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How 15 years of Corset Training affected my Pregnancy Experience

Did my experience with corset wear help or hinder me – or in any way affect my pregnancy experience? Here I’ve done my best to compare and contrast my 15+ years of corset training experience with my one pregnancy experience, separating them into five different categories: organs, skeletal frame, eating, breathing, and movement. In some ways, my corseting experience has helped prepare my body for pregnancy, making for a more comfortable or even semi-familiar experience – but in other ways, corseting couldn’t have possibly prepared me!

Read more below, and please excuse any typos, as I typed this as a sleep-deprived frazzled ball of newmom stress – hopefully you’ll be able to glean some useful information from this (and I’ll be able to edit this into a more coherent article by the time my kid is in school ;) ).

Organ displacement:

Lucy at 8 months pregnant

Displacing my intestines wasn’t (and still isn’t) a horrible experience, whether during pregnancy or while corseting, as intestines are designed to move – in fact, they move all the time due to peristalsis, and if they didn’t move, we would die out as a species.

While many pregnant folks complain of constipation, I kept my bowel movements regular through diet and regular physical activity as I’ve learned to do while corset training (I will also touch on this in my upcoming treadmill desk update).

But when the baby starts kicking your liver and head-butting your bladder, it gets uncomfortable for sure. Corsets make you more in tune with your body, so I know where each of my major organs sit while I’m in and out of a corset, and I also know which organ my baby was using as a punching bag in the moment. For instance, when my kiddo was having a dance party and I felt a sudden punt to my upper left quadrant (where my liver is), it made a different kind of vibration compared to when he was kicking the front of my uterus (which is stretched and pushed against the inside of my abdominal muscles), or my empty stomach on the left side. Physicians learn to tap on different parts of the body and listen to each organ (which a different reverberation) and they can determine whether the liver is enlarged or inflamed based on this reverberation. If you’re very still and in tune when babies kick you from the inside, you can sense different reverbs as well.

Another thing that an assertive kick to the liver does is cause a vasovagal response, which can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. The baby isn’t super strong, so these movements didn’t make me drop like a rock, but if I felt a kick in the upper right quadrant and instantly felt nauseated or a little light headed, I knew it was likely due to the baby hitting a nerve that caused a temporary vasodepression. Thankfully that didn’t happen too often – but this is an example of where corsets couldn’t prepare me. Corsets always give an even, constant, slow compression and don’t kick you from the inside without warning.

Eating:

Corsets have also trained me to be okay with eating small portions throughout the day so as to minimize discomfort or reflux. Around 10 years ago I would have labeled myself a grazer. In recent years I really prefer not to graze but rather have two large meals a day – but once I became pregnant, grazing and having small, frequent meals eventually became a necessity, and it was easy to switch back into that mode of eating.

Because of my long-term experience with corsets, I was already familiar with the foods that were problematic to me: mainly dairy (mild lactose intolerance), and high FODMAP type foods like corn and grapes – the foods that cause bloating, indigestion and discomfort during corseting were the same foods that caused problems in pregnancy, so it was easy to recognize and avoid those.

Acid reflux was so much worse with pregnancy – my digestive organs were squished more than there ever was with a corset, but added to this was the hormonal factor: the high levels of estrogen and relaxin causing my esophageal sphincter to relax, which allowed more reflux than I had ever experienced before. Previously, the only corsets that ever caused even a little bit of reflux were specifically underbust corsets finished with a sweetheart shape in the front, (rather than a corset that was straight or pointed upwards at the sternum). The sweetheart shape dips down in the front, leaving part of my solar plexus area completely unsupported, which causes my diaphragm to bulge out over of the top edge of the corset – this difference in pressure is not a good time (I know that plenty of folks love the feel of a sweetheart underbust, and likely these folks have a lower sternum than I do, so that their xyphoid process covers more of their solar plexus and diaphragm than in my situation). But pregnancy was easily 10x worse for reflux compared to my worst corset.

Breathing:

Corsets taught me how to breathe from my chest rather than my abdomen, so I found it incredibly easy to breathe even with the growing belly – up to around 7 months gestation. The final two months were way worse than any corset, for several reasons:

Firstly, most of my corsets are generally rounded in the ribs and they only compress the squishiest part of the waistline below the diaphragm, so my lung capacity typically isn’t as affected by corset wear compared to those who might wear a stricter and higher corset (like a conical rib overbust corset, for instance) – or the growing uterus pushing up significantly on the diaphragm.

Secondly, the increased blood volume. I remember reading that a significant portion of protein consumption by the fetus and placenta (up to 50%) are not for growing the fetus but rather to make hormones that regulate the mother’s metabolism and homeostasis – including appetite and respiration rate, to ensure that there is sufficient nutrients and oxygen for the extra blood cells circulating the body – so there there is a hormonal and body fluid influence on respiration rate over and above the physical hindrance to the descent of the diaphragm.

Thirdly, carrying 35 lbs of extra weight tuckered me out faster than usual. I could walk easily, but dancing or running was more challenging. I would say that in the final 6-8 weeks of pregnancy, breathing was far more labored (ha!) than I had ever experienced in a corset.

