Have you ever looked at Kim or Kourtney Kardashian’s Instagram and wondered: should I try a postpartum waist trainer? Have you looked at any celeb’s feed after she’s had kids and wondered that same thing? It’s a growing trend, but TBH, no one’s really sure why. Whether you’re a Kardashian or not, no one is immune to post-baby body issues, not even the women plastered on every magazine cover at the mall. Frankly, I’ve yet to meet a woman who hasn’t experienced some type of change to her body after having a baby. I’m all about body positivity and celebrating the female form in every size, shape, and color, but sometimes, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I’m not super stoked with what I see. There are lumps and bumps in places that used to be tight and flat. Sometimes I miss that. So when I saw Kim Kardashian raving about the benefits of wearing a postpartum waist trainer, I was excited to see a solution that didn’t involve starving myself or going under the knife.
Yet, as amped as I was to try this out, I was somewhat cautious, too. Usually if something seems too good to be true, it is. I wasn’t expecting to miraculously wake up after this experiment with a perfect hourglass shape, but i began to wonder if there was any truth to the supposed benefits of waist training. Experts have confirmed that the cinched effect doesn’t last. What’s even scarier, though, are some of the long-term dangers of this method. From putting you at risk for pulmonary edema to bruising your bones, the cons may not outweigh the pros. With all of that in mind, I decided to approach this experiment with cautious optimism.
I wanted to do this for me, not because of society or any external pressures to look a certain way. Sometimes I just want to slip on my favorite pair of pre-baby pants without having to shimmy or hold my breath. I was really curious if I would walk away from this experiment with a different perception of my body. Additionally, I wanted to see if waist training was really worth the hype or if it was just another passing trend.
The first unexpected thing I encountered was just how tricky it was to get on. Maybe it’s just me and my lack of coordination, but I felt like it took me forever to hook the corset together. All of a sudden, I had a new sense of sympathy for all the poor teenage boys who get laughed at for having difficulty with bra hooks. The struggle is indeed real. I was hopeful that I this was just a minor speedbump.
Though I couldn’t find a solid, agreed upon method for waist training, it seemed like you don’t have to wear it full time to get the effects. So I chose to wear it for the duration of my work day, which is about eight hours on average. Straight away, I noticed that my clothes seemed to fit better and my posture was involuntarily improved since slouching caused discomfort. By the end of the first day, I was pretty relieved to take the waist trainer off. I felt like I could breathe again and didn’t have to worry about which I moved or bent anymore. I did see some spots of indentation and irritation, but nothing more severe than a day of wearing an underwire bra.
Although getting the waist trainer on wasn’t much easier on day two, it did seem to go a little faster. Still, I felt like the process ate into my morning routine. As a woman with a job and a toddler, every second is precious in the morning. While attempting to make myself presentable, my partner and I are also getting our son ready, packing lunches, and finishing up any loose ends before inevitably heading out the door 10 minutes later than we were supposed to. So having to incorporate the waist training, which didn’t exactly fall into the “necessity” category, made me feel a little rushed and almost anxious.
Maybe it was because day one was busy and I only had time for a light lunch, but I definitely was more aware of how tight the trainer felt when I was eating my regular-sized lunch on day two. I still finished my entire meal, but I didn’t like how conscious it made me of my stomach expanding while I ate. I can see how maybe this might be a good thing for people who’re trying to be more mindful of how much they’re eating, but I’d be concerned that the restrictive nature of it would do more harm than good. For me, being forced to acknowledge the stomach I was trying to get rid of just made me feel awkward and the tightness left me a little queasy. You can’t really rock a food baby with a waist trainer on. That meal has to go somewhere, so be prepared to feel a bit more compressed after your kale and quinoa bowl, OK?
I was getting faster at putting on my waist trainer, but I almost didn’t want to admit it. It was embarrassing that this had become a “normal” part of my routine. The only way I can describe it is that it felt like I was an elderly person who had to wear geriatric shoes, like I needed to wear this. Maybe it’s because I’m on the wrong side of my 20s, but I don’t enjoy feeling like I need help to look like I did before I became a mother. This process brought up old feelings of resentment. Why do women get held to such different standards than men? Dad bod is hot but mom bod is something we need to fix? Men can go gray but women shouldn’t? Even if you’re not a mom, just look at the microcosm of Hollywood: women’s attractiveness has a shelf life (like Amy Schumer demonstrated in this hilarious sketch) and it’s totally fine for a woman to be with a man who could be her father on screen (as seen in this graph charting on-screen age differences), but you rarely see older women dating younger men or even men their same age. It just feels frustrating that at every stage — puberty, being a young woman, bearing children, hitting menopause, etc. — women almost have to fight nature itself to fit within the parameters of society.
