It all started while I was aimlessly scrolling through Instagram (no judging, we all do it). I stumbled across a post by a very influential Nigerian celebrity who will not be named. Said influencer was advertising a waist trainer and flat tummy tea, nothing new. However, what caught my attention was the caption, ‘What makes a woman is her waist’. I did not even realize I said “here we go again” out loud. I do not know about you, but I am tired of my womanhood being defined for me and what is this waistline obsession circulating all over Nigeria? I thought we were embracing our fupa?
It goes without a doubt that the media has normalized the critiquing of women’s overall physique, most especially the width of her waist in recent times. Unfortunately, this new beauty standard is something that we all feed into, for some it may be mentally and others with pay checks and allowances.
We listen to music with lyrics like, “when I look into your eyes all I see is your waist”, “your waist, all I want is your waist”. Even when we hype up our friends, we say things like “your waist is Qt”. A lot of us brush it off as not being that deep, but could it be possible that these words resonate somewhere in our subconscious and create a reality where we truly believe that beauty and attractiveness equates a size zero waist?
The irony of societal beauty standards is the promotion of diversity in beauty and the bittersweet ‘love yourself just the way you are’ captions while simultaneously feeding us with insecurities by presenting us with unrealistic expectations for our appearance. Is it safe to say that we being set up to fail?
In my early teen years, the ruling standard was the ‘thigh gap’ which a lot of women, myself included took to extreme measures to attain but somehow never seemed to measure up. Then came along the “all bodies are beautiful” movement. This seemed like the best of both worlds as it wrapped itself in the diversity and inclusivity, something the beauty department was missing. However, the reality is till date a lot of us still feel anything but included in this movement. Where is the genuine diversity in the media today? Most importantly, why are we allowing the objectification of our bodies?
Are Waist Trainers Safe To Use?
This is a common question that attracts vague and sketchy answers, so I took the pleasure of conducting proper research to lay it all bare and provide you with adequate information. Brace yourself, my findings are quite alarming. To help you better understand, I have simplified it into a basic pro con list.
Pros of Waist Trainers
- Hourglass figure: The waist trainer is popularly known for helping women achieve that coca cola body. Now, although you may see instant results when using a waist trainer, the change however does not leave a lasting effect. According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, a waist trainer will not drastically change your body.
- Weight loss: You are likely to eat less while wearing a waist trainer simply because your stomach is compressed. You may notice changes in your weight while using a waist trainer, but this is not a healthy or sustainable path to weight loss. Even companies that make and sell waist trainers advise exercise and healthy eating as part of your weight loss program.
Cons of Waist Trainers
- Breathing Problems: Wearing a waist trainer can reduce your lung capacity by 30 to 60 percent. It can even lead to a build up of fluid in the lungs.
- Digestive System Issues: While wearing a waist trainer, you are not only crushing skin and fat, but parts of your digestive system, your stomach and intestines can be affected.
- Internal damage: When you squeeze your midsection, it forces internal organs like the liver and kidneys into unnatural positions. Overcrowding your organs can alter how they function and how your blood flow. Yikes!
During my research, I realized that a lot of companies are not nearly as bothered about the wellbeing of their consumers as much as they are about their profit margins. Let us be real with ourselves, if these brands instead pushed for all women to appreciate their individual beauty and be comfortable in their own skin, would they still be in business? I think not.
What’s A Girl to Do?
If like me, you literally cannot come and kill yourself, it does not mean that you cannot look and feel good without taking measures that can put your health at risk. I have a more in depth article on fitness and body positivity you can check out here, but for now I am going to be sharing a few things you can start doing right now to promote self-love and acceptance in your day to day life.
- Celebrate the women around you: I am not talking about the ones saved on your Pinterest board or on your Instagram. I mean your friends and family members. We spend so much time idolizing the picture-perfect images we see on social media and barely enough time appreciating the individual beauty in those around us. This might sound creepy, but I look at my friends and women around me and how they own their uniqueness and it inspires me to embrace not only the individuality in my beauty, but also the person I was made to be.
- Be realistic: It took me a while to realize it is not every day I am going to wake up feeling like Beyoncé. It is not every day my hair is going to cooperate with me, neither is it every day my outfit is going to look the way I plan it in my head. However, it is important to remember that these relatable moments do not define us or our beauty. Having a go-to hairstyle you have perfected and an outfit you know looks good on you is a lifesaver. On days when my natural hair wants to show herself, I grab my eco style and gel her into a low bun. When I am feeling a little bloated from the late dinner I had the night before, I opt for a looser fitting dress. What I will not do is hurl insults at myself for just being human nor allow my bad mood transfer into the rest of my day.
- Be kind to yourself: This is something we do not do enough. We are so used to seeing ourselves as objects that we forget we have feelings too. The world is already harsh as it is with media outlets sublimely making us feel inadequate. The least we can do is handle ourselves with love and care. Give yourself that baby girl treatment you deserve!
As much as I hate to say it, from this standpoint it looks like the cycle of ever changing beauty standards is never going to end. It is just the sad reality of the world we live in. However, what we have control over is our approach to them. We can either let it define us and put us in a box, or we can create our own mould and choose to live by our own personal standards and beliefs. We do not have to be slaves to society forever.