Skeletal frame (ribs, hips, and lumbar spine)

In terms of my skeletal frame, I was able to somewhat predict in what ways pregnancy would be a little easier on me, and what ways in wouldn’t. For instance, I know from my measurements that I have a slightly longer torso (this can contribute to carrying small), but also it somewhat protects my ribs from dislocations in the final months, especially as my sternum is very high. My floating ribs are also very flexible, they would swing inward with relative ease with corsets, and could also swing outwards when I used to be a floutist and sang in choir, so this flexibility was used to my advantage.

Where pregnancy was probably a bit more difficult is the fact that I have relatively narrow hip bones. When compared to my friends in school, they often noted that my Venus dimples were closer together than anyone else’s; I was able to buy my jeans from the boys’ section; my gait was narrow (I would walk practically with one foot in front of the other); I’ve never had a thigh gap ever despite having a lanky frame through my teen years, etc.

Around the 6th month of pregnancy, the relaxin started kicking in to loosen the ligaments in my pelvis and widen the joints. My sacro-iliac (SI) joints started slipping, and it aggravated the sciatica that I sustained from my car accident eight years ago. And then about a month after that, I started getting pain in the front (symphysis pubis dysfunction, or SPD). I immediately asked my OB doctor for some exercise recommendations, and I increased my activity at my treadmill desk again through the 3rd trimester. I know that with those who suffer from extreme SPD, they can end up bed-bound, as they need to avoid anything that forces them to even temporarily balance on one foot or the other… including walking. So with SPD, your mileage may vary. (Literally.) I was fortunate not to have an extreme case of it, but if my SPD continued for months or years postpartum, I would certainly make use of my longline corsets to help stabilize my pelvis.

Regarding my lower back, I thankfully had a very positive experience here. I think a combination of my corset wear and my standing desk affected my posture greatly. For the first two trimesters of my pregnancy, I carried small compared to many other childbearers in my family (which, as mentioned before, is partly influenced by the length of my torso), but I think the other part of of it is due to the strength of my muscles in my lumbar spine, and around my hips and glutes – such that even as my center of gravity was shifted forward, I resisted developing that telltale lordosis and anterior pelvic tilt until the very last few months of pregnancy. But the thing about “carrying small” is also that the baby isn’t small – the uterus is just displacing more of your peritoneal organs in the abdominal cavity instead of growing outward past your ribs (see above for my commentary on displacement of organs).

(One last contributor to “carrying small” is a tilted / retroverted uterus, which I do not have, but it’s worth mentioning just for a complete discussion on this topic.)

The only negative effect I experienced with regards to my lower back was about three months of lower back soreness at the site of the epidural injection, and some “back labor” (painful contractions that are felt most strongly in the lower back and tailbone), which obviously subsided after the delivery.

Reduced range of motion:

Not surprisingly, I lost the ability to bend significantly at the waist about 20 weeks into gestation. Corseting prepared me for this loss of range of motion in my torso, and I was able to easily compensate by bending at the hip and squatting (putting more movement through my legs instead of my waist) when I needed to pick things up off the floor, putting my shoes on, etc.

As an aside: regarding the whole “boots before corsets” argument, as a Canadian who is not in the habit of wearing shoes in the home, this typically doesn’t really apply to me; although I have some indoor shoes that I use exclusively for my treadmill desk, and slippers that I use when walking across cold tile. Having a long shoehorn is a nice-to-have, but I can and do put my shoes on without one (in and out of a corset, and also during pregnancy), and I wouldn’t consider myself to be particularly limber.

It’s more about having the proper form, as well as not having the corset (or your pregnant belly) hang below the hip flexor. Another requirement is having enough leg and hip strength to squat when picking things up off the floor, which circles back to the importance of physical activity in my third trimester, in tandem with with my years of prior posture training from corsets.

That’s all I can think of at the moment about how corsets may have affected or influenced my pregnancy experience, but I may add more if it comes to me. If you have any questions you’d like me to answer regarding my experience with corsets vs pregnancy, feel free to leave a comment and I’d be happy to add more to this article.

In summary, pregnancy was much more uncomfortable than corseting for a variety of reasons – and that’s coming from someone who has had a relatively easy and uneventful pregnancy experience. I’ll return to this topic again in several months once I have more experience with corseting postpartum, and how it relates to my nulliparous corseting experience – but I’ve only very recently returned to corseting, and would prefer have more experience before commenting on it officially.

If you have any experience with becoming pregnant before and/or after corseting and would like to comment on the differences between the two experiences, feel free to share your thoughts below!

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Is it Possible to “Shrink your Hips” using a Corset or Girdle?

 

“I’ve been wearing a corset for a few months, and I like the way my waist looks small but I hate that it makes my hips look big! Can I use a corset over my hips and make them smaller over time?”

I’ve received this question half a dozen times over the past few years, from people who started wearing corsets but then didn’t like the way the smallness of the waist made their hips look wider. Unfortunately (or fortunately) wider-looking hips is an intrinsic property of wearing corsets: when you reduce the waist, everything else looks larger in contrast, including the size of your bust, the breadth of your shoulders and the width of your hips. This is what creates the illusion of curves!

