Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Amber Rose, and Jessica Alba have given the waist trainer, a corset made of latex, a moment in the sun. But can constricting your core while exercising really give you an hourglass figure with a teeny, flat belly?
Let me start by saying that I was completely prepared to hate the waist trainer. I'm a group exercise instructor and personal trainer and one of my mantras is, "There are no magic products." Meaning, there's nothing out there you can't live without when it comes to fitness. Sure it's great to have BCAAs and lifting gloves and fancy shoes and bluetooth headphones and Quest Bars. But if you're a real warrior, you can get results without any of that stuff. And a waist trainer didn't seem any different.
I had two preconceived notions about waist training:
- I though that WT companies were promising that wearing a corset would help you to get a six pack just by wearing one, even if you were overweight or in poor shape.
- I thought that they were made of latex to increase sweating and that was supposed to help you lose weight.
However, I had a hard time finding any language on the waist trainer websites that actually came right out and said wearing a corset would get you abs of steel. Instead I found a lot of vague text about the WT instantly reducing your waist size as soon as you put it on. Which, of course, it does. When you smoosh the flesh around your middle up or down you can certainly reduce the measurement of your waist. Obviously it will bounce right back as soon as you remove the garment, but whatever. It's still true, I guess.
Now, a lot of the websites did say that wearing a latex corset would increase perspiration. Squeeze Me Skinny, a website that sells WTs, says, "Once on your midsection, it [the waist trainer] creates compression in your core, stimulating thermal activity and ramping up perspiration. This process allows toxins and impurities to exit the skin, while mobilizing fat cells."
Now, I'm sure that you know that sweating is not what causes fat loss. Proper diet and exercise are the only way you can lose weight or fat. Sweat is a definite byproduct of exercise and, along with breathing, is a way that fat leaves the body, but it's not the cause of fat loss. (Here is how fat really leaves the body.)
Anywho, like I said, I was a doubter. When my Amia Active Band (waist trainer) came in the mail from Hourglass Angel, I sank even further into dislike. The latex in the corset gave off a strong, chemical smell I would liken to opening 47 jars of rubber cement inside of a phone booth. But the garment looked like it was made with high quality materials and didn't seem too scary.
When I ordered the WT, I was unsure which size I should choose. The Hourglass Angel website sizing chart said that if your waist was measuring under 28 inches you should get a small, but over 28 you should get a medium. I was right at 28 inches, so I left the decision up to Hourglass Angel. They sent me a medium. I guess I'm no Scarlett O'Hara after all.
Putting on a corset is no easy task, especially the first time. There's a line of little hook-and-eyes that run from top to bottom along the front of the WT. The first hook's easy, but as the garment gets tighter, fastening it becomes a bit like surviving the "Hunger Games." You're really sweaty and you're scared you might die. Once I finally got the thing all hooked up on the smallest fitting, I excitedly measured my midsection, pumped to see how many inches I was losing. And it said...28 inches. WTF? Ok, so it wasn't really that tight. I mean, it was snug, but not really anything unbearable. So maybe I should have gotten a small?
Baby's First Workout
Whatever. I felt like it was tight enough that I could carry out a good review. So, onward I plunged into the world of waist training! I wore it to the gym that day even though I was self conscious about the smell. "Hey," I whispered to the girl standing next to me in my HIIT class, "I haven't been huffing gas, I'm just wearing a latex waist trainer." She gave me a blank look that bordered on panic. "You know," I hissed, "Like Kim Kardashian!" When I started to lift my shirt to show her, she picked up her towel and weights and moved to another spot, leaving me alone in my Pig Pen cloud of chemicals.
But I quickly found that the smell was the least of my worries. Because the WT is tight around your ribs, it really restricted my breathing. HIIT is super hard any time, but not being able to breathe properly had a truly negative effect on my athletic performance. As for the perspiration, I definitely sweated. I sweated like someone was roasting me over a freaking spit. Although the corset is made of latex, it's covered in a layer of cotton, so it's comfortable against your skin. And as promised, it duly soaked up the gallons of sweat. And it looked totally fine, even under my thin gym clothes. I would say as long as you don't mind smelling like that vat of green stuff the Joker fell into in Batman, you could wear it under anything for a smoothing and slimming look. It also looks cute with nothing over it. You know, because it's a corset. So if you're that kind of girl, you could just head out in just it and a sports bra. I promise it'll get you some attention.
Feeling the Support
During my HIIT class we did a fair amount of weight work. And that was when I started to fall in love with the smelly beast clamped around my midsection. The WT gave me fantastic support, forcing my body into good form every time I wanted to give up and let my belly sag or back arch. After I got home and shed the stinky skin, I felt strong and firm in my core. I had been squeezing those muscles properly (pulling my belly-button in towards my spine) for a full hour.
As a result of two pregnancies I have diastasis recti, a separation of my belly muscles along the midline of my abs. DR is pesky and tough to heal. It involves bringing the edges of those core muscles together so that you can try and close the gap. I found that the WT was absolutely wonderful for my DR. I've worn abdominal braces with velcro straps before to try and bring my muscle together and promote healing. Although the brace was effective, I always found it bothersome because it would roll up or down, bunch up, and loosen. The Amia WT has flexible boning that keeps the garment from rolling up or down. It stays completely in place, no matter what you do. And the line of little hook-and-eyes won't ever loosen or slip. Also, because there are so many fastenings, the pressure along your core is perfectly even from top to bottom.
My core felt so strong that I started wearing the WT all the time. I'm wearing it right now as I write this! It forces me into excellent posture while sitting or standing and reminds me to hold my belly in all day long. I absolutely love the support it gives me while lifting weights and my children. I stopped wearing it during cardio and never missed it there. It just restricted my breathing too much.
Finally, one additional negative to the WT is that you have to hand wash it and let it air dry. Since it soaks up so much sweat, this can be annoying because you need to clean it often. However, the latex smell becomes less noticeable each time you wash it. And trust me, that's nothing but good news.
Bottom Lines and Waist Lines
SO. I think one of the ideas behind waist training is that you continually try to wear smaller and smaller corsets until your waist collapses in, Victorian style. Would I ever do that? Of course not. I'm not even really sure that's healthy. I mean, all your guts are in there and whatnot. And do I think that the extra sweating makes you lose fat and release toxins in your belly? Nope.
BUT. I do think the WT gives you good posture and provides excellent abdominal and back support. I think it can remind you to keep your core engaged all day long. And I think it can help you get on the path towards healing a diastasis recti if you're a new, or even a not-so-new mom.
I was so sure that the waister trainer was going to be crock of sh** I promised a curious friend she could have it when I was done with my review. But you know what? She can go get her own. Turns out I'm keeping mine.
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Images: Sarah Olive Bergeson