3 Major Dangers of Wearing a Waist Trainer

If you’re active on social media, then you’ve likely seen at least one ad showing a celebrity such as Kim Kardashian wearing a waist trainer to work out, do chores, or even during a night out with friends. 

They’re the latest trendy (and unproven) product in a long line of products being marketed to women who may be unhappy with their bodies

The thing is, these corsets can have some serious complications for your health when worn regularly. Here’s what you need to know about waist trainers and the health dangers associated with them. 

person touching waist

What is a waist trainer?

A waist trainer is a corset-like wearable device that squeezes your waist to “train” your body into a curvier figure. It’s often connected with lace, hooks, or velcro to secure the device around your stomach. 

A waist trainer is meant to be worn tightly around your waist consistently for several weeks to months to obtain a temporarily slimmer-looking midsection. 

What a waist trainer can and can’t do

Proponents of waist trainers claim these devices can “shrink” your waist, giving you more of an hourglass shape. Proponents also claim waist trainers can lead to permanent weight loss.  

The reality, though? These claims simply aren’t true. In fact, there aren’t any studies proving these supposed “benefits.” 

Per the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS), you can’t change your body shape by using a waist trainer. The ABCS also states that “there is no evidence that weight loss while waist training is due to the corset rather than calorie restriction and exercise.” 

Here’s what a waist trainer really does:

  • As noted by Healthline, a waist trainer “squeezes” your midsection (think of it like a very intense version of shapewear) so you appear to have a smaller waist. Any effects disappear immediately once you take it off.
  • A waist trainer also makes you sweat more because it’s so constricting, which could cause you to lose water weight. Again, this effect is purely temporary — and as Medical News Today reports, a waist trainer won’t reduce body fat. 
  • Finally, a waist trainer could suppress your appetite while you wear it. That’s because it’s literally squeezing your stomach, making it uncomfortable to eat. But as Amy E. Rothberg, MD, a professor of medicine and the director of the University of Michigan Weight Management Program, tells the New York Times, given how uncomfortable a waist trainer feels, you’re not likely to wear one long enough to make any real difference in how much you eat.

The dangers of waist trainers for women

Waist trainers can come with a slew of potential complications when worn frequently. Let’s look at how these corsets can cause potential health complications.

1. Acid reflux

Waist trainers are known to cause acid reflux in many users. These corsets compact the stomach, inhibiting natural digestion and causing heartburn. If acid reflux is left untreated, it can lead to gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), causing irreparable damage to the esophagus and stomach.

“Wearing a waist trainer for any length of time can certainly cause GERD (acid reflux) to occur,” Jesse P. Houghton, MD, senior medical director of gastroenterology at Southern Ohio Medical Center, tells Byrdie. “This is due to compression of the stomach and thus upward pressure on stomach contents, causing reflux into the esophagus.” 

2. Difficulty breathing

Waist trainers can constrict your lung capacity, causing breathing problems. “Wearing a waist trainer can make breathing difficult, says Laura Geigate, a dentist, clinical trainer, aesthetic doctor, and cosmetic dermatology specialist at LOXA Beauty. “Waist trainers reduce the amount of oxygen circulation in the body leading to breathing problems.” Geigate adds that most people who wear waist trainers often fall short of breath in the process. 

3. Damage to internal organs

A waist trainer can injure your internal organs if you use them for long periods. “They [waist trainers] compress abdominal organs such as kidneys, liver, intestines, and other organs that require space to function properly,” explains Geigate. Additional complications associated with waist trainers for women include skin irritation, bruising, and numbness.

The bottom line on waist trainers

Wearing a waist trainer isn’t worth the many potential risks to your health — especially given that there’s no evidence they actually do what they claim. 

“Contrary to what celebrities say, waist training will not reduce belly fat, make you lose weight, or give you similar results to liposuction,” writes the ABCS. “All a waist trainer can do is squeeze your torso for a temporary change in appearance.”

Our take? Skip the waist trainer and focus on practicing habits that can help you cultivate a sense of self-love and body acceptance. Go for a walk, eat nutritious meals, get enough sleep, treat yourself to a massage — all of these are activities you can do to take care of your body and feel good while doing them.  

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About Taneia Surles

Taneia is a public health professional and freelance writer specializing in health and wellness content. She currently works full-time in the healthcare administration field while freelancing part-time. She has a bachelor’s degree in Public Health & Minority Health and a master’s degree in Public health with a Health Behavior concentration. Taneia aspires to become a sexual health educator working with low-income and minority communities to improve their health literacy and form her health consulting business in the future. When she's not at work or freelancing, she enjoys playing with her pets, Gooby and Jynx, journaling, shopping, and watching true crime documentaries.