Still, some people would like to know if it’s possible to make your hips look smaller over time. I have to say, I’ve never seen a corset per se that has specifically achieved this.

Hip Compression is ONLY Logically Feasible in the Weeks Following Childbirth


The Hip Slimmer is a hip compression belt marketed toward those who have recently given birth. Click through to Amazon.
The Hip Slimmer is a hip compression belt marketed toward those who have recently given birth. Click through to Amazon.

I have seen some more modern hip belts and compression girdles that are marketed towards people who had recently given birth (like this one and this one and this one) so they can reduce their hips that may have widened during pregnancy. This is an important note. Your “hip bones” are the outermost crest of your pelvis. During puberty, the bones of your pelvis more or less fuse together. When you’re pregnant, especially during the last month of pregnancy, your body creates the hormone relaxin which helps your ligaments and joints to relax and widen – mostly in your pelvis so the baby can pass through (but because the hormone is circulating through your entire body, some people also report their feet getting larger during their last trimester).

The amount of relaxin circulating through the body reaches its peak around labor (which makes sense). After you give birth, the amount of relaxin is supposed to taper off and leave your system – so it’s during these crucial few weeks following delivery that the hip compression belt companies will target these women with the relaxin in their system. Because the relaxin had helped to loosen their ligaments in the first place, the idea is that the relaxin will also allow the pelvis to “shrink” back together with the help of some mild compression.

But for people with nulliparous hips (people who had never given birth before), there is essentially “nothing to compress” since your ligaments are still more or less tight (as long as you don’t have a connective tissue disorder). Even people who HAD given birth but it had been 6 months or more since delivery, I’m not sure how effective hip compression would be because the relaxin is no longer circulating at higher levels.

 

There are Risks Associated with Trying to Compress Your Hips


Personally, even when I’m wearing a conventional corset (designed to reduce only the waist) I have to be careful about the way the hips of the corset are shaped, because genetically I don’t put fat on my hips (I tend to gain weight in my abdomen but not over my hip bones). When I have a corset that pushes down on my hips, the corset grinds against my iliac crest and it’s quite uncomfortable and painful. There are delicate blood vessels and nerves that run over a person’s hip bone, which are fairly superficial (close under the skin) and when I’m wearing a corset, these delicate nerves and blood vessels are easily pinched (“trapped between a rock and a hard place” – between my hip bone and the rigid corset) which can cause numbness, tingling or pain.

While there are some people who put on a generous amount of subcutaneous fat over their hipbones and they may be able to compress their hips down slightly, this is still not something I personally recommend or condone. If you do experience numbness, tingling or pain in your hips, this is a sign that your corset is not fitting you correctly. This is not normal and do not ignore this. If you continue to ignore the immediate (acute) discomfort you’re experiencing, the longer compression over the hips may cause some bruising in your hip area, and cause damage to the nerves in the area that can take weeks or months to heal, because nerves take a very long time to recover.

This is not unique to corsets; some people have experienced similar hip pain from people wearing modern clothing like skinny jeans, low-rise pants and hip-huggers.

 

Why Properly-Fitting Corsets Don’t Hurt Your Hips


The reason why a well-fitting conventional corset does NOT cause numbness or tingling in your hips/ legs/ bum is mostly due to the fact that you’re not pinching the vessels that run between your bone and the corset (two rigid spots). Your waist (apart from your spine running through) is mostly soft tissue – muscles, fat, and mostly hollow membranous organs (like intestines which can easily flatten down). The corset then “springs outward” as it passes the waistline heading towards the hips, and it does not compress the hip bones at all – instead, it is drafted to be the same size as your natural hips, so it gently hugs and supports the hips, fitting it like a glove while not pushing down on the area.

There is only one situation where I would recommend someone buy a corset with a hip measurement that is smaller than their own “hip meaurements” and that is if a person has a large, protruding lower tummy. If you take a high hip measurement and a pendulous lower tummy is in the way, then your hip will artificially measure larger than it should be. So if your corset supports your abdomen properly and pulls that lower pooch in and up, that compression over the lower tummy will likely lead to a “smaller than natural” hip measurement – but the corset will still be drafted to curve over the hips and not compress them. The corset may have a sturdy busk to pull in the front, while possibly having pre-formed steels that “kick out” the hips at the side seam. In this situation, I would highly recommend having a custom corset fitted to you by an experienced maker, or in the very least try on a corset in-store so that you can assure it fits properly before you buy it.

 

What Can You Do if you Love Corsets, but Not the Look of Wide Hips?


Redthreaded is one corsetiere who makes custom longline Titanic-era corsets. Click through to see the gallery of more Titanic-era corsets!
Redthreaded is one corsetiere who makes custom longline Titanic-era corsets. Click through to see the gallery of more Titanic-era corsets!

Because there is a risk of hip bruising, tingling, numbness or pain, I would NOT recommend deliberately buying a corset smaller than your own hips and trying to use hip compression to make your hips look more narrow.

