By now, you’ve probably seen Khloé Kardashian, Blac Chyna, Jessica Alba, and a dozen other celebrities endorsing waist trainers on Instagram and in magazines. They claim the trainers add curves and flatten postbaby tummies, helping them feel good about their bodies. But the science behind waist training isn’t so hot — experts say the devices can cause acid reflux, pulmonary edema, and more.
Listen, we’re all about your doing whatever makes you feel your best. But when that comes at a cost of bruised bones, dizziness, and pneumonia? We have to take pause. So we took a look at what happens when you wear a waist trainer, body part by body part.
The trainer will compress your waist while you’re wearing it, pulling your skin, fat, muscles, and organs tighter, which makes you look slimmer. What won’t happen: any permanent loss of inches around your waist. “Wearing a corset won’t make you lose fat around your waist,” Holly Phillips, MD, a New York City internist, told Yahoo Health. Your waist will be trimmer while you’re wearing it, and immediately after removing it, but it won’t make any lasting difference.
While most trainers don’t come up high enough to compress your lungs, wearing one does make it harder to allow air into your diaphragm, leaving your lungs starved for oxygen. “Wearing [a waist trainer] for a long amount of time makes it hard to breathe, so you’re taking more shallow breaths,” Phillips says. It can also “lead to fluid in the lungs,” putting you at risk for pulmonary edema or pneumonia.
Those shallow breaths can cause an oxygen shortage, leaving you feeling dizzy and lightheaded. This can happen at a micro level (your thoughts may seem scattered or hard to follow) or macro level (you can lose consciousness).
While it’s possible that excess fat can make your chest look bulkier than it is, some women just have larger rib cages than others. A waist trainer can’t change that, but using a too-small trainer or corset can cause your ribs to bruise, which some may mistake for weight loss or a slimmer rib cage. “What is a myth is that you can change your bone structure,” Phillips says. “For [adult] women, your bones are formed. You can bruise them and harm them, but you can’t change them.” A waist trainer won’t slim down a wide rib cage — it’ll just leave it bruised, or worse.
Not only can wearing a waist trainer thin out your air supply, it can also “decrease blood flow in your veins, cause problems with blood clots, and put more pressure on your heart,” Andrew Miller, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York City, told Yahoo Health.
A waist trainer may help you eat less, but it comes at a price. “Some people think of it as external gastric bypass surgery,” Phillips says, because your stomach is so compressed that you can’t take more than a few bites of food at a time. And sure, “anyone who doesn’t eat as much is going to lose weight,” Miller echoes. That said, you will have some unpleasantness when you do eat because of the pressure on your organs. “You’re compressing your stomach so much that when you take a bite of food, you end up with acid reflux,” says Phillips.