About midway through day three, I started reflecting on my morning mini-meltdown. Is wearing a waist trainer really so different than flat ironing my hair or wearing makeup? If the end result is that it helps me like the way I look, then is it really so bad? I didn’t want to confess that my exterior mattered that much to me, but I was beginning to realize it did. I had always blamed society and the media for manufacturing and selling us on this ideal for beauty. But I was I part of the problem, too? Did these ads and magazine covers keep working because women like me secretly do want to know how to get flat abs fast? I wasn’t sure if I was ready to face this conundrum head-on yet.
The uncertainty and inner shame of day three carried over into day four. Except this time, my thoughts were more about others and less about me. Instead of focusing on how hung up on vanity I was, I meditated on what implications this had on my feminist ideologies and what kind of message I was sending in general. Could I really continue to “dismantle the patriarchy” while struggling in a waist trainer? Was I being hypocritical? You’d never think such a light-hearted experiment would bring up such heavy thoughts, but it did. Maybe that’s a good thing.
By the end of day four, I felt like I should turn in my metaphorical feminist membership card. Aren’t I supposed to be fighting gender inequality and silencing the fat shamers? Shouldn’t I be celebrating every stretch mark and bulge as a badge of honor? I wanted to work through all of these questions, but like anybody with kids knows, duty called. It was dinner time, which led to bath time, then bed time, which turned into reading four stories. The waist trainer did interfere with my ability to bend over and pick my son up, but since he’s a toddler, I thankfully didn’t have to do much bending or lifting. Personal revelations would have to wait.
With the start of a brand new day, the somber vibe I felt the day before wasn’t as prevalent. After talking to my sister, she helped me remember what lies at the heart of gender equality and body positivity: acceptance. I can be a body positive feminist and do things that make me feel better about my body. I don’t have to be one or the other. Though this waist trainer wasn’t a cure-all, I was starting to allow myself to enjoy it. My clothes fit better and I liked my slim profile in the mirror.
It was a Friday night and I felt like wearing something cute. The waist trainer really wasn’t too noticeable under my normal clothes, but under the less forgiving fabric of this dress, it seemed like it was much more visible. I could see the dark color of the waist trainer beneath the white stripes of my dress and when I sat down, the top of the trainer poked out a bit on the sides more noticeably than if I were in a t-shirt. It was a minor setback in my attempt to fully enjoy the benefits of the waist trainer, but I didn’t let the situation rain on my parade. I tried to ignore my insecurities about how I looked in this dress and just focus on a night out. It was nice to let go of my hang-ups, even if it was just for a little bit.
I had noticed from day one that wearing a waist trainer wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but I’d figured that was just par for the course. Pretty much nothing in this world is free. High heels and push-up bras can leave you achy at the end of the day, and nobody really makes a big deal about that. So for most of the experiment I didn’t pay much mind to the discomfort.
Except by the end of day six, I felt like the dull pain in my hips and under my chest from where either end of the waist trainer hit was getting worse. I’m all for taking one for the team, but pain and possible injury aren’t really my thing. Even a few hours after I had taken the trainer off, my skin still felt very tender and sore. I took some Advil and hoped the next day would be better.
In general, quitting is not in my vocabulary. I always try to find a solution to the problem or come up with alternatives instead of giving up when things get tough. But wearing a waist trainer for a full week wasn’t worth causing myself any more pain. I can’t personally speak on how Kim Kardashian felt during or after her experience, but I bet that most women would draw the line at some point.
I’d gone into this experiment hoping to get not just the physical results but the confidence she exuded, too. But aside from my pants going on easier and having better posture, I didn’t have the same experience. I don’t know how much is for the camera or if these endorsements are paid, but I wasn’t feeling “obsessed” with this whole waist trainer things like the Kardashians appeared to be. They say beauty is pain, and for someone who is a public figure, I can understand how that mantra might make sense. But for a working mom who works both outside of and from home, I don’t no amount of beauty is worth pain. I ended up not wearing my waist trainer at all on day seven because it hardly seemed sensible to knowingly inflict pain just for a chance to feel fit.
Short answer? No. Although I know Kim Kardashian garnered a lot of attention for wearing and praising the benefits of a waist trainer, I just didn’t see similar results. And at the end of the day, that’s what I think is so great about being a modern feminist: we don’t all need to have the same experience, but we can absolutely still support each other.
I’m sure some people love waist training, and honestly, that’s great for them. You won’t find me shaming any woman for how she chooses to find happiness in her own skin. For the longer answer, the experiment was worth it because I learned so much about myself in the process. I found that I’m not any less of a feminist for wanting to feel a little slimmer and I’m also not any more of a feminist for choosing not to wear a waist trainer.
Images Courtesy of Sarah Bunton (7)