A Southend-on-Sea mum has defended herself following criticism over her decision to buy her size 8 teenage daughter a waist trainer.
Karen Green, 48, insists she isn’t “over sexualising” 16-year-old Tilly, who wears the controversial, corset-like slimming device under her school uniform.
Green bought the waist trainer for Tilly last Christmas when she was 15, after researching what product would be best for her and opting for an elasticated, “minimal pressure” trainer.
“I did my research and while I wasn’t totally sure I approved of a growing teen having a device which potentially might restrict bone development and growth I knew if I didn’t buy it for her she’d get it herself,” Green told MailOnline.
Tilly is now 16 and has upgraded to a new, specialised model, which she says gives her “a better shape” under her blazer.
Some of her school friends have also started using waist trainers and they compare who has the smallest waist under their uniforms.
“I love my waist trainer,” Tilly said. “It’s helped me define my figure and given me confidence. Lots of my friends use it and we’ve seen the results Kylie Jenner and her sisters have achieved. People think you are not mature at 15 but I am and I’m glad my mum is aware of what I wanted and got it for me.
“I can’t tell you how many girls I know from schools around here use waist trainers under their uniform,” she continued. “It’s the new trend and I think my friends are in awe I can tell my mum about it.”
Like so many teenage girls Tilly looks to the Kardashian family for inspiration.
“The Kardashians are followed by her friends and her,” Green said. “Everything they do Tilly and her friends do as well and Kylie is the Kardashian/Jenner teen who seems to be having the biggest influence on my teen. Kylie has talked about using a waist trainer, she’s constantly posting selfies of herself and I’m always hearing about her latest makeup, hair and manicure tips.”
Other celebrities who’ve admitted to using waist trainers include Jessica Alba, who told Net-a-Porter she wore a “double corset” to lose her baby weight, and Amber Rose, who has posted selfies sporting the waist-cinching device.
Despite already being a tiny size 6 to 8, Tilly is “constantly on a diet,” reveals her mother: “She’s told me that her waist trainer is great because not only does it give her a curvy shape it acts like an external gastric band, not that she needs one. According to her the trainer makes her feel full faster.”
Waist trainers are widely available online, with prices starting from as little as £20. One website selling a range of waist trainers suggests that the contraption is a healthy alternative to exercise.
“Most people are busy with long work hours, children or other commitments, resulting in a lack of time to exercise throughout the week, so have used a waist trainer as an alternative, [sic]” says Waist Trainer Fitness. “The waist trainer works by diminishing your appetite to eat smaller portions throughout the day to allow your body to metabolise the food better and turn more of it into energy rather than stored fat. Instead of eating 2-3 large meals per day, you will feel fuller and be more inclined to eat smaller portions throughout the day. [sic]”
As someone who will one day be a mother of a teenage girl — the prospect of which fills me with equal amounts of joy and sheer terror — I find it difficult to accept Karen Green’s defence. It’s not the “over sexualisation” part that bothers me (after all, many teenage girls are naturally curvy, with small waists and large bottoms); it’s the fact that this inexpensive, celebrity-endorsed device could lead to many serious health issues, both physical and mental.
According to eating disorders charity b–eat, more than 725,000 people in the U.K. are affected by an eating disorder — and girls aged between 12 and 20 are the most commonly affected. I’m not suggesting that everyone who uses a waist trainer has an eating disorder but surely using a tool to “diminish appetite” puts a person at greater risk of developing an unhealthy relationship with food? It seems clear that the process “works” because the wearer is eating far less. It’s not down to any magical properties of the trainer.
Add the competitive “who has the smallest waist” element into the mix and we have teenage girls who are obsessed with manipulating their bodies into an unnatural shape.
According to Christopher Ochner, Ph.D., weight loss and nutrition expert at Mount Sinai Hospital, some women have actually passed out from wearing a waist trainer for too long and the dangers of extended periods of use include crushed organs, compressed lungs and fractured ribs.
What’s more all that effort could be for nothing. “Spot reducing doesn’t exist,” Ochner told Marie Claire. “You can’t reduce the collection of fat in any one particular area of your body. If you push your stomach in, all the fat will go right back to where it was no matter how long [you wear the trainer] for.”
Gynaecologist Dr. Sara Gottfried agrees, warning that waist training 24/7 can do some pretty unpleasant things to the body.
“It will be squeezing your ribs so much that you can’t take a deep breath,” she told ABC News. “Corsets can squish your lungs by 30 to 60 percent, making you breathe like a scared rabbit. They can also put a kink in your organs and cause constipation.”
While Gottfried says waist training only for a short amount of time may not lead to any health issues, she suggests consulting a doctor first to make sure the lungs and liver are healthy and adds that it’s wise to wait “until after the age of 21, once the female body is more fully developed.”