I've always been pretty curious about celebrity-grooming habits.
With all the glossy hair and smooth skin and perfectly airbrushed bodies, if a famous person recommends a beauty product she can't live without, I'm the sucker who goes out and tries it.
Despite fully knowing there is an entire beauty kit full of filters and Photoshop and professionals helping these celebrities achieve flawless results, it still amazes me that I (and 99 percent of non-celebrity women) cannot mimic this look with Kerry-Washington-approved $6.99 bottles of Neutrogena foundation or Gwyneth Paltrow exercise DVDs or Britney Spears perfume.
Perhaps this is the root of my celebrity regime fascination: that two women could use (seemingly) the same products and still the one with “A-list” attached to her name appears better.
So when the opportunity arrived to try corset training -- the same kind of waist training attributed to women who are famous for their figures, Kim Kardashian, Dita Von Teese and, on some rumored websites, Yoncé -- you bet I didn't turn it down.
I'm not usually a masochist by choice and have a hard time following through on anything that is remotely considered a diet, but with the accountability of a diary for everyone to read, you kind of feel like you have to be honest.
After some back and forth about my body measurements (bad time to eat Chipotle...), Vanna B. sends me what looks exactly like Sarah Paulson's costume from “American Horror Story” Freak Show edition and feels like something they use to harness horses. Perrrrfect.
This will at least be fun to tell people I tried doing, unlike the time I ate clay like Shailene Woodley (at least it was free).
Corset/ waist training expert, and author of Waist Training 101: A Guide to Using Corsets to Slim Your Waistline, Vanna B., tells me that the first two weeks in which you break in the corset (yes, it's stiffer than Grandma's wooden clogs) are called “seasoning” -- just like you are a nice piece of meat stuffed inside a sausage casing and being primed for cooking.
It's weird I find this oddly comforting.
Take some “Before” photos (why do I always volunteer myself up for pain? First corset training, now stomach selfies? Is this what my parents had in mind when they said to push myself?), make sure to have myself a proper going away dinner for my midsection and go to bed two parts excited one part pissed off I'm wearing my corset tomorrow.
Day One: 2.5 hours
Read Vanna's guidebook and have a false sense of confidence. I have to let out the corset's laces pretty far to fit in it.
I make the mistake of eating right before putting it on and have the slight feeling that I'm either going to barf or sh*t my pants. It doesn't hurt, but it is definitely uncomfortable. I've never sat this straight before in my life. My posture is terrible and I'm excited for this corset to help my spinal alignment.
After five minutes of feeling simultaneously bored and hyper observant of my body, I call my mom to fake complain.
She reminds me how my sister had severe scoliosis and had to wear a back brace all day except for showering. This humbles my vain attempts at achieving a small waist.
It's Sunday and all I want to do is lie on the couch. Lying down is next to impossible. Chilling is next to impossible as the contraption pulled tightly around my torso constantly reminds me that I am strapped into something.
Reminding myself makes me mildly panicked. Cannot get panicked because I cannot take deep breaths.
My goal for today is two hours (Vanna tells me you are supposed to work up from six to eighteen, ha) and I'm highly aware that I'm still 45 minutes shy. Haha, remember when I thought I'd try for four this morning? Stretching my arms up feels nice; converting oxygen to carbon dioxide does not.
One hour: My upper rib cage is slightly uncomfortable, but I kind of like it. It's working!
One hour, five minutes: The thought of eating in this is appealing. Maybe I won't consume as much!
Two hours: Now it's starting to bother me. I think I'll call it a day now.
I took it off while watching "Fashion Police" as some sort of Pavlovian negative reinforcement punishment. I feel liberated. I also feel my stomach expanding again... should I put it back on?
Day Two: 3 hours
Putting it on and lacing it up is way worse than actually wearing it. It felt super tight, maybe because I had someone else tighten it for me this time, but I'm definitely able to wear it slightly smaller.
Because I'm feeling just sooo meta, I tried eating a steak and beer dinner in it and can't tell if this was a genius move or a terrible one.
