Home #ScaleFreeBaby True or False: There’s No Difference Between a Waist Trainer and Pregnancy

True or False: There’s No Difference Between a Waist Trainer and Pregnancy

by Erika Nicole Kendall
true or false: there's no difference between a waist trainer and pregnancy

Warning: Because this discussion requires copious use of diagrams in order to be truly effective, there are many diagrams of the naked female torso posted below. Please use your best discretion, and recognize that this post is not safe for work.

Let me explain something. I hate Instagram. I do. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I love sharing with y’all and laughing and seeing what y’all are doing using that #bgg2wlarmy hashtag, but some of what I see on IG makes me sick to my stomach.

Needless to say, something about this, sent to me by one of my favorite #bgg2wlarmy members, pissed me off to no end.

true or false?

true or false?

I want to talk about this and what makes this quite possibly the most embarrassing piece of propaganda promoting these waist training things I’ve ever seen.

For the most part, I avoided discussing these waist trainer things because I knew I couldn’t do it and simultaneously put “empathy first.” If I can’t be professional and talk about it, I’m just not going to talk about it. Not only that, but I’m still lowkey bitter about the years of trash I had to take out of the comments the last time I talked about a waist training contraption that people were selling.

But this…..this is some nonsense.

Let’s talk about the anatomy of pregnancy for a moment.

Pregnancy begins in the uterus, closer to the base of one’s pelvis. As one advances in their pregnancy, the baby grows upward as well as outward, forcing their tummy to expand forward.

the size of the uterus and how it grows throughout pregnancy

the size of the uterus and how it grows throughout pregnancy; click for source

As the uterus expands, the organs in the torso also shift upward into the rib cage and, ultimately, the chest cavity, hence the heavy breathing and increased blood pressure that many experience due to pregnancy.


diagram of the female body during pregnancy

diagram of the female body during pregnancy

The uterus actually sits behind the abdominal wall – in other words, the abs are what protect the fetus.


diagram of the abdominal muscles and their role in protecting the growing fetus

diagram of the abdominal muscles and their role in protecting the growing fetus

This is important because as the fetus expands, the abdominal muscles stretch with the help of connective tissue that links all of the individual muscles. If a woman gives birth vaginally, those abdominal muscles are a large part of what she uses to force the baby out of her uterus.

Also worth talking about, is the term “visceral fat.” Visceral fat is the fat cells that serve as a protective armor around your organs for a number of reasons, but in today’s food environment, nowadays that reason largely has to do with the acidity present in a processed food diet. It’s not exclusive to the overweight, either – lots of thin people with large amounts of belly fat, or even those with “flatter” stomachs can still have a large presence of visceral fat. Once upon a time, we called that “normal weight obesity.”

I mention this, because we need to talk about waist trainers and what they actually do.

It’s going to feel like I’m lying when I say this, but waist trainers don’t actually do much. The kind that are experiencing a surge in popularity right now are cheaply made, poorly constructed, and – quite frankly – a waste of however much money you’re spending on them.

What makes that hard to believe, is the fact that many pretty girls with great figures are paid lots of money to post pictures of themselves on Instagram – that place where people go for “inspiration” of sorts in many ways – wearing the waist trainer, and alluding in some way to the thing being the reason why their figures look the way they do. Unfortunately, when it comes to many women on Instagram – and, for the record, I say many and not all – their figures look that way because they actually train hard, have flawless diets, have starvation diets, or have great surgeons. The trainer has little to do with it, and they know it. That’s why they’re hiring people to pretend that they use them.

It’s also worth noting that many women buy and try waist trainers, find out they don’t work, and then quietly and shamefully tuck them away in their closets with all the rest of the contraptions that failed them. Because the ones for whom the waist trainer failed will hide their shame, and the ones who are paid to promote them are the ones who are vocal about their use, it’s hard to believe they are wack. Alas, they are. Women who change their eating habits and work out regularly with intensity lose weight, typically in their midsection first – regardless of whether or not they use a waist trainer.

These are different from the belly bands of yore, the belly binding that we learn about from old wives’ tales regarding post-pregnancy belly care. They’re not the same as back braces, they’re not the same as weight training bands, and they’re not comparable to compression garments.

Waist trainers are worn over the mid-section, with the intention of helping to reshape and re-position the fat, tighten the waist, and give an hourglass figure. Lots of people who defend the practice of adhering to waist trainers will trot out old writing about the practice, or people preaching the relative safety of the practice entirely.

