WOMEN are waisting away.
No, not from starvation.
It's something even more surprising - waist training.
Women in search of hourglass shapes are foregoing personal comfort and donning supertight, corset-like devices that supposedly whittle their midsections with lasting results.
Despite numerous reports that they can bruise internal organs or cause breathing problems, many wearers keep waist trainers on 24/7 - even while exercising and sleeping. The claim is that the practice of waist training - in extreme cases referred to as tightlacing - enhances weight loss by suppressing wearers' appetites and encouraging perspiration.
There's nothing new about corsets, except maybe all the hot colors and innovative fabrics they come in these days. But the 19th-century undergarment and its mid-20th-century counterpart, the girdle - which I thought had gone the way of garter belts and bouffant wigs - have resurfaced in a big way recently.
In May, Khloe Kardashian posted a selfie wearing one and exclaiming, "I love my waist trainer from @premadonna87!!!! Miss @blacchyna has me obsessed!!! Who doesn't love to feel tight and right?!? ?? #whatsawaist #waistgang #Fitness #GetItRight."
Not to be outdone, big sister Kim Kardashian West posted a gym selfie wearing a purple one last month on Instagram.
Actress Jessica Alba reportedly told Net-A-Porter magazine that she credits the double corsets she wore following the births of her two children for getting her tiny waist back.
"It's very uncomfortable," said Carmena Ayo Davies, a Philly-based public-relations guru, whose clients include PNK Elephant on South Street. But "the look it gives you when you have them on, it's absolutely amazing."
"They definitely accentuate your curves. It's very popular now in the urban world."
Lauren Diaz, of Deptford, N.J., was a casino waitress when she started BounceBackBeauty.com a year ago to sell what the site calls "waist binders," "booty lifter shorts" and similar products.
"People would actually stop me and say, 'What do you do?' " recalled Diaz, who wore her waist trainer during her eight-hour work shifts. "You sweat underneath. It's something you need to get used to."
Yeah, but in the age of Spanx, why would you? Besides, wasn't the women's movement about burning bras and letting go of things that constrict us?
"Why is that something that's becoming the 'it' thing to do?" asked Orit Avishai, a sociology professor at Fordham University. "It's going in the wrong direction."
As an experiment, I squeezed into a bright fuchsia waist cincher sent to me by HourglassAngel.com. It wasn't easy. It took me a few tries over a couple of days to get all of the hooks closed, but eventually I did.
Walking around the newsroom with it over my shirt, it wasn't as uncomfortable as I had imagined. Then a reporter who sits nearby called out, "Look at how small your waist looks."
Dang, she was right.
My waistline was downright tiny in that thing.
Yeah, but what I really wanted was to have the same look without having to be constricted.
I turned to Cherry Hill-based cosmetic surgeon Dr. Steven Davis for his thoughts about waist trainers. His answer surprised me.
"I think there's something to it," he said. "It does actually work, because you are losing water weight. It's like getting a body wrap. The problem is, the results are really short-lived."
But, Davis also pointed out that there could be some muscular benefits from waist training on a regular basis.
"You are training your core to get stronger," Davis explained, likening it to how experts instruct you to hold your stomach in while doing plank exercises. "A lot of people wear things like that, because you are training your transverse abdominus muscles to stay in that position."
Davis continued, "I think that there probably is some validity to the whole process. But I don't know how long it would take for that to happen."
Still, that's some good news for glamour girls willing to adopt the waist-training lifestyle.
Lisa Nguyen, owner of Luxe Nails on Girard Avenue, doesn't exercise much. As she approaches 30, she feels her body changing, and not in a good way.
A waist cincher "is something that seemed to be easy, that I could incorporate into my lifestyle," she said.
Nguyen watches what she eats, and she drinks lots of water. She also wears her "waist trainer" regularly, especially when she has a big event coming up.
She told me she thinks that her waist is about 2 inches smaller than it was a year ago when she got her first trainer.
"Once you get used to it, it's nothing," she said.