If you don’t like the way your corset puts your hips on display and makes them look wider, there may be a couple of other solutions:

  • Easiest solution would be to buy a larger corset – a piece that is less curvy with a less dramatic “hip shelf”. Your waist will be bigger in this corset, which will make your hips would not look so big in contrast.
  • You can also experiment with different styles and silhouettes of corsets – instead of a shorter Victorian style corset, you might want to try an elongated Titanic era (19-teens) style corset that is designed to make the body look long and svelte.

 

Do you have any other suggestions for those who want to make their hips look slimmer? Leave a comment below!

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Corset Wearer’s Organs Illuminated by MRI

 

I can hardly contain my excitement! For the first time, we have public information as to what happens to a corset wearer’s organs through the use of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). I’ve wanted to do a study like this for years, but time, finances and limited access to imaging facilities prevented me from doing so.

Fortunately, German medical doctor and TV sensation Dr. Eckhart von Hirschhausen took it upon himself to study how a corset moves organs in a tightlacer on his October 2nd episode of his gameshow, Hirschhausens Quiz Des Menschen (“Hirschhausen’s Quiz of the Human [body]”).

Internationally acclaimed burlesque artist Eden Berlin volunteered to be studied, wearing a specialized tightlacing corset made by Korsettmanufactur TO.mTO.  The magnetic pull in an MRI machine is so strong that it is capable of ripping steel out of corsets and through flesh – so Tonia Merz, the corsetiere behind TO.m.O, explained how she used non-metal boning and other non-ferrous hardware in the corset so as not to endanger Eden during imaging.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.02.20 AM

In this episode of Hirschhausens Quiz Des Menschen before viewing the results, the contestants had to guess what would happen to Eden’s body when she’s wearing a corset. Here were the options:

A. The lungs are compromised, so she has a lack of oxygen.
B. The kidneys are compressed, so they are less efficient at filtering.
C. The intestine is deformed, so digestion is slowed.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.04.20 AM

Here are two MRI images of Eden, with her uncorseted figure on the left and her corseted figure on the right. This image is behind her peritoneal cavity, showing her kidneys and lungs. Dr. Hirschhausen explains how the lungs and kidneys haven’t moved much between the two images.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.06.54 AM

This screencap now shows the peritoneal cavity. Dr. Eckhart gestures the normal location of the ascending, transverse and descending colon in the left image, and the transverse part of the colon is clearly viewed (where his hand is).

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.07.38 AM

Now Dr. Eckhart gestures to the right image and shows how the intestines are flexible. He says that you can see that the transverse colon has shifted so that part of it is above the waistline, and part of it is below. (While it might not have been explicitly mentioned, from the image we also now have confirmation that the liver and stomach move upwards (and the liver remains pretty much in the same shape) and they are not forced down below the waist like some horrendous illustrations once claimed).

Therefore, Dr. Eckhart concluded that answer C (the intestine trapped and digestion slowed) was the correct option.

As a follow-up to this, an MRI was done on a woman in her third term of pregnancy with the baby already in head-down (vertex) position, to show how the intestines have shifted upward considerably (again, the intestines are designed to be flexible). The baby is obviously highlighted in red.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.14.57 AM

One thing I should point out is that Eden is not a daily waist trainer but rather wears her corsets for her performances. It’s also unknown how much time she was given to lace up and have her body adjust to the tightness before she had the second MRI taken – I know that if I give my body time to adjust while lacing down slowly, I can feel an intestinal shift after 20-30 minutes, and find that the feeling of pressure is reduced and I can lace a little tighter than before. Fran of Contour Corsets proposes that over time, a tightlacer can coax the entire transverse colon to sit below the waistline, away from the line of highest pressure from the corset, which can make digestion much easier.

Update: Eden Berlin has commented on her experience:

“The MRI pictures where made pretty much directly after i was putting the corset on and on top of this it is a new corset so still very stiff in shape. I think with a corset that my body was already used to and more time before the MRI picture the result may have been a bit different. But my organs where basicly just moved a bit up or down without changing much in shape.”

And on her waist reduction:

“My natural waist is 63cm… it was a 50cm corset and it was actually completly closed.”

Tonia Merz also confirmed that the corset was made to close at 50cm, and designed to give about a 5 inch reduction. With a 20% change in her waist circumference, this definitely qualifies at tightlacing.

If given the opportunity, I would love to repeat this MRI study with different tightlacers to see how the positions of organs change slightly depending on the individual, the silhouette of corset worn, the reduction of the corset, and how long they’ve been training. Huge thanks to Hirschhausens Quiz Des Menschen, Eden Berlin and Tonia Merz for their incredible collaboration and allowing us to finally see where the organs shift when wearing a corset, and especially to Tonia for her translation of the conclusions!

EDIT, JANUARY 10, 2015: You can now view the full episode here on Youtube (German, no subtitles). The corset topic begins at 35 minutes in, with the MRI portion around 45 minutes in.

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WAIST TRAINING RESULTS: How long should it take?

 

Here’s a question I receive nearly every day:

“My natural waist is 30 inches, and I just started waist training. How long will it take to see real results, and obtain a natural 24 inch waist?”

 Of course, the exact wording, the numbers, and the goals all vary slightly from person to person. But I will tell you what I tell all of them – and you will not be happy:

I DON’T KNOW. And unfortunately, neither can anyone else. If someone claims that they CAN give you a specific duration of time that you will achieve your waist training goal, they are flat out lying.

