Waist training: What’s the deal and does it *actually* work?

The Kardashian’s seemingly can’t get enough of waist trainers – but do they work?

waist training
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In short, no

If you haven’t heard of waist training – a ‘slimming’ craze favoured by the A-list (disclaimer: this is a phrase that immediately rings alarm bells in our head) – then you’re clearly not fans of the Kardashian clan.

The showbiz family including Khloe, Kourtney, Kim and Kylie, love posing up a storm on Instagram in their elasticated waist cinchers, a practice officially known as 'waist training'.

But the Kardashian’s aren’t the only fans. While there are plenty of ways to healthily lose weight fast, in a magazine interview, Jessica Alba revealed that she wore a double corset 'day and night for three months’ following the birth of her daughters, candidly revealing: ‘it was brutal; it’s not for everyone but it was worth it’, in order to get her shape back.

But do waist trainers work? How long do you have to wear one for, and are waist trainers dangerous? We investigate...

How does waist training work?

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Essentially, a waist trainer is a wide elasticated belt. The theory is (and we say the word ‘theory’ very, very loosely) that used continuously, the belt 'trains' your tummy to hold a smaller, firmer shape. There’s really no science behind it, but some wearers swear by them. And naturally, if the Kardashians swear by them, then a lot of people want in.

Makers say that you should wear the waist trainer for around four hours every single day. If this sounds too uncomfortable by half, try consuming a few of these genius flat stomach foods instead, a pretty good starting point that doesn't require sucking in fat and can make a difference to your silhouette, without any discomfort.

Waist trainers are not to be confused with a boned corset

Dita von Teese told the Huffington Post, ‘It’s funny because I’m watching the (waist training) trend and it’s like the blind leading the blind. People that actually know a lot about corsetry are not the ones publically speaking about it.

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'And I’m seeing some of these corsets that they’re saying are waist shapers and I’m like, "That doesn’t work." They’re like stretchy fabric. If you really want to get into it, you should probably look into real corset makers that have been doing it for decades and decades.

'Waist trainers are just a fast fix. If you put on a corset and you pull the strings tight, you instantly have this silhouette and it’s great – but it’s not going to modify your body if you’re not engaged in the serious regimen of it.’

What the waist trainer-makers say...

The guys who make the waist trainers for the Kardashian’s, the Waist Gang Society, say on their website; the ‘waistshaper is a unique latex material which attacks unwanted fat and impurities within your body. Our reshaping line will strengthen your core all the while improving your posture.

'The thermogenisis created within your body will allow your body to rid itself of harsh toxins and impurities, through perspiration. While wearing the garment or waist trainer, the tight compression will help to reduce food intake which will help achieve the healthier practice of smaller meals, more often, rather than three large meals a day.’

Are waist trainers dangerous?

Anyone who has ever worn a lace-up corset will tell you that at times it can be difficult to breathe (shocker!). The corsetry compresses your bladder, your lungs, your kidneys, you name it – so you certainly won’t be doing yourself any favours wearing one for long periods of time.

Elasticated waist cinchers aren’t so brutal; they’re tight, of course, but they won’t compress your insides in the same way as a corset. That said, if you’re wearing one that’s too small or too tight, you can feel light-headed to say the least.

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Do waist trainers work?

The truth is, they don’t work – well, not at least in the way you’re hoping. They instantly slim your waist while you’re wearing them, so as shape-wear at least they have some merit.

But if you’re thinking this is your short cut to a Dita von Teese waist, then don’t get your hopes up. There is absolutely nothing to prove that they can make you permanently slimmer. After all, where would the fat go?

If there is any reduction at all in the size of your waist it’s likely down to sweating like a pig – or the thermogenisis the Waist Gang Society talk about – but it won’t be down to the compression.

This is what happened when senior beauty editor Anita Bhagwandas tried a waist trainer out for size...

Waist training before and after

'Aesthetically, and superficially, it works. And I mean it really works (probably because it’s made of industrial-strength latex- breathing optional). I’ve spent a fortune on those fabric waist shrinkers in department stores, and all they do is displace your flab elsewhere, like a circle that’s been squeezed in the middle. This one seems to make a good four inches around my waist disappear – but sadly, they do come back once you fling it off.

'While the brand itself doesn’t say that continual usage will change your waist permanently, the reviews I’ve read online do. But wearing it sat at a desk was uncomfortable, so I wore it to sleep (as directed by Amazon customer reviews, henceforth to be treated with extreme caution).

'It seemed like a great idea in theory – shrinking as I slept – but in order to be comfortable in any way, you have to lie flat down on your back and not move. By 4am I had groggily struggled out of it’s million hook-and-eye fastenings, and was face-planted into my pillows. I’m desperate for a waist, but my sleep is too high a cost to pay.

'My advice? Give it a go for nights out, rather than for its permanent effects.'

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