Guest blog by Katherine George
Instead of lacing up running shoes, women are lacing up corsets to lose weight. Find out why the infamous Victorian-era fashion staple is making a comeback and whether the corset diet is a safe and effective weight-loss method.
What is the corset diet? The diet—which entails wearing a corset for two to six hours a day, five days a week—promises to improve posture, slim the waist and deliver an hourglass shape (an unachievable figure for most of the population) quickly and easily. The specially fitted garment provides a constant hugging sensation that discourages its wearer from eating, leading to weight loss. Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is. The corset diet isn’t going to change the way a body looks, says Catherine Sabiston, associate professor of kinesiology and physical education at the University of Toronto. There are many different female body types. For example, a pear-shaped figure will never form into a perfect hourglass. When it comes to losing weight, it’s not about focused training, it’s about the whole body, says Sabiston. What are the risks? Linking weight loss and body shape, the corset diet reinforces the idea that a slim waist is the epitome of feminine beauty. “The diet makes the assumption that there isn’t a sexy, healthy body at any size,” says Sabiston. Striving for this unattainable shape can result in body dissatisfaction, posing a mental health risk for problems such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Proponents claim that corset dieters can lose up to six pounds per week—a far cry from the one or two pounds recommended by weight-loss experts. Short-term diet trends like the corset diet often perpetuate a vicious weight loss and gain cycle, says Sabiston. “It’s unethical to have people diet in this way. People will lose a lot of weight, but then gain it back very quickly and sometimes end up in worse condition.” If a weight-loss method doesn’t have long-term strategies, it puts people at risk for long-term health complications, says Sabiston. Medical professionals warn the corset diet could cause blood clotting, pressure on internal organs, respiratory problems and even shifting of the ribs. Who is at risk? Adolescents are at a higher risk than most because their bodies change with puberty, which Sabiston says is associated with gains in fat mass that steer teenagers away from the “ideal” physique. “If adolescents engaged in the corset diet, there could be extra complications (associated with development) that we wouldn’t see in adults.” Women who have given birth are more prone to extreme dieting methods promising a quick fix. Jessica Alba, for example, claims she lost baby weight after her two pregnancies by wearing a corset for three months. Aging women are also at risk, says Sabiston. Similar to puberty, menopause results in hormonal shifts that, in turn, change the way fat is stored and overall body composition. What’s a healthier alternative? According to Sabiston, there’s no magic cure for weight loss. It all comes down to eating healthfully and exercising regularly, not extreme dieting. Make small day-to-day changes (taking the stairs instead of the elevator, for example) that contribute to weight loss. Be a healthy consumer. While grocery shopping, pay attention to nutritional labels and calories. Don’t buy food that will give you a guilty conscience and keep track of bad eating habits, like emotional eating, says Sabiston. Creating a healthy and fit body is a more effective way to feel better long term.
Photo courtesy PRNewsFoto/FitnessEdge.net