Corset training, a celebrity weight loss trend, largely busted

Story highlights

Celebrities rave that corset training has helped them lose weight and shape their waist

The long-term effects of "waist training" are dubious, although wearing a corset could restrict calorie intake

Wearing a corset, especially if it is too tight, could have harmful health effects such as heartburn and lung infections

CNN  — 

Corsets are more than just eye-catching garments for women embracing their seductive side or a fashion statement for “Game of Thrones” fans. They are being touted as a strategy to shed pounds and teach your torso to develop a more hourglass shape.

Kim Kardashian declared she was “obsessed” with “waist training.” Jessica Alba reported wearing a double corset 24-7 for several months to lose her baby weight. But is there any reason to think contorting your torso into Victorian (or Barbie doll) proportions could somehow speed weight loss and permanently alter your silhouette?

The short answer is no. “Corset training in and of itself does not remove fat cells,” said Dr. Andrew Miller, a plastic surgeon of Associates in Plastic Surgery in New York and New Jersey.

However, even though donning the medieval-style clothing is not going to change your body shape, Miller said it could indirectly help you slim down. Being cinched into a corset could prevent your stomach from expanding when you eat so you feel full faster and limit your portion size. After a couple of weeks on a corset diet, you could actually lose weight.

Yet the same effect could be achieved through other means, such as exercising self-restraint at mealtime, Miller said.

Dr. Caroline Apovian, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and a spokesperson for the Obesity Society (a professional society of obesity researchers) agreed there is “no reason” to think the silhouette you have in a corset would last after you took the corset off.

“If people like the way it looks, that is fine temporarily,” although it would be better to just wear Spanx, Apovian said.

In terms of achieving weight loss, there have not been any studies showing corsets help. One study tried to assess whether wearing a corset for 12 to 16 hours a day over several months could help people maintain the weight loss they achieved through a low-calorie diet. But participants in the study reported, not surprisingly, that the corsets were uncomfortable, and too many of them stopped wearing them for the researchers to detect any possible effects.

In addition to its dubious effectiveness, waist training could have some undesirable side effects. “If you keep it on and you eat too much, you’re going to throw up,” Apovian said. A blogger for Yahoo Shine tested a corset for a week and said she felt like she was “going to barf” shortly after eating her Thai noodle lunch.

Apovian said she worries that this effect could potentially encourage people to develop bulimia, although she does not know of patients who developed eating disorders after waist training.

Lacing yourself into a corset could also put you at greater risk of heartburn. “Extreme compression of the abdomen can result in elevation of the diaphragm and pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, creating an environment conducive to reflux,” said Dr. Amy Elizabeth Rothberg, assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Michigan. People with fat in their midsection already have more heartburn because of the pressure on their abdomen, she added.

Despite these concerns, Miller said there is no harm to wearing a corset in moderation. “Don’t just buy one in a store and tighten it as tight as you can,” he said, adding that it should be properly fitted, such as by a salesperson who has experience measuring women for undergarments.

Miller also recommended taking your corset off if you start to feel too uncomfortable or cannot move. It is supposed to be firm, but not unbearable. Also lose the corset if you cannot take deep breaths; prolonged shallow breathing can put you at risk for pneumonia and other lung infections, Miller said.

As unpleasant as it would seem to sport a corset, it may be easier than in the medieval days. “I imagine the material was probably rougher back then and cut into you; they are probably better fitted now,” Miller said. “There wasn’t a lot of the medical field giving our two cents about how to do things safely,” he added.