A Waist of Time

Not only are we expected to have perfect skin, long, full eyelashes, a gap between our thighs, and small waists; now we’re told that our waists should be even smaller so our bodies takes on a curvy hourglass shape. And how do we achieve this look? With the help of a waist trainer.

The waist trainer, one of the most popular body shaping tools on the market today, is nothing new. Remember corsets? They were popular in the 1800’s when having a teeny, tiny waist but wide, child-bearing hips and big bosoms were in. Because this isn’t natural, women wore corsets to achieve this look. Often they were so tight that women could hardly breathe. Sitting down or bending at the waist were completely out of the question. Many women even ended up with broken ribs trying to squeeze their waists to a mindboggling 12 inches. Sound familiar?

But we’ve renamed the corset. It’s now a waist trainer. That sounds legit, right? The name implies it’s some sort of exercise routine. So we think to ourselves, “This must be good for me!” Not true. According to Mary Jane Minkin, Clinical Gynecologist and Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, “Pelvic and abdominal organs are slippery. They can shift during waist trainer use, which can interrupt digestive processes. When intestines are restricted by [these devices], regurgitation can occur because food cannot travel properly through the digestive tract.” Um…I think I’ll pass.

Advertisements for waist trainers and images of women, often celebrities, who appear to have achieved the coveted hourglass shape through use of these organ-crushing devices are everywhere, especially on social media. According to recent studies, use of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram is highest among young women between the ages of 18 and 29. They’re the ones seeing these advertisements. Many of these young women also happen to be Kim Kardashian’s fans, one celebrity who has heavily endorsed this product. Coincidence? No! Advertisers know that having Kim Kardashian endorse their product will boost sales. Whether or not she actually uses the product is of no concern to them; what matters is that we think she does. And if Kim Kardashian uses a waist trainer to achieve her sought-after look, if we can actually see the results with our own two eyes, we think that it must be legitimate. Think again.

Waist trainer before and after photos are highly digitized to sell consumers on their miraculous results, but the squished appearance of the abdominal region is only temporary. Think about when you squeeze a sponge. What does it do? It pops right back to its original size. Waist trainers are a scam. And not only that – and they are dangerous and also further propagate the idea that we have the power to completely alter our bodies. And not only that we can, but that we should. Waist trainers are yet another product that emphasizes appearance over health, promotes unrealistic standards for women, and fuels widespread body dissatisfaction in our culture. How do we escape these sorts of messages when they are everywhere we look? Well, while we can’t escape them, we can do our best to educate ourselves about the truth behind types of products, keep our eyes peeled for the hidden agendas of scheming advertisers, and surround ourselves with body positive messaging that reminds us that we are just fine the way we are.

Co-written by Jamie Nottberg & Jessica L. Betts, MS, RD, LD