t report it.


Let’s discuss this for a moment.


YES, you can move fat cells but it’s a process called Fat Transfer and it is extremely invasive. It’s basically liposuction from one area of the body and injection of that fat into another area. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen liposuction performed but it is outright violent. The body on the table shakes and shifts as the vacuum moves in and out of their midsection. I can’t even imagine the recovery. Also, fat transfer has risks and rejection is one of them. This could lead to uneven surfaces on your skin which is the opposite of what most want.


If it was possible to just slide fat cells over, don’t you think plastic surgeons would sell that option in a spa-like experience?! Um, yeah. They would. And every single woman I know would buy that experience.


Another company said this: “There is a no “corset diet”, but weight loss tends to happen when waist training regularly, mainly because the corset also acts as an external LAP band, not allowing you to eat large quantities while wearing the corset.” — SAY WHAT?! 


I mean at least they’re honest and saying no, this alone will not reduce fat on your body. But, then I watched a youtube video on their website and there was a woman sitting in a director chair telling the viewer – and I”m quoting – “this is an area of the body you can modify. It just takes patience. It is not necessary to lose weight to train your waist” — she said this while gesturing to her waist trainer she was wearing outside of her blouse, for some unknown reason. Friends, I WAS YELLING AT MY LAPTOP. 


Okay, so now we know that the real deal with waist trainers is that they remove water from your abdominal area and anyone who thinks otherwise is either trying to sell you a waist trainer, convince themselves this is the magic pill for them, or they just hate science.


Okay, fine, Sophie – so, there’s no science to back up the waist trainer. How the hell do I lose this fat on my stomach, then?

First, let me explain how fat loss actually works. Fat cells are produced by your body when your energy intake is higher than your energy output and your body needs to put that energy somewhere. This is done by producing thousands of fat cells which are stored all through our bodies. Where they are stored is based on genetics. This is biochemistry – not opinion.


In order to reduce body fat, we must force the body to utilize those stored fat cells by putting it in a state that it requires more energy than it is getting via food so it is forced to access stored fat as fuel. The fat cell never disappears – it only shrinks. This again is biochemistry – not opinion.


Every body has different caloric needs based on a number of factors. If you have a history of engaging in a binge/restrict cycle, you’re going to have more hormonal factors to consider when determining your base metabolic rate and that can’t be guessed, and trust me, the default settings in myfitnesspal are NOT your targets. If you have conditions like thyroid dysfunction, you will also have challenges. But trust me when I tell you that you absolutely CAN lose body fat. I see it every single day in my clients, who, for the record, also once believed they would never lose weight.


There is no magic diet type that will make you lose weight faster or reduce fat in a particular area faster either – though there is no shortage of claims in this area. So, feel free to chose the diet you feel you can sustain for life.


But, remember – NO diet can work if it isn’t producing a caloric deficit. Remember, no deficit – no fat loss.


I also want you to consider that celebrities endorsing these products are paid to do so. These celebrities have personal trainers, cooks, dieticians, and every available resource to help them lose weight. The waist trainer they’re wearing on IG is not the ticket. It’s just part of their revenue stream.


I know it’s challenging to know what’s real and what isn’t. I was a consumer of this industry for a very long time and one of the reasons I built this business is I too fell into these traps. We aren’t educated in nutrition – and we should be. Companies are allowed to make outright bogus claims about their products, and society wants us to believe we are broken and flawed. WE ARE NOT.


Losing weight shouldn’t be about wanting to achieve an aesthetic. It should be about producing a healthier body and respecting the incredible biological marvel that embodies us. US – as humans – as loving, considerate, smart, talented, funny, brave, and evolving humans. Your relationship with food dictates your body composition. So, quick fixes like waist trainers and fat burners (which also do not work, btw) don’t change your relationship with food. So, your temporary results, if any, will eventually become undone as you continue your lifelong habits.


No matter what size your body is now, please take a moment to consider the incredible biology involved in its function and what it allows you to do. Who it allows you to be. You are amazing no matter what that body looks like and no matter what perceived flaws you might focus on. You are amazing.


Accept where you are now. Recognize your incredible power to change IF you wish to. You are under no obligation to have a 25” waist or weight under 150lbs. You are amazing as you are and fuck any part of this soul-sucking industry that tries to convince you otherwise.