Waist Training 101: Does It Really Work?

Updated 09/08/17

Maybe you heard about it from Jessica Alba or saw an Instagram on Kim Kardashian's profile. Whatever your entrée to waist training, you've probably wondered how—and if—it actually works. Inquiring minds want to know, so we spoke to waist training expert and author of the best-selling book Waist Training 101: A Guide to Using Corsets to Slim Your Waistline ($13), Vanna B., for the skinny on the method. Keep scrolling to read all about it!

Does waist training actually work?

"Yes, it does! With regular wear of a steel-boned corset, the waist gradually molds to the shape of the corset. This includes the fat pads as well as the floating ribs (the two lowest pairs of ribs), which, since they aren’t connected to the breastbone, are flexible."

What does waist training entail? Do you wear it all day? Sleep in it? Work out in it?

"While there’s no set formula; you should try to wear your corset as frequently as possible for as long as you can since this is the main factor that will determine how quickly you’ll see results. Everyone’s lifestyle and tolerance to its stiffness is different, so this will vary from person to person. Some people might waist train five days a week, six to eight hours a day or less. Others are more extreme and wear their corset 23/7, sleeping in it and only removing it to shower. But you should not work out in a steel-boned corset as they are very rigid and your movement and lung expansion will be limited during wear."

What kind of results can waist training give someone?

"You can pretty much achieve as small a waist as you want; however, it will take consistency and time. Take, for example, Cathie Jung, who, with a corseted waist circumference of just 15 inches, holds the Guinness World Record for the smallest waist on a living person. She’s been diligently training her waist since 1985. Throughout the years, there have been many others who have achieved astonishing results, including Ethel Granger, who is said to have had the smallest waist ever recorded—13 inches.

In addition to a smaller waist, results can include improved posture and overall weight loss, which is achieved by the constrictive corset limiting your stomach capacity."

What does someone who's never waist trained before need to know?

"I speak primarily about steel-boned corsets because, frankly, those are the only garments that truly 'train' the waist. There are, however, other garments people purchase with the hopes of achieving a reduction in their waist circumference, mainly latex cinchers (also known as fajas), which cause the wearer to sweat in the midsection. I don’t usually recommend them, because they are of inferior quality, don’t last as long, do not allow the skin to breathe, and simply do not produce the same level of results.

So that’s something newcomers should be aware of to save themselves the initial waste of time and money. I talk more about what to look for in a good waist training corset in my book, Waist Training 101: A Guide to Using Corsets to Slim Your Waistline.

"Another important thing to note is that moderation and attentiveness to your body are the most sensible policies. Remember, your corset should be tightened incrementally over time. You should refrain from trying to force extreme results within an unreasonable time frame by lacing it too tightly too quickly. It is equally important to ensure your corset fits properly, and always listen to your body. Pain, numbness, and difficulty breathing are signs that your corset is tied too tightly and needs to be loosened or removed."

Are there risks or complications?

"In my research, I’ve found the accusations people have made about waist training being dangerous to be untrue. There is no proof whatsoever that it is harmful and no documentation of anyone having ever been hurt by it. Yes, it does move and compress your organs, but fortunately they are malleable and easily able to adapt to changes in the body form, as they do during exercise anytime we bend or twist. Another time when the organs are moved and compressed, even more so in fact, is during pregnancy.

 The only consequences of organ compression in a healthy individual are reduced stomach and lung capacity, neither being life-threatening conditions. Even Cathie Jung, who displays some of the most extreme results we will see, has remained a healthy, fully functioning individual throughout the years. But as with anything, it’s always a good idea to be sensible and attentive to your body. As I mentioned above, tightening of the laces should be done gradually to allow your body time to adjust, and if you feel any type of pain, numbness, or shortness of breath, then of course you should loosen or remove the corset immediately."

Should you consult with a doctor before trying waist training?

"While it probably isn’t necessary for a healthy adult to do so, it also can’t hurt, so if it makes you feel more comfortable to speak with your doctor first, then by all means you should. I would definitely recommend consulting with your doctor first if you have any medical issues whatsoever."

How do you know if waist training is for you?

"I found waist training to be a good fit for me because after two children, dieting and exercise alone had not been sufficient in helping me achieve the waist-to-hip ratio I desired. I required an extra boost that I’ve found in waist training. Individuals who find this to be the case for them as well may also appreciate the assistance of a corset." 

Would you ever try training your waist with a steel-boned corset? Tell us what you think about waist training below!

Related Stories