Woman wearing a waist trainer belt

Waist Trainers: Are There Better Ways to Shape Your Body?

An hourglass is a device to measure time, but for some people, having an hourglass-shaped torso is a measure of beauty. While this obsession with the "ideal" body shape is nothing new, it's gained particular steam in recent years as curvier celebrities have overtaken the red carpet.

If you don't exactly have a whittled middle yourself, perhaps you've considered buying a waist trainer, a body shaping device that influencers like Kim Kardashian have made popular. But before you suck in and lace up, you may want to consider the pros and cons of this 21st century corset—you might decide that it makes more sense to hit the gym (and watch your diet) instead.

What does a waist trainer do?

Woman wearing a corset and sport leggings

A waist trainer is nothing more than a modern-day girdle that has a new name (and some clever marketing). These undergarments have been around since kings and queens ruled—and they are making a royal comeback in today's get-slim-quick culture.

Waist trainers consist of Velcro, lacing, hooks and string to squeeze your body and constrict the area around your waist to keep it snug and in place. Purportedly, after wearing this constricting device for many weeks or months, your waist will narrow in size…but is that true, and does that slimmer shape last forever?

Does a waist trainer really work?

Unfortunately, waist trainers have no impact on your actual body fat and are not proven to reduce or eliminate your overall body mass index (BMI). As soon as you stop wearing them regularly, your waist should return to its usual shape, especially if you gain weight or stop exercising. Waist training only gives you the illusion that your waist is smaller and that your tummy is tighter, but once you remove it… well, gravity happens.

Will I lose weight from wearing a waist trainer?

Woman adjusting weight scale

If you weigh yourself every day while waist training and notice a drop on the scale, we hate to break it to you: it's unlikely that you've lost actual fat. Instead, it's probably water weight, since the device may make you sweat more than you typically do.

There is one caveat, however: some people do lose "real" pounds because they eat less while wearing waist trainers. After all, it can be especially uncomfortable to binge on chips or cookies when you're wearing a restrictive device. Since the garment is squeezing your midsection so intensely, putting pressure on your stomach, your body may get a false sense that it is "full." But, just as your waist will return to its normal size once you stop wearing a waist trainer, so, too, will your appetite.

So, if you're looking to get rid of real fat around your tummy area, a waist trainer may be a "waste" of time! For long term health benefits that include a slimmer waist—plus a decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes and other weight-related diseases, you're better off working with your doctor on a long-term weight loss strategy.

Do they work for postpartum support?

Woman holding a newborn baby

Waist trainers, or abdominal binders, may be beneficial to new mothers seeking extra support for their post-partum abdomens. Postpartum, the abdominal muscles have been thinned and stretched to their limit—and wearing a waist trainer may provide extra support. A waist trainer may help ease pain, bleeding and distress after a C-section.

Waist trainers also can help improve your posture—which certainly is a benefit to someone who spends all day crouching down to lift an infant out of a crib. Wearing a waist trainer for an hour a day can help anyone—not just new moms—who wants to improve their posture. It is important to note that "waist trainers" for post-partum use should provide support without being too tight. The point is compression, not pain.

What exercises help slim down your waist?

If you are looking to slim down your waist and burn belly fat with long-term, sustainable results, some uncomfortable fabric isn't going to do the trick. You're going to have to put in some sweat equity. Make a plan to hit the exercise mat at least 3-4 times a week to focus on strengthening your core, which will help shape and tighten your abdominal area.

Try these exercises to take your tummy from flab to fit:

Alternating V-Ups:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs straight out in front of you and your arms over your head.
  2. Lift one leg up towards the sky and press your lower back into the ground.
  3. Crunch your upper body and reach your opposite arm towards the toes of the leg that is raised. Try to touch the toe.
  4. Lower your leg and arm and repeat with your other leg and opposite arm.
  5. Try increasing the reach each time, making sure you are doing it slowly and controlled. You should be able to feel your abdominal muscles at work.

In & Out:

  1. The "in" portion of this workout begins by sitting upright on the floor with your legs bent in front of you. Make sure to keep your back straight and then lift your hands off the floor.
  2. Pick your feet up as you draw your knees into your chest; make sure you are contracting your abs while in this position.
  3. Slowly release and lean back, while keeping your spine straight and your legs straight out in front of you. You should be extended on the ground with your legs out in front of you off the ground.
  4. Repeat each movement and continue to bring your body in & out while contracting and relaxing your abdominal muscles.

Seated Russian Twists

  1. Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels out in front.
  2. Lean black slightly and place your arms in front of you with your hands on top of each other.
  3. Slowly twist to the right until your abdominal muscles engaged. This movement should come from your ribs and not your arms swinging. Return to the center and rotate to the opposite side.
  4. Repeat.

Side Dip:

  1. Lie on your side with your legs stretched all the way out and your elbow on the floor directly under your shoulder.
  2. Put your feet on top of one another and lift your body up so you are only being supported by your arm and foot.
  3. Slowly dip your hips down to the floor. Feel your side abdominal muscles engage as you go down and lift back up to the starting position.

What else can I do to slim my waist?

Woman holding a Mediterranean based healthy plate of food

Besides strengthening your abdominal muscles through core exercises, you can also jumpstart your metabolism with nutrients. No need to rely on a waist trainer!

As you age, the function of an enzyme in your body, AMPK, starts to decline and can be the culprit of your unwanted belly fat. Incorporating a nutrient that boosts your AMPK levels can help promote cellular metabolism and burn belly fat. Incorporating this nutrient along with a dedicated diet and exercise regimen is a great way to cut belly fat without the use of a waist trainer.

Abdominal exercises and AMPK activators are stepping stones to a tighter tummy—but, what you eat on a daily basis is even more important. We recommend adhering to a Mediterranean based diet with fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Your diet should include enough nutrient rich calories to support your height, weight, age and gender.

Not sure where to start? A doctor can give you a daily calorie goal, as well as your macronutrient numbers (the amount of protein, carbs and fats you should be eating throughout the day).

Eating properly and getting exercise might not offer the quick fix that a waist trainer advertises—but you can bet the benefits of a healthy weight loss journey will last for much longer than this device's popularity!

About the Author: Andrew Davis is a graduate of Pace University NYC with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He has more than a decade's worth of experience in content and social media in the health and wellness space. An avid traveler, Andrew also has volunteered as an English teacher and humanitarian in countries throughout Asia.