I couldn't finish my steak (never happens) and I couldn't finish my beer (never happens) because there was simply no room in my squashed stomach for the rest to go.
I vaguely remember Vanna B. noting eating meals in it will make you eat less. Her words did not fail me.
My boyfriend thinks the corset is sexy, which I have to admit, with the exception of the leftover, pushed down FUPA fat spilling underneath, it kind of is.
We try to have some PG-rated fun time in it (relax, Mom) but I'm way too self-conscious of the pudge squeezed over the sides. Make a mental note to work on whittling this down in addition to my waist.
My rib cage doesn't hurt nearly as much; it's still uncomfortable though. I am actively working on trying to forget I have a torso-sized-band-aid sucking in my body, which is probably not helping my strategy.
I hope that if I can forget I'm wearing it, I'll be able to wear it for longer periods of time. Alas, the only thing that makes the time pass faster is cooking dinner in it.
Day Three: 3.5 hours
It's just annoying at this point. There's really never a convenient time to strap yourself into a corset. But it feels like it's working at least.
Day Four: 4 hours
It's my first day wearing it at work and it's not so bad sitting in this chair, despite being warned that sitting can be really uncomfortable.
It does make it hard to focus -- I'm very aware of the fact that I'm being squeezed into something. But it does maintain great posture for me.
To get through tougher days of writer's block and office anxiety, I sometimes like to think of work and writing as my “chill time.” In a corset, there is no “chill time” to relax. You don't “chill” in a corset.
I learn this the hard way as I struggle through four hours of work. I remind myself that Yoncé wouldn't give up... so neither can I.
Day Five: 4 hours
I need to stop wearing this after lunch.
I take off the corset because I actually feel sick and I'm sweating and need to digest. Now I know why Dita is so small -- she can't eat anything with this on!
Day Six: 6 hours
I try walking to work in it and can't stride nearly as fast or take big breaths. That's a fail. Note to self: There is never a convenient time to wear a corset unless you are part of the circus or a Victorian reenactment.
Sip champagne later on in the day for a work celebration and it actually hurts, there are way too many bubbles causing me pain.
Yes, bubbles can cause pain, which is probably why Putin banned the childhood practice in Russia. It all makes sense now.
Day Eight: 6.5 hours
Why am I doing this again? To look like a coke bottle? I could do that with a really bad turtleneck.
Day 10: 7 hours
It's definitely gotten easier to put on the corset -- perhaps the collective 30-plus hours spent marinating (“seasoning”) in it has broken in the bones, finally. Now I don't have trouble going the first three hours with it on.
My posture is noticeably improved. Boyfriend tells me he can "feel something" when he touches my waist. I'll take it. I have noticed I can walk around and "tuck in my belly up and into my ribcage" as my yoga instructor often suggests.
Day 13: 7.5 hours
A miraculous thing has happened: I can pull the strings almost almost almost all the way together... in some spots...
I celebrate with french fries. Vanna B. suggests doing bicycle crunches and going on a healthier diet, which I have been loosely following four days per week.
Maybe I'll really make it until 80 I manage to cough out after pressing my luck and trying to smoke for the first time while wearing the corset. That's kind of a fail, too, but a win for irony. My friends have named it "Wilson."
Day 17: 5-ish hours
I'm writing this letter because I'm breaking up with Wilson and, therefore, also this diary.
I've taken the photos and posted on Instagram. I've attended an "Ass & Abs" class. I've worn a crop top out, in public, where people are. I even Snapchatted a Kim-K-esque Paper Mag picture and didn't use a filter. Mission Accomplished. It's been a good run.
Verdict: This isn't a magical weight loss pill that automatically burns your fat for you. I did lose about 1.5 inches along parts of my torso, but I also attribute this to following a better diet.
The biggest change I noticed was in my posture. I was able to sit up straighter, walk taller and naturally suck in my stomach more, which probably made me also appear thinner.
It's good for teaching you how to "suck it in" so to speak and great for wearing underneath t-shirts when you don't want your pooch hanging out in front.
I don't think I've reached the Kardashian level of waist-training, but for the first time, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.