I get that, buuuuuut…..

….because of the shift in the standard American diet, with more of a focus on items that are acidic enough to trigger the same kind of reaction in the human body that would create an abundance of fat surrounding the inner organs, it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of this writing – which I have seen a lot of over the years – doesn’t apply to the overwhelming majority of women engaging in the practice.

Waist trainers don’t shift the internal organs in the same way that pregnancy does because, by definition, it couldn’t. In pregnancy, the uterus shifts the organs up into the rib cage, only for a temporary time until the fetus is delivered. With waist training, you’re trying to push your body fat, organs, and sometimes a rib or two where your body doesn’t want it – hence it sticking out instead of shaping itself inward – and trying to shove excessive body fat in places where it isn’t….including shoving it around in ways that shift your organs. You’re actively attempting to subvert your own body composition and force it into a shape that your body is fighting against, often with good reason. Women who have larger bellies are the ones most at risk for this, because of the amount of visceral fat they have. If you can’t breathe when you wear yours, this is likely why.

I can understand desiring an hourglass figure, but if it’s difficult for you to obtain, the culprit is likely in your diet. And, while a savvy entrepreneur would tell you this is why you need to “eat healthily and exercise” while you use your trainer, the reality is that you might not want to subvert your body’s intentional efforts to protect itself from your diet. Belly fat can be caused by everything from fatty liver issues to diabetes to abdominal bloating – which, yes, has a purpose besides preventing you from getting into your jeans – and beyond. Squeezing things together that prefer to be apart is a recipe for disaster.

Oddly enough, once you fix your diet, you’re far more likely to be able to achieve that hourglass on your own, without spending a single dime on a piece of cheap stretchy fabric. Just like those women often paid to promote waist trainers, you can train hard, eat well, and have the figure you desire without having some stranger with a billion followers on IG lie to you about human anatomy.

The definitive answer is that no, a waist trainer is nothing like pregnancy. Not just because of the way the organs are shifted, but because we forget – the perpetual discomfort of pregnancy is temporary. You experience it for a few months, tops, then your body begins the arduous process of getting back to pre-pregnancy configuration. When you wear a waist trainer, you are attempting to permanently shift your body… and shift it in a way that wont work for not only the way you eat, but the way you live. The fact that someone who presents themselves as a “trainer” would use this as a way to sell you something is beyond me. The idea that the process we choose to endure in order to create life is comparable to a voluntary and unnecessary torturous contraption nauseates me.

But, what’s more, the fact that people will still come to defend this nonsense and continue to sell it just reminds me why I’m here. Someone needs to tell the truth about this mess.

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Ashleigh B. May 17, 2015 - 9:14 AM

Finger snaps & hand claps for this whole post!
I hate having to wear Spanx for a 2 hour event so I know waist training is not the business. It’s sad that we (in the general sense) will do anything to avoid doing the real work of changing eating habits and working out.

Aja May 17, 2015 - 10:15 AM

Thanks so much for this breakdown, because I have seen this graphic several times. I don’t have the background to be able to go into the detail that you did, but I have three kids and every time I saw it I just wondered why the comparison o organs shifting during pregnancy meant this was a good thing. By the end of each pregnancy I had heartburn so bad that I could barely sleep. Even when the movement is natural, it’s still not easy.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 17, 2015 - 3:28 PM

Thank you! And why didn’t you send it to me sooner? Hmmm? 🙂

Aja May 17, 2015 - 9:37 PM

Sorry! I will remember the next time I see a similar type of foolishness 🙂

Dee May 17, 2015 - 5:29 PM

As always, the voice of reason. Thank you! <3

Ariel L. May 20, 2015 - 6:59 PM

THANK YOU for saying something. I keep seeing commercials for the “Genie Waist Trainer” or something like that, & I was hoping to hear from you or another body positivity pioneer. Their commercials are RIDICULOUS; and what’s worse, I think, I’ve been tempted to buy one b/c of how the commercials play on my insecurities. They actually say “Go from a BORING BABY BODY to a great figure” showing a woman with a newborn, further prompting women to believe that they have to get back to “pre-baby body” the second the baby is born. It’s so upsetting.

Thank you for saying something, even if, as you say, you’ve avoided the topic thus far.

Janeen April 25, 2016 - 3:26 PM

Im so happy someone who has a spotlight can show this information. Ive told some misinformed about this to read this article and read the archeological findings from those eras that did waist trainers and feet binding. Its not pretty. I will continue to share as best I can, but thank you!!!!

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