Trend alert! Jessica Alba reportedly wore a certain piece of clothing around the clock for months to lose the weight she put on during her pregnancy. Practically the whole Kardashian clan is taking workout selfies in this same article of fashion.
The clothing item in question? A tightly laced corset, or waist trainer. According to the proponents of waist training, wearing one of these could be the key to attaining that iconic, Marilyn Monroe-esque hourglass figure.
The principle behind this phenomenon is simple: Wear a tightly laced corset for a few hours (or more) each day to cinch in your waist and create an hourglass figure. In theory, waist training is an effortless way to slim down—one that requires no gym time.
Waist training really isn't anything new, though. In the Victorian era, it just went by a different name: corseting. Tiny waists were all the rage in the 19th and 20th centuries—so much so that well-off women would compete to be the lady with the narrowest figure.
But wearing a corset round the clock can be painful and uncomfortable, as well as come with some horrific side effects. Prolonged use of a reinforced corset can squash the ribs and even shift organs around in the torso. Horrifying X-rays of Victorian women wearing corsets back up what doctors supposed all along.
As waist training has become more popular, science has begun paying more attention to this trend. Most research on waist training, however, has been inconclusive. One 2010 study did attempt to see whether wearing corsets for 12 or more hours each day could help participants who just lost a significant amount of weight keep it off. The corsets were so uncomfortable, however, that not enough people wore them for the researchers to draw any conclusions about their possible use.
Registered dietician and wellness coach Corinne Dobbas also wasn't so hot on waist training. "It may work temporarily, while you're wearing it, but your anatomical and your physical body shape isn't going to change just because you wear something like that," she says.
But it's not just the potentially negative side effects of waist training that have experts concerned. "Our culture is constantly looking for something to be the next best thing, and the real answer [of how to lose weight] goes back to diet, lifestyle, and exercise," Dobbas explains.
For women interested in attaining the slim figure that waist trainers promise, Dobbas recommends focusing on eating healthy and getting plenty of physical activity. And not just cardio—she says though women often steer clear of weight training, that exercise will help build muscle mass and change your body more visibly than running alone.
At the end of the day, there is no quick way to get movie star curves or a perfectly slim figure (plastic surgery excluded). A waist trainer isn't much more than a glorified pair of Spanx, and while it may make you look thinner, it won't actually make you thinner. Wear a corset if you like—just remember that a healthy lifestyle is the only thing that can change your body.
Photo credit: Kim Kardashian via Instagram