If you look at these Before / After Waist Training examples, you will see that people have achieved all kinds of results, in all different durations. Some saw a marked difference in three months, while others achieved less dramatic results over two years. It’s different for everyone.

WHY is this?

The (semi)permanent results of waist training is dependent on a number of factors, including your body’s current state and your genetic pre-disposition, the quality of your corset and its compatibility with your body, and the way you train in your corset. Let’s break those down in further detail:

 

Factor #1: Your body type and current body stats

Abdominal body fat can be subcutaneous or visceral - and they affect your corset training differently.
Abdominal body fat can be subcutaneous or visceral – and they affect your corset training differently.

Your Body Fat

  • Adipose tissue can immediately compress down a lot more than muscle in a corset, but it also bounces back when you remove the corset. Some with a high body fat % are able to cinch down 10 inches in the waist, while someone with very low body fat may only be able to cinch down 2-3 inches.
  • Weight distribution also plays a role. Do you tend to carry more weight in your belly, or do you carry more weight on your hips and thighs? If you do carry weight in your belly, do you have a lot of visceral fat or subcutaneous fat? Subcutaneous fat sits under the skin but above the muscle, and makes your skin soft and malleable. Visceral fat is the more ‘dangerous’ fat that sits under your abdominal muscle, between your organs. Someone with more subcutaneous fat (even over their tummy) will probably have an easier time lacing down than someone with visceral body fat.

Your Muscle Tone

  • Very toned, dense muscles may be more difficult to cinch down compared to less toned muscles, BUT if you time your workouts well, you can actually use your resistance exercise regimen to your advantage in waist training to change the morphology of your oblique muscles and have them almost “grow” into the hourglass shape encouraged by the corset. Also, once you get to higher reductions, you have to “stretch” those side muscles, and also the tendons and ligaments. Some people’s bodies seem to more readily accommodate to this than other people’s bodies.

 Your Skeletal Frame

  • Do you have wider ribcage or smaller ribcage? Are your ribs flexible and are you able to accommodate corsets with a conical ribcage easily, or is your ribcage very inflexible and difficult to move? Those who are easily able to train their ribs are likely to see faster waist training results than those whose ribs are very rigid. My article on the corset’s effect on the skeleton goes into more detail about this.

Your Age

  • More mature waist trainers have bones that are not only less dense, but less malleable compared to younger trainers. For more information on how age can affect your corseting, see my article on waist training and age restrictions.

 Your Organs

  • When you look at human anatomy in a textbook, you’re seeing a general “average” of the size and orientation of organs. But not everyone’s organs look like that! Some people have larger organs, some have smaller organs. Even the position and orientation of organs can very slightly differ between individuals, and that small variation might make a huge difference in how well your body can accommodate the restriction of a corset. For further information, see my article on corsets and organs.

Your Water Retention

  • What’s your water content like? If you are often bloated or have water retention, either due to your lifestyle or because of a medical condition, you not only won’t be able to lace down as much or as readily, but you have more of that “temporary squish” to you as opposed to contributing to that “long term training”.

Whether You’ve Been Pregnant Before

  • Have you had a baby before or not? While this point is a bit more anecdotal, it seems that mothers are (on average) able to lace down more readily/ more comfortably/ to higher reductions compared to nulliparous women. Maybe this has to do with the fact that the baby had moved around a woman’s organs (especially in the final trimester), or the relaxin in your system during pregnancy had stretched out some tendons and ligaments already, or the woman was already accustomed to the feeling of restriction or breathing higher up in the chest, so she may be psychologically more comfortable with the feeling of being corseted. Read more about corsets after childbirth.

 

Factor #2: Your Corset

This corset has a conical ribcage, and will be more effective at training the ribcage.
This corset has a conical ribcage, and will be more effective at training the ribcage compared to a rounded ribcage.

Proper Fit

  • Is your corset comfortable? Does your corset fit you properly: when you lace down, does it reduce only the waist, and is it lying flat and gently supporting your upper ribcage and your hip area? Is your corset gap straight or uneven? Or is the corset overall not curvy enough: and is it giving you muffin top, pinching your hips or causing any lower tummy pooch to spill out underneath? A well-fitting corset is not only more effective at shaping, but it’s also much more comfortable, so you’ll be encouraged to wear it longer and more often.

 Strength

  • Is the corset strong? Does it hold up to the tension without buckling? Are the seams securely stitched? Are the bones creating a proper scaffold and not digging into your body? Are the grommets holding in? Having to put your training on hold – not because you want to, but because your corset breaks every 2 months and you have to replace it – is not cost effective and it’s not time-effective. If you’re in this for the long haul, invest in something strong and custom. See my article on Waist Training vs Tight Lacing, which also covers different requirements of a suitable corset for each.

Silhouette

  • Is the corset the right silhouette to do the right job? If you want to train your ribcage, you might need a conical ribcage corset, which gradually tapers down and increases the pressure on the lower ribcage. A corset with a mild silhouette or with a corset with a rounded ribcage will give you a different effect. Be sure that the corset you are using is designed to do for you what you want. You can’t force a round peg through a square hole and expect a triangle to come out.

