Are there long-term risks?
Most doctors agree that you would have to wear a waist trainer way too tightly, for way too long, to harm your internal organs. And in the short term, any discomfort you might feel would probably prompt you to loosen the stays.
If you did ignore the discomfort and kept your waist trainer on, consuming too few calories would likely be unsustainable, or could even be harmful. Restrictive dieting can slow your metabolism, leading to future weight gain, or can cause disordered eating and weakness.
And constriction itself could cause gastrointestinal issues, like bloating or constipation. “This compression can also contribute to acid reflux by interfering with normal digestive flow,” Dr. Laskowski wrote.
A waist trainer can also impair the natural movement of your diaphragm, which, in turn, can affect your breathing. That’s especially true if you wear one while working out. In rare cases, Dr. Lombardo said, people could pass out.
“Having good airflow, like you’re designed to, is a good thing,” she said.
The bottom line
Waist trainers are part of the ever-expanding world of unproven and often ineffective products sold to women who are frustrated with their weight.
“It’s why we have a billion-dollar weight-loss industry: We want the easy way out,” Dr. Lombardo said.
That’s not to say that smoothing lumps and bumps under an outfit for a night out isn’t worthwhile for some. Confidence matters, and if shapewear makes you feel better, go ahead and slip it on. But for long term, sustainable results, following a healthy diet, incorporating strength training into your workouts and, most importantly, being kind to yourself, are much better bets.
“Nothing beats the basics of clean eating, physical activity and strength training, including core exercise,” Dr. Laskowski wrote. “The best ‘brace’ you can give your midsection is your core muscles working together, and the best ‘corset’ is your muscle ‘corset.’”