The waist trainer, a modern-day corset, promises to "melt inches of your waist" in a month using "maximum compression." Celebrities like the Kardashians have admitted to using waist trainers to achieve their hourglass figures.
But aside from bringing back the patriarchal corset of the 1800s, which first wave feminists protested as "symbolic imprisonment of women," experts say waist trainers can cause health risks, and that there's no evidence suggesting they alone could cause weight loss.
"Snatching my waist and looking cute all at the same time!!!," Khloe Kardashian captioned an Instagram selfie last year of her in a comic book-patterned waist trainer. "I definitely feel like a superhero in this waist shaper!" Perhaps by "like a superhero," Kardashian means acid reflux, back acne and inability to breathe (just some of the health implications experts say waist trainers can cause), though that sounds more like an archenemy than superhero.
Air flow can be restricted up to 29% while wearing a corset, according to a 1998 Iowa University study on the medical perspectives of corseting. Advocates of the waist trainer say it helps you sweat more — and thus burn more calories. But a 2015 study showed that subjects' perspiration decreased by up to 90% when wearing a corset that is at least 10% smaller than your waist circumference. Furthermore, blood circulation at the fingertips decreased by up to 36%.
Advocators also claim the waist trainer improves posture, but proper posture is the result of a strong core — and by giving your muscles something to rest on, waist trainers actually weaken your core. "Exercise regularly to maintain abdominal and spinal musculature and prevent serious muscle atrophy with resultant dependence on corset," the Iowa University study stated.
The corset can also trigger fun intestinal side effects like indigestion and acid reflux. "Your stomach might get pushed up beyond the diaphragm, which could cause reflux," Caroline Aprovian, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and a spokesperson for The Obesity Society, told News & Views. "If you're wearing one and you experience those symptoms, that's a definite sign that you need to loosen it or take it off."
While the Kardashians and a few other celebs seem to wear waist trainers effortlessly without reporting any of said side effects or health implications, there's no way it actually works to burn fat around your stomach, Christopher Ochner, weight loss and nutrition expert at Mount Sinai Hospital, told Marie Claire. "Spot reducing doesn't exist," Ochner said. "You can't reduce the collection of fat in any one particular area of your body. If you push your stomach in, all the fat will go right back to where it was no matter how long [you wear the corset] for."