 

Factor #3: Your Lifestyle Habits and Training Methods

I demonstrate a bicycle crunch, one of the staples of my daily core workout.
I demonstrate a bicycle crunch, one of the staples of my daily core workout.

 Supplementary Exercise

  • Are you exercising alongside your waist training? Adding or increasing core resistance training can help you see results faster by encouraging your muscles to “heal” in a certain way. Even if you have no intention of losing weight (you only use a corset to see a change in your silhouette), exercise is still important! If you don’t add some core resistance training, your torso may see some shaping from the corset, but it may be squishy and complacent, and not hold that hourglass shape as well as if you were combining it with resistance training.

 Eating

  • Are you eating clean? Are you getting enough fiber so that you stay regular when corseting? Are you avoiding foods that you know can cause bloating or discomfort in your corset? Are you having regular small balanced meals, or are you the type to fast and then feast? Corseting over a large meal can be uncomfortable and difficult, and the quality of that meal also counts. You don’t necessarily need a specific diet for waist training, but eating sensibly goes a long way.

Drinking

  • Are you staying hydrated? Are you getting a lot of clean water or tea? Are you keeping your electrolytes balanced (this ties in with water retention). Are you watching your blood pressure (which relates to your blood volume)? Do you take in a lot of caffeine or other diuretics, and are you making sure that your water intake balances that out?

Duration of your corset wear (and reduction)

  • To get the best results in a corset, you have to use it. What method of waist training are you using? There is Romantasy’s “Roller Coaster” method, and there is the Contour Corsets “Cycle” Method (see the differences between the two waist training methods). Some people use a combination of both, or they may try a different method altogether. Some people consider waist training as wearing their corset only 8 hours a day while they’re out working. Others waist train by only wearing a corset to bed at night. Some people wear their corsets 12 or 16 hours a day, and a few very dedicated ones wear their corset 23 hours a day.
  • The body responds best to consistency – for reasons I’ll explain in an upcoming article, you’ll probably see more results (and more comfortably!) if you wear a corset at a light or moderate reduction for long hours, as opposed to tightlacing or overlacing your corset for an hour and then not wearing it again for a few days.

Let’s use an infomercial exercise program as a metaphor for waist training expectations. Many exercise programs say that you CAN lose UP TO 20 lbs per month (as an example), but read the small print and you find that these results are not typical. Many of these programs are also backed up with a guarantee that with proper compliance to the program, you will see some kind of result (often within 60 or 90 days) or your money back.

But you will notice that they do not guarantee a certain number of inches lost, because people have different bodies, different fitness levels, different levels of compliance. It’s the same with a waist training program.

Ann Grogan (of Romantasy) offers the only corset training program I currently know of – in her some 25 years of working with waist trainers and 14 years officially coaching, she is able to confidently say that with her 3-month waist training program, you’re likely to see some noticable results in your natural waist with proper compliance to the program (the program covers a lot of factors: the type of corset you’re using, the reduction, the hours, the foods you eat, the exercises you do, etc). But since each program is personalized based on goals, each person’s compliance is different and each person’s body accommodates their corset differently, it’s still very difficult to precisely predict how many inches you’ll lose, or how fast.

What I have found is the highest indicator of success is whether you actually enjoy wearing your corset and find it completely comfortable. If you practice patience, and wear your corset consistently (and ironically, not be overly attached to your end goal), you are likely to see more results over time than someone who is less patient and is only corseting for the end result. But I will cover that in another article soon.

Do you currently waist train, or did you train in the past? How long did it take you to see results? Let me know in a comment below!

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Shapewear Squeezes your Organs? My response.

A few days ago, HuffPost released this article on how stretch shapewear and compression wear are associated with various health risks, including organ compression – and I was asked by a few followers what I thought of this. After a few days of thought, this was my response on Tumblr:

Wow, this might be opening a can of worms. I could talk for a long, long, long time on this, but I’ll try to keep it on point and try not to get too ranty about it. Going point-by-point with the original article:

When you wear shapewear, you’re compressing your organs.

  • This is also true for corsets – but to what extent is important to note. [Note, see my article on corsets and organs here]
  • Pregnancy also compresses your organs.
  • Leaning or bending in any direction compresses your organs.
  • Nauli Kriya really compresses your organs.
  • Your own organs compress your other organs. Taking a deep breath expands your lungs, lowers your diaphragm, and pushes down on your intestines. Peristalsis is the motion of your intestines moving chyme along – they’re constantly contracting and writhing.
  • Organs are not supposed to be rigid. Life as we know it would never have existed if our organs were not made to move and compress. (The one exception to this is the brain, which has conveniently evolved to be encased within a hard skull.)

That includes compressing your bowels.

  • Indeed, and this exactly why the body is so resilient and able to tolerate compression. From what I understand, corsets typically compress the organs in the peritoneal cavity, and the vast majority of what fills this cavity are hollow, membranous organs (like the stomach and intestines) that contain food/water/air/waste. When your stomach and intestines are mostly empty, they can easily be flattened down, and they take the majority of the pressure from shapewear (or a baby, or nauli), leaving other solid organs like the liver and pancreas bearing relatively little stress.
  • As for shapewear possibly causing constipation and other bathroom issues, I talk about that in detail in this video (or this related article). Fran from Contour Corsets has also talked about why it’s important to learn how to have bowel movements while corseted, in this article.
  • But some people who’ve had chronic constipation throughout their adult life have actually found that corsets have helped stimulate their bowels and help them have more regular movements. It works similarly to applying abdominal pressure and massage for relieving constipation.
  • Speaking personally, I find that cycling the pressure of my corset (looser, then tighter, then looser, etc.) actually pushes things along in my bowels. Within the first 30-60 minutes of putting on my corset, I’m pretty much guaranteed to poop (I imagine it’s a toothpaste effect) and then I find I’m able to lace down further in greater comfort, as my abdomen just effectively lost volume. If no corset were on, this space would be replaced with air.

You can develop tingling, numbness and pain in your legs.

  • This is not just true for corsets and shapewear. It’s also true for tight underwear and jeans, and some people get numbness and tingling when they sit even in loose clothing – it depends on the person, how long they’ve been sitting, how they’re sitting, whether they have ergonomic furniture, etc. So I find it a bit unfair that they would point the finger at shapewear for something SO common. That said, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe or good for you.
  • Also, they mentioned something very important here – the problem usually arises when sitting, which is a serious issue in itself. Seriously, do you know how bad sitting is for you? If they wish to minimize their health risks, humans should not sit.
  • A well-fitting corset, when worn properly, should never cause numbness or tingling. This is why I’m constantly stressing the importance of finding a corset that fits you properly and doesn’t put any pressure on your iliac crest. A reducing corset should only compress the waist, not the hips or the underbust.
  • In my last giveaway (where contestants wrote in explaining how corsets had improved their quality of life), several people have written in and explained how corsets had a hand in actually relieving nerve issues like sciatica and other complications related to scoliosis and/or slipped discs – this is because a proper corset made by a trained professional can function like a therapeutic brace.
  • While we’re on the topic of nerves in general, corsets can help prevent/ relieve thoracic outlet syndrome in women with heavy breasts, and can help with sensory adaptation in those with sensory integration dysfunction and other sensory disorders. So while corsets have their risks with nerve issues (which is an indication of wearing it wrong, actually), corsets have their potential benefits as well. It’s a balance, you see.

I demonstrate a bicycle crunch, one of the staples of my daily core workout.
I demonstrate a bicycle crunch, one of the staples of my daily core workout.

Your muscles will suffer if you rely on shapewear for good posture.

  • If you don’t use it, you lose it. I don’t deny that some people can “develop a reliance on corsets” or other shapewear for good posture – but this is precisely the reason that Ann Grogan recommends a training schedule working yourself up to ~8 hours a day, 6 days a week. The 7th day is a full uncorseted day and gives you the opportunity to rely on your own core muscles so you can gauge your strength.
  • Also – I’m not sure why this idea is propagated so widely, but corsets were never intended to be a substitute for exercise and toning. In fact, when people take on a waist training regimen, it often motivates them to work out more often in order to avoid atrophy. I recommend a daily core-strengthening workout if you start corseting – this can actually help you potentially obtain faster results than corseting alone or exercising alone, and it also ensures that you don’t experience core muscle atrophy.
  • Also, when used properly, corsets may actually train you to improve your posture over time, not necessarily worsen your posture. More on that here.

Plus, shapewear can create an environment prone to infections.

  • I’ve talked about corsets and common skin issues here, so yes – if you don’t have good personal hygiene and common sense, and you’re not wise about the fabrics you choose for your corset and liners, there are risks.
  • But I would argue that the risks for skin issues with rubber shapewear is even greater than the risk associated with corsets. The greatest cause of skin issues is the lack of breathable fibers. Many types of spandex/rubber shapewear are designed to make you overheat and sweat, claiming that this is how you lose bloat. Real corsets are not designed to work that way, and they can be just as effective at shaping your figure even when made out of cool, breathable mesh.
  • Honestly, mesh corsets will change your life.

Like everything in life, it’s important to exercise moderation: Don’t wear them too often…. Lastly, choosing the right fit is key.

Hopefully this clears up my thoughts on the anti-shapewear article. I think that the article brings up some valid points, particularly the last one about moderation and proper fit. But by researching corsets properly, acquiring a high quality piece that fits you well, and using it responsibly, you can enjoy corsets (and maybe even other shapewear) and still minimize your risks. Of course, if you have pre-existing health issues, you should see a trusted doctor before corseting, and same goes if you experience any discomfort while corseting.

*This article contains my own opinion and is provided strictly for informational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical physician. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset for any reason.*

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Do Corsets Affect the Uterus, Fertility or Pregnancy?

This entry is a summary of the video “Corsets and the Reproductive System” which you can watch on YouTube here:

I have received many questions by women on how corsets may affect the uterus, birth canal and other parts of the reproductive system, so I’ve compiled the most popular questions and answers here.

Will my uterus be compressed or fall out by wearing a corset?

There can be some small amount of uterine compression if you wear corsets. When the uterus begins to drop from its normal position, it’s called uterine prolapse. Uterine prolapse cannot with any certainty be tied to corseting because the risk of prolapse increases with several events:

  • Age (especially after menopause when estrogen levels drop)
  • Atrophy of the pelvic floor muscles
  • High number of vaginal deliveries (especially if you receive trauma like ripping of the birth canal)
  • Anything that creates pressure on the organs, including heavy lifting and straining when having a bowel movement.

Can wearing a corset decrease your chances of conceiving a child?

There is a large misconception about corsets “squeezing out” fetuses and as a result, it was thought to believe that many corseted women would not be able to become pregnant. In truth, there is no proof that corsets cause infertility. Many women in the 18th and 19th centuries managed to conceive 10-15 times (or more!) easily within their lifetime.

Of course, miscarriage and stillbirth statistics were much more prevalent back then than they are now, but when you factor in less access to medical care, no prenatal screening, poorer nutrition overall (consider the fact that shipment of fresh produce was largely impractical until airplanes were used), not to mention lack of education in terms of drug/alcohol abuse during pregnancy, there is no way to prove that corsets are to blame for not being able to conceive.

The largest culprit of illness or death among new mothers in the 19th century was “childbed fever”, an infection of the still blood-rich womb, due to the lack of sanitation (germ theory was not widely accepted until the late 1880’s), not due to corsets.

Can you corset when you’re pregnant?

Extant vintage Victorian maternity corset designed to accommodate a growing pregnant tummy.

Victorian women were always corseted, even during pregnancy. It was considered indecent to go out without a corset at any time in one’s adult life (consider the fact that the corset also served as bust support before the modern bra was invented). However, pregnant women used specialized maternity corsets that had laced panels which expanded as their bellies grew. Ultimately these corsets were not used for waist reduction nor to achieve an hourglass shape, but rather they were used for support for the back and core, as 24/7 corseting since late childhood often caused weakening of wearer’s back and created dependence on the corset.

Today, it’s true that in the first trimester you don’t tend to show a baby bump, and many women can still do crunches and sit-ups without harming the fetus. While many women in the Victorian era still laced with their normal corsets in their first trimester of pregnancy, I still strongly recommend not wearing a corset at any point during pregnancy. Just as any responsible woman would immediately stop drinking and smoking once she discovered she’s pregnant, a woman of today should immediately remove the corset upon realizing she’s pregnant. If you are pregnant and find you have a weak core or experience back pain, back support still exists in the form of more flexible maternity support belts or “belly bands” which won’t harm the baby.

Post-partum Corseting

What causes belly pooch after childbirth?

  • Distended uterus
  • Other organs moved out of place by the growing baby
  • Subcutaneous fat (the “squishy” feeling fat underneath the skin)
  • Visceral fat (the fat surrounding the internal organs)
  • Diastasis Rectus (diastasis recti for plural)

After the baby is born, when the mother is nursing her newborn baby, release of the hormone oxytocin makes a woman’s mammary glands contract to help the milk flow (called “let-down” reflex), and the uterus contracts in response to the oxytocin in order to shrink down close to its original size and improve muscle tone (which is why new mothers may nurse their newborn babies and experience pelvic cramps). Along with this process, the other organs more or less move back into the position they held before pregnancy. (A woman’s organs never fully goes back to the way they were before their first pregnancy, but the body tries as much as it can).

Belly binding has existed for many hundreds of years

Many women of the past wear compression gear to help their organs move back into position. Although compression gear is not necessary, it can help quicken the process. In fact it’s nothing new. Civilizations have been using it for centuries before tightlacing corsets appeared in the west.

The Mayan women in central America bound their torsos after childbirth. In Spanish this is still called a “faja” which literally translates to “strip of fabric” or “belt” (wound around the body many times to achieve the compression) but now the term is used for any corset or cincher.

In South India during Bananthana (or post-partum) there is a strict protocol including belly binding to put the uterus and intestines back into place, keep the body warm, and help purge the “bad blood” accumulated during pregnancy.

Japanese women wore an obi (“sash”) most of the time, which was a piece of cloth about 1 foot wide by several meters long  tightly bound around and around and around the torso. Later in pregnancy, many of these women switched to a sarashi which is again a long strip of cloth that binds the midriff and also the chest.

“I want to wear a corset after childbirth. How do I know if it’s right for me?”

Check with your doctor before wearing compression gear after labour. Your doctor may or may not recommend compression gear for you, depending on your size, your level of health, the difficulty of your delivery (and/or whether any damage to your pelvis occurred during childbirth). The largest factor is whether you delivered naturally or by caesarean, as a natural delivery can increase the risk of prolapse, but caesarian involved cutting into your abdominal wall which can be painful or non-conducive to healing if you put too much pressure on it. However, if you get the go-ahead from your doctor to use compression gear to hasten the process of recovery after childbirth, it should be okay to lace down lightly (2 inches or so) in a well-fitted corset.

Next time, I’ll share with you the common skin issues that may arise when you waist train on a regular basis.

*Please note that this article contains my opinion and provided strictly for information purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical physician. